Chapter 4
Henry Blois and the Vita Merlini
Tatlock, for whom I have the utmost respect,
1
and who has penetrated HRB
to elucidate its construction, would be embarrassed by the blindness he
suffered from not seeing Henry Blois as the author of the prophecies;
especially when he tells us that it is impossible to believe that ‘Geoffrey’
wrote all the prophecies. If Tatlock had not suffered this blind spot, nearly
every argument put forward to show that some prophecies were written by
a separate individual other than Geoffrey would bolster the case for Henry
Blois as the author of VM, HRB and the prophecies.
It is doubtful anyone will fully understand all the prophecies of Merlin
in HRB, but Tatlock is misguided where he says it is hard to believe the
prophecies ever had any intelligible meaning for anyone.
2
They were most
certainly written by Henry Blois just as VM is written by him; and for the
most part they certainly had meaning originally. For consistency, many of
Merlin’s prophecies are repeated from Vulgate HRB into VM, but there are
many additions. Once we understand the prophecies were written by
Henry, we can then see why many of the prophecies themselves (supposed
to have come from a sixth century Merlin), substantiate parts of the pseudo-
history comprising HRB, which, supposedly ‘Geoffrey’ wrote. The reason we
may never fully understand every prophecy is that they have undergone
editorial changes by Henry in the final HRB in the Vulgate version
published in 1155.
These were followed by new prophecies by Merlin in VM and other
prophecies by Taliesin. Ganieda’s introduction into VM helped substantiate
1
If indeed one of the many hundreds of scholars over the past hundred and fifty years had indeed entertained the
possibility of Henry’s authorship, we might be able to assign the title scholar to any one of them. However, the
myopia which persists in the scholastic community is like a genetic disease passed down, where no-one can see
the wood for the trees. This is more testament to Henry Blois’ brilliance than their lack of it.
2
Tatlock. P.416
Merlin’s vaticinatory reliability. I do not wish to bore the reader who does
not need to know why and when VM was written and the quickest way to
establish who wrote VM is to read Merlin’s sisters prophecies because all of
them are itemised as events written in the Gesta Spephani authored by
Henry Blois
As Henry Blois changed the sense to some prophecies and added to the
original set (which we may suppose Abbot Suger had); it becomes difficult
to divine the sense or purport on occasion and to whom the prophecy
refers; yet at other times it is crystal clear that the prophecies speak of
events which are wholly translatable to Henry’s world view and interests,
especially being the author of the Primary Historia, the First Variant and
Vulgate HRB.
It would be foolish of anyone to presume to attempt to unveil the
meaning of each prophecy as some prophecies have purposefully been
squewed at a later date to hide Henry’s authorship when he has previously
been less guarded. There seems to be a defining reason for writing the VM
with several prophecies seemingly repeated from HRB. Not only has Henry
Blois squewed some prophecies from HRB in VM by Merlin himself, but he
has added two more sets of prophecies which see clearly on other subjects
not touched by Merlin, through Taliesin and Ganieda.
However, I feel that the whole of VM has a half-hearted approach in
layout and purpose by comparison with the well-structured HRB. So, we
should try to find out why Henry went to the trouble of producing the
seemingly uninspired VM.
Henry wishes to demonstrate or corroborate that the updated
prophecies in HRB (which differed from those known by contemporaries to
have existed in the earlier libellus Merlini) were in fact written or
understood to have existed (in another work) by the now dead ‘Geoffrey’….
and so Henry Blois wrote the VM. After 1155 sceptics of the prophecies
antiquity were trying to discover who had added seditious prophecies to the
originals.
3
This is why many of the prophecies in VM are changed in
3
This argument is also given credence by the fact that the colophon of HRB, which, in effect adds a
confirmation that the dedicatees were alive at the time the prophecies were added…. is an addition to the Vulgate
to counter the argument that the dedicatees were not found in the First Variant version and were added
subsequently. The colophon speaks to William of Malmesbury and in effect pre-dates the Vulgate to at least
1143.
purport from the Vulgate HRB’s new updated set (making some a lot less
specific).
In effect by writing VM, Henry not only locates Merlin in antiquity (not
accomplished in HRB), but has him surrounded and interacting with sixth
century contemporaries; but most importantly the seditious prophecy
which encourages the Celts to unite to re-establish the crown of Brutus is
found in VM as well…. which puts its composition in between 1155-1158.
Therefore if ‘Geoffreyis now known to be dead then those trying to find
the person who added the most recent prophecy are non-plussed because
there it is in another of ‘Geoffrey’s’ works…. which, since he died in 1154,
could not (as the logic goes) have been added to thwart Henry II. This same
argument applies to the ‘Sixth’ in Ireland prophecy also. Gerald of Wales
relates that the VM Merlin is clearer and comments on the modern
insertions he detects in the prophecies saying that ‘not all these prophecies
are probable, nor all fabulous’, but Gerald says King Henry II wants to read
a copy. So the idea that the VM was instigated to counter the argument that
someone was inciting sedition is not so silly if Henry II wanted to check to
see if the prophecies were the same as found in Vulgate HRB or the Libellus
Merlini.
The Vita Merlini is written in classical Latin hexameters and considering
what is achieved in converting prose source material from Isidore into this
form of poem, it is a remarkable achievement. It has been paid little
attention by commentators. Tatlock
4
believes the VM was written in 1154. I
can say with certainty it was not written until after 1155 because of the
reference to the 19 years of Stephen’s reign and if I am correct Ganieda’s
reference to Coleshill in 1157.
The VM begins with a dedication much like the HRB. Where VM is
dedicated to Robert de Chesney, most HRB copies are dedicated to Robert of
Gloucester. These two (along with Alexander) were detested by Henry Blois
and therefore allaying any suspicion that either work might have been
composed by him. Both works offer their dedicatees the humble offer of
4
Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini. J. S. P. Tatlock. Speculum Vol. 18, No. 3 (Jul., 1943), pp. 265-287
being corrected. In the Vita: I am preparing to sing the madness of the
prophetic bard, and a humorous poem on Merlin; pray correct the song.
In the HRB:
Robert, Duke of Gloucester, show favour in such wise that it may be so
corrected by thy guidance and counsel as that it may be held to have sprung,
not from the poor little fountain of Geoffrey of Monmouth, but rather from
thine own deep sea of knowledge, and to savour of thy salt.
Let me state for the record categorically that no dedicatee ever received
a copy of HRB or VM from Geoffrey of Monmouth. Modern scholars have
derived their entire analysis of dating based on these late insertions of the
dedicatees names into Vulgate HRB which were neither present in the
Primary Historia found at Bec or the First Variant version constructed
c.1144.
The first Variant in 1144 by comparison with the latter Vulgate Version
obeyed a stricter adhesion to known annals with direct quotes from Bede,
descriptions of gore from battles scenes were tempered along with other
unpleasing details which might offend the pious such as rape, proud or
arrogant speeches of British pride were toned down or excluded (if they
were even composed at the time), prayer and God’s judgement abounded
for the lot of Men and biblical references were splattered throughout along
with classical quotations. All designed for one purpose; to endear papal
approval of Henry Blois’ designs on Metropolitan. All dedications were
added to the Vulgate HRB after their deaths.
5
The converse applies to the
VM. The difference is that when the VM circulated Robert de Chesney was
alive until 1166.
Unfortunately and by a huge coincidence ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth aka
the ‘Bishop of Asaph had been consigned to death by Henry Blois. This
anomaly in Henry Bloismethodology may explain the lack of copies which
were propagated. It may even be the case that the dedication to Robert was
added by Henry after Robert de Chesney’s death just as he had done with
all
6
the dedicatees in the copies of Vulgate HRB. Most commentators date
the VM to 1154 as they assume Geoffrey died in 1154-5. The ploy of Henry
5
There may be an original dedication to Robert of Gloucester in a First Variant version but this also would have
post-dated 1147.
6
This even applies to the Count of Meulan
Blois by appearing to ask correction is so that the reader is duped into
thinking that he is humbly appealing to a contemporary patron or
dedicatee.
Henry Blois makes a pretence in both HRB and VM as if his dedicatees
were patrons of his work, but due to his ability in both cases to propel his
work into the public domain, this is just part of his smoke and mirrors
routine whereby Henry Blois appears to be a cleric ‘Geoffrey’ trying to
advance his position. Henry Blois is so clever at this that he gives the
appearance (in the dedication of VM) of seeming dissatisfied with the
acknowledgement he received from Alexander and hopes for better with
Robert de Chesney. He makes out that his last dedicatee in Lincoln
(Alexander) did not recognise him by reward.
Writing the VM after 1155, Henry predates his work to c.1148-9 by the
use of the word ‘just’ regarding his fictional relationship with his fictitious
patron Robert de Chesney: whom you have just succeeded, promoted to an
honour that you deserve… The reason for doing this was to show the
continued patronage of the bishops of Lincoln. Alexander did not
commission the translation of the prophecies of Merlin simply because they
are all made up by Henry Blois. The dedications found in Vulgate HRB were
written after the death of the dedicatees and as I have stated, did not exist
in the Primary Historia found at Bec (where no prophecies were even
included in that first edition).
No-one had ever met or seen Geoffrey of Monmouth and although Henry
Blois had consigned him to death in 1154-5, it is clear that the tone and
compositional content of VM was authored in Henry’s time at Clugny
between 1155-58. Henry authored VM while in a state of depression at his
sudden loss of power, status and wealth.
The word just’ implies Robert de Chesney is recently installed.
Therefore, many commentators have assumed the Vita was written in 1148.
This point will be addressed when I cover the backdating of the HRB. For
the moment the dedication has little bearing on our investigation. The false
air of humility for the most part ensured for the contemporary reader that
it ‘had been’ a commissioned work.
Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, had no regard for Robert. Henry
had tried to secure the bishopric of Lincoln for one of his nephews but was
thwarted by the pope and others. The pope agreed with the Lincoln chapter
in their election and appointed Robert de Chesney as bishop. Chesney
employed Foliot as a clerk at Lincoln. It is Gilbert Foliot's letters which give
some background to Chesney's
7
election, showing that King Stephen of
England and his brother Henry of Blois, attempted to secure Lincoln for one
of their relatives.
The candidates put forward by Stephen and Henry Blois were Henry de
Sully, abbot of Frécamp, Gervase, abbot of Westminster, and Hugh, abbot of
St Benet of Hulme. Henry de Sully was the son of William, Count of
Chartres…. Stephen and Henry Blois’ eldest brother. William, as oldest, had
not received his birthright as the eldest son to the comptal throne. He was
considered too aggressive and mentally incompetent.
8
Another candidate
put forward for the bishopric of Lincoln was Gervase, the illegitimate son of
King Stephen and his mistress, Damette. The third proposed candidate was
Hugh, abbot of St Benet of Hulme. He was the illegitimate son of Stephen.
Henry Blois in VM makes a pretence flattering Robert de Chesney calling
him a leader and a teacher in the world… promoted to an honour that you
deserve and the clergy and the people all were seeking it for you. This is
contrary to Henry’s real feelings. Henry betrays himself as author with his
constant reference to muses: were all to sing with my mouth and all the
Muses were to accompany me, and betrays too much knowledge of their
provenance established in Greek literature later on in the Vita Merlini.
He again refers to muses on his personal epitaph on the Meusan plates. It
is as if Henry believes he is inspired by muses. Again, to Alexander in the
dedication to the prophecies of Merlin in HRB: Howbeit, since it so pleased
you that Geoffrey of Monmouth should sound his pipe in these vaticinations,
eschew thou not to show favour unto his minstrelsies, and if so be that he
carol out of time or tune do thou with the ferule of thine own muses.
Henry Blois in VM then launches into the body and purpose of the text:
Well then, after many years had passed under many Kings, Merlin the Briton
was held famous in the world. He was a King and prophet; to the proud
people of the South Welsh he gave laws, and to the chieftains he prophesied
7
In about 1160 Chesney became embroiled in a dispute with St Albans Abbey in the diocese of Lincoln, over his
right as bishop to supervise the abbey. The dispute was eventually settled when the abbey granted Chesney land
in return for his relinquishing any right to oversee St Albans a dispute Henry was involved in.
8
There was an incident where he threatened to kill Bishop Ivo of Chartres over a jurisdictional dispute and his
mother Adela conferred the inheritance to Theobald II, the second eldest son.
the future. Reassuring his reader, Henry picks up the same Merlin that the
HRB had made famous. But in VM he now consciously attempts to locate
him by the historical cross referencing of bardic literature rather than the
mythical un-defined and fabricated Merlin Ambrosius of HRB. (See note 2).
This is the first time we hear that Merlin is a King.
Merlin had come to the war with Peredur and so had Rhydderch, King of
the Cumbrians. Merlin is found lamenting as the battle took place around
him: O dubious lot of mankind! as blood flowed all around. Henry assumes
Cambri (Cymry), (now applied to the Welsh), was formerly used of the
Britons just as he does in the HRB and has them making war on
Gwenddoleu and routing the Scots.
Next in VM we find Merlin refusing food and filling the air with so many
and so great complaints, new fury seized him and he departed secretly, and
fled to the woods not wishing to be seen as he fled
Henry Blois had departed secretly from England and he (like Merlin)
hides himself away at Clugny hidden like a wild animal, he remained buried
in the woods, found by no one and forgetful of himself and of his kindred. At
Clugny, Henry reflects back on the years of his brother’s reign and reflects
on how God has brought him from the most powerful man in Britain to be
in self imposed exile. It is 1156 and Henry II is on the throne and King
Henry II has confiscated six of Henry’s castles and virtually made him
powerless. The VM can be summed up in mood as a reflection upon Henry’s
part in the Anarchy seeing violence and now he has come to centre himself
in the forest and evade the shallowness and excesses of court life. The forest
is Clugny far from the life of the previous 19 years of political intrigue at
which he was central as a Machiavelian manipulator of events. Henry like
Merlin is full of grief at the loss of his brother.
Henry Blois fled across the channel without permission just as Merlin
reflects in VM. Christ, God of heaven, what shall I do? In what part of the
world can I stay, since I see nothing here I can live on…. Here once there stood
nineteen apple trees bearing apples every year; now they are not standing.
Who has taken them away from me?
The 19 trees which are now not standing are the years that his brother
was King, (fruitful years), but now he is dead. King Stephen reigned for 19
years from 1135-1154. Henry introduces the apples here as they are part of
his design in the translocation of ‘Avalon’, the island he had named in the
HRB. Henry’s methodology in the creation of what became known as the
‘Matter of Britain’ is the creation of a ‘conflatory’ soup of detail where icons
are subconsciously and hazily cross referenced. Through this confusion,
allowance is given for the appearance of inaccuracy through the ages. A
connection of apples and the county of Somerset leave no doubt in the
readers mind that the Avalon of HRB is synonymous with an Insula
Pomorum through Barinthus.
Henry further opines in the persona of Merlin and sees that it is the will
of God that he has been brought low so quickly from such lofty office. He
cannot hide from the fact that many blame his interference for much of the
cause of the Anarchy: Now I see them - now I do not! Thus the fates fight
against me and for me, since they both permit and forbid me to see. Now I
lack the apples and everything else. The trees stand without leaves, without
fruit; I am afflicted by both circumstances since I cannot cover myself with the
leaves or eat the fruit.
Henry, now at Clugny with Peter the Venerable his mentor (who he
refers to as a Wolf in old age’), marvels that Clugny, the greatest of all
religious houses is in financial trouble. He has to bail out the establishment
and feed 400 monks out of his own personal wealth. Peter had secreted and
moved Henry’s wealth abroad after Henry had attended the last council of
King Henry II’s court held at Winchester in September 1155.
It was at this court they had discussed invading Ireland. Peter the
Venerable in old age had found himself unable to turn around the decline
at Clugny and Henry Blois relays this as if conversing with a wolf in the
wood metaphorically: You, O wolf, dear companion, accustomed to roam
with me through the secluded paths of the woods and meadows, now can
scarcely get across fields; hard hunger has weakened both you and me. You
lived in these woods before I did and age has whitened your hairs first. You
have nothing to put into your mouth and do not know how to get anything, at
which I marvel, since the wood abounds in so many goats and other wild
beasts that you might catch. Perhaps that detestable old age of yours has
taken away your strength and prevented your following the chase. Now, as
the only thing left to you, you fill the air with howlings, and stretched out on
the ground you extend your wasted limbs.”
As with some split personalities, Henry Blois was shy and suffered from
bouts of depression and certainly this must have been the case in 1155. As
the VM reflects, Henry is in a state of depression and is an ode to how he
strayed from his upbringing at Clugny in the pursuit of knowledge to
become a material bishop knight at the heart of violent times; the Anarchy
much of which he is responsible for.
The impetus for much of the updating of the Merlin prophecies which
we shall see is designed to unseat Henry II. Whereas in the first prophecies
the Norman’s were seen as fellow kindred freeing the Britons from the
Saxons, there is now a distinct change in that Merlin now foresees the
downfall of the Neustrians; especially Henry II. The one vital observation
about the change of attitude in VM from previous positions in Libellus
Merlini where the evolving hope of the Britons was in the return of a
redeemer king Arthur; Merlin does not hold this position now, but foresees
Conan and Cadwallader along with the Scots and Cornish overcoming
Henry II. It is not until the reader gets to read JC’s prophetia that Henry’s
true design is unveiled as I will cover in progression.
Henry Blois now sets the scene of the madman Merlin being overheard
by a traveller in the glades of the Calidonian
9
forest: Now this traveller was
met by a man from the court of Rhydderch, King of the Cumbrians, who was
married to Ganieda and happy in his beautiful wife. She was sister to Merlin
and, grieving over the fate of her brother, she had sent her retainers to the
woods and the distant fields to bring him back.
Merlin is found lamenting in a long naturist soliloquy. The traveller sent
to bring him back to his sister then sings in the hope of soothing his
madness by music on the cither about Guendoloena. O the dire groanings of
mournful Guendoloena! O the wretched tears of weeping Guendoloena! I
grieve for wretched dying Guendoloena! There was not among the Welsh a
woman more beautiful than she… for she does not know where the prince has
gone, or whether he is alive or dead; and
Ganieda weeps with her, and without consolation grieves for her lost
brother…. so great is the grief that consumes them both. Not otherwise did
Sidonian Dido
10
grieve when the ships had weighed anchor and Aeneas was in
haste to depart; so most wretched Phyllis groaned and wept when Demophon
9
Jocelyn's life of Kentigernis Scottish in theme and also has a madman.
10
Sidonian Dido here with solemn state, did Juno's temple build.Virgil’s Aenid, book 1
did not come back at the appointed time; thus Briseis wept for the absent
Achilles.
11
Merlin’s madness is gradually assuaged by the music and he became
mindful of himself, and he recalled what he used to be, and he wondered at his
madness and he hated it. Henry hated his circumstances and reflects on
what he had and who he was and now at Clugny brought so low.
Merlin then asked to be led to the court of King Rhydderch. Gaineda his
sister was there at court and he was reunited with his wife Guendoloena.
Henry Blois artifice throughout the Vita Merlini is to express his views
using Merlin as a voice piece. He also does this in the same way through
Ganieda and Taliesin. Henry Blois includes in the VM what can be termed
as ‘padding’. Amongst this, the real reasons for writing the Vita are
revealed.
I have no wish to bore the reader by traipsing through the VM, but it lays
the groundwork which shows Henry’s authorial subtlety. As the narration
of the Vita continues, Merlin points out his sister’s affair to the King by
correctly predicting the calamitous death of someone. His sister tries to hide
her infidelity by ridiculing Merlin’s prediction in the hope of proving her
innocence against the accusation of the affair. Merlin goes back to the
woods; he unselfishly frees his wife Guendoloena from his marriage bond,
and then for some unknown reason decides to kill her suitor. Henry’s
sources for what can only be called narrative filler are from Irish, Welsh,
and Scottish sources.
After these distractions Henry Blois again gets down to the real business
behind his construction of the VM and remembers he is Merlin in the sixth
century and he is now on: the top of a lofty mountain the prophet was
regarding the courses of the stars, speaking to himself out in the open air.
“What does this ray of Mars mean? Does its fresh redness mean that one
King is dead and that there shall be another? So I see it, for Constantine has
died and his nephew Conan, through an evil fate and the murder of his uncle,
has taken the crown and is King.
Henry reminds us of the Merlin from the HRB; and we are now in the
reign of Aurelius Conan, which according to the HRB began about two years
after the voyage of Arthur to Avalon and lasted for about two years putting
11
Henry Blois was familiar with the Heroides of Ovid.
us around 542.
12
Henry Blois pays little account to dating, more an overall
chronology as seen in the HRB. The Battle of Arderydd where Henry Blois
has set the stage for Merlin at the beginning of the poem, was fought about
577. However, Henry’s aim is to anchor the Merlin of the HRB to the Welsh
Rhydderch so that he can set his narrative in a contemporaneous era. The
narrative is only secondary to his main purpose. Henry’s purpose is to
manipulate events by his audience believing the prophecies of Merlin come
true, both from the HRB and the VM.
Henry of Blois posing as Geoffrey of Monmouth just uses the backdrop of
Merlin in the woods and the characters he involves, to set a stage ready for
his polemic. The disjointed appearance of the VM is caused by
inconsequential situation and narrative which sets up his main speakers,
Ganieda, Merlin and Taliesin, which all speak to Henry Blois’ agenda and by
comparison to his character development of protagonists in HRB offers little
in VM…. which comes across as rather flat.
We now find Merlin in the woods again in a house and his sister is
supplying him food. Then wandering about the house Merlin would look at
the stars while he prophesied (for example the following), which he knew
were going to come to pass as Bede and Gildas had related.
“O madness of the Britons whom a plenitude, always excessive, of riches
exalts more than is seemly. They do not wish to enjoy peace but are stirred up
by the Fury’s goad. They engage in civil wars and battles between relatives,
and permit the church of the Lord to fall into ruin; the holy bishops they drive
into remote lands.
This sentiment exactly is reiterated in the HRB by ‘Geoffrey’ rather than
through the supposed words of Merlin. Essentially, Henry is taking up the
mood of Bede bemoaning the downfall of the warring factions of the
Britons while presenting himself as a Welsh author being partisan with the
same values but more so presenting Merlin in true character.
The nephews of the Boar of Cornwall cast everything into confusion, and
setting snares for each other engage in a mutual slaughter with their wicked
12
As we shall discuss further on in the Vera Historia Arthur supposedly reigned for 39 years and died in his
fortieth year. HRB states that Arthur died in 542 and also says that Arthur acceded the throne at the age of 15.
We can calculate therefore that according to Henry Blois (the writer of HRB and the Vera Historia) that Arthur
must have been born in 486 acceded to the throne in 503 and died 39 years later in 542.
swords. They do not wish to wait to get possession of the Kingdom lawfully,
but seize the crown.
This could not be more precise as a description of Henry Blois and his
brother Stephen. However, this reference to the Boar of Cornwall, which his
audience associates with Arthur, betrays Henry Blois’ real affiliations and
motivations as he sees himself and his brother as part of the heritage of
ancient Britons from Brittany who emigrated during the 6
th
century when
the Saxons encroached on Dumnonia. We start to understand why Henry
Blois (as Geoffrey) has such a positive attitude toward Brittany
13
throughout
the HRB. Contrarily, we can understand why he holds the Welsh in such low
regard as they revolted against his brother Stephen. Yet, commentators
have been puzzled by this believing ‘Geoffrey’ was Welsh and from
Monmouth. Henry’s hate of the (contemporary) Welsh witnessed in HRB is
plainly seen in GS and stems from his time in 1136 in Southern Wales.
The fourth
14
from them shall be more cruel and more harsh still; him shall
a wolf from the sea conquer in fight and shall drive defeated beyond the
Severn through the realms of the barbarians.
Until one understands Henry changing the purport of previous
prophecies it is impossible to make head nor tail as he changes icons from
the original libellus Merlini. Originally the sea Wolf was the Danes. The
description in this case of the sea wolf is in reference to the Robert of
Gloucester’s and the Empress’ return to England. The prophecy specifically
relates to her brother Robert of Gloucester who accompanies her across the
Channel to land near Arundel. Robert of Gloucester had left Arundel
immediately to rally forces from Bristol before King Stephen had arrived. It
was rumoured that Henry Blois had made a pact with Robert of Gloucester
to install Matilda and oust his brother from the throne. It was clear that, in
the latter part of 1138, his Brother was deliberately snubbing him for the
election of Archbishop of Canterbury. But this is specifically skirted over
(strangely enough) by the author of the GS. His meeting with Robert of
Gloucester is mentioned in cursory manner in GS simply because it was
undeniable. Many afterward knew the meeting had taken place.
13
See appendix 18
14
The Fourth is in reference to the fourth in line from William the Conqueror.The Conqueror was followed by
William Rufus and then by Henry II, making King Stephen the fourth.
However, as the reader will realise, the gist of the GS always maintains
that Henry had only ‘appeared’ to change allegiance and the author of GS
portrays a position whereby Henry constantly supported Stephen. The GS
maintains the view…. what may have seemed a change of allegiance
outwardly…. was in appearance only. The GS storyline maintains that
events dictated a change of allegiance, as a more propitious course of action
at that moment in time. Henry would have us believe in GS that he was
always loyal to Stephen. This meeting of Robert and Henry suggests
otherwise.
However, since the episode where Bishop Roger of Salisbury was abused
and more specifically church rights of Canon law were broken…. Henry
Blois, who was already disappointed with his brother in other previous
disputes, not so much plays both sides, but has had enough of the discord
which prevailed throughout the country through his own actions installing
his brother on the throne. Henry Blois had definitively been thwarted and
the Archbishopric had been bestowed on Theobald of Bec.
However, through the machinations of Henry Blois, who had met Robert
of Gloucester secretly, a full on battle was avoided for the present. Henry
Blois met Robert on the road while Robert of Gloucester was intent with
helping his sister at Arundel. Henry Blois dissuaded Robert from an attack
on his brother’s forces which were presently besieging Matilda at Arundel.
Henry Blois in his own words
15
from the GS: as though he had not caught up
with the Earl, came to the King with a large body of cavalry.
Henry had manipulated events so that his brother King Stephen would
not have to besiege Arundel or witness a staged full on battle. Henry had
cleverly come up with the plan of escorting Matilda to her brother’s castle
in Bristol. In a way, Matilda’s and Robert’s plans were temporarily defused
and they were then both in Bristol (by the Severn).
Now back to the following prophecy in the VM which is fairly
complicated: This latter shall besiege Cirencester with a blockade and with
sparrows, and shall overthrow its walls to their very bases.
15
The Gesta Stephani is part apologia for Henry Blois’ own tarnished reputation as a manipulator. It is also a
sentimental memorial to his dead brother, and part genuine history. The details are too specific on occasion for
GS not to have been written by Henry Blois himself even though it appears otherwise. He conceals himself by
employing devices to deflect suspicion of his authorship.
The obvious inference is that ‘the latter’ is the fourth just spoken of i.e.
Stephen.
At Cirencester in 1141 the Empress and Robert, Earl of Gloucester built a
‘motte and bailey’ castle near the Abbey church
16
and in 1142 Stephen
found it virtually undefended and attacked. He captured the inhabitants
and Castle with the rampart and stockade and burnt it to its foundation.
According to William of Malmesbury,
17
Stephen must have come looking for
the Empress who had just escaped the besieged castle at Oxford, but she
was thereafter at Wallingford. Stephen might have heard of the amassing of
the Empress’s troops there, but they had recently moved off and thus it was
easy to capture and destroy. However, Henry writing as ‘Geoffrey’ in VM
has another objective in mind. He wishes to squew and confirm the words
of Merlin found in HRB which appeared in Henry’s first edition Libellus
Merlini (written while Stephen was alive). This reference to Cirencester was
squewed in VM to conform (corroborate) with the Battle of Cirencester
spoken of by Bede which was fought in 628.
‘Geoffrey’s’ original allusion to Cirencester is that Gormund made war
upon Careticus, and after many battles betwixt them, drove him fleeing from
city unto city until he forced him into Cirencester and did there beleaguer him.
Both Gormundus the African and Isembardus the Frank, allied to the
Saxons, carry out the siege. Gormundus the African is wholly an invention
by ‘Geoffrey’ as he tries to concoct history along the lines of history found in
the insular annals by employing fictional characters.
The later Wace version of HRB has tinder-carrying sparrows. This idea
is also found in Brut Tysilio which as we shall see later has had Henry Blois’
hand upon it; seen clearly in the references to Walter and reference to
Caradoc of Llancarfan. Wace adds that Cirencester was, after that event,
called Sparrow-chester. There appears to be no etymology that will explain
Sparewenchestre except like so many other instances ‘Geoffrey’ loves his
etymology and will create a story round it. Gaimar
18
gives a slightly longer
account, making Cerdic (as below) the leader of the besieging force, but also
we shall see from Gaimar’s epilogue that Henry Blois has definitely had his
16
Walker, David. "Gloucestershire Castles," in Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological
Society, 1991, Vol. 109.
17
William of Malmesbury, Historia Novella, 523
18
Historie des Engles, 11. 855
hand in this publication also. The reference in VM is the fire that Henry saw
at Cirencester with his brother. We know he was there as the detail of the
episode is good in the GS.
Tatlock has pursued the source of most of Geoffrey’s fabrications and it
appears nearly every fabrication or embellished episode has a definable
source of inspiration; but these events and the names seem to be taken
from the Chanson de Geste Gormont et Isembard and are ‘melanged’ with
Guthrum's occupation of Cirencester in the year 879, mentioned in Anglo-
Saxon Chronicle (ASC). Coincidentally, Seginus Dux of the Allobroges,
Henry’s family’s own territorial people around Blois appear in the Chanson
which ante-dates ‘Geoffrey and he probably associated the name with
Sewinus archbishop of Sens…. again, in Blois lands.
Before Cerdic could conquer
Much from the Britons.
Then was Cirencester besieged.
But by the negligence of the Britons
It was set on fire by sparrows,
Which carried fire and sulphur into the town.
And set light to many houses.
And the besiegers who were outside
Made an assault with great courage.
Then was this city conquered. (Gaimar)
In VM we find more detail concerning Robert of Gloucester: He shall seek
the Gauls in his ship, but shall die beneath the weapon of a King.
Robert went to France to get aid from Matilda's husband, Geoffrey IV of
Anjou, and returned to England with the Empress very young son Henry,
(later to be King Henry II). Robert of Gloucester died at Bristol Castle,
where he had previously imprisoned King Stephen. Gervase of Canterbury
places Robert's death in 1146 and this date is corroborated by the Annals of
Winchester. The Annals of Margan Abbey, has October 31, 1147, and the
date John of Hexham gives is 1148. However, Henry Blois seems to
understand more about Robert of Gloucester’s death than historians
portray. No chronicler attests how Robert died, but we shall see further
evidence here in the VM that Henry assumes his audience is apprised of the
same information he has…. and hence his allusion to the ‘weapon of a King’.
Once we understand Geoffrey of Monmouth’s, (Henry of Blois’) ploy of
mixing his own recent prophecies, updating them, and sometimes changing
the sense from the previous prophecies c.1150 and weaving his inventions
around the first set of prophecies and adding more in VM; Merlin appears
to relate to certain topics consistently as icons reappear over the three sets.
We can then understand in the later Vulgate HRB and VM prophecies that
the sense has been changed. Commentators on the VM (like San-Marte)
19
naïvely believed the prophecies portend events further than 1158. Some try
to unlock the meaning of the prophecies believing they are consistent and
actually did predict events from the sixth century. This is plain nonsense!
Henry Blois in his construction of the prophecies uses the artifice of splicing
what is known history and interlacing it with his own knowledge of recent
events which are also couched as prophecy from that same ancient era
when Merlin is supposed to have prophesied.
Henry, on occasion refers back to his own fabricated false history in the
HRB which establishes further both Merlin’s prophetic powers and HRB’s
historicity as credible for those that are gullible. Henry confirms known
historical events which add to the aura of prescience and here in VM makes
the effort to attach Merlin’s prophecies to Welsh and northern bardic
tradition. Once the authorship of the VM is established and once this
mechanism is perceived, it is easier to pick out which mode of deception
Henry is using.
The reason for the mix of anachronistic events is to seem more like
biblical prophecies which have no strict chronology but ‘seethrough time
indiscriminately. Part of Henry’s devise here is to give the air of antiquity;
as if Merlin’s Prophecies were all foreseen back in the dark ages. Much of
the archaic content which Henry employs can be understood by his
audience historically as seemingly accurate; especially when considered in
conjunction with the false history as presented HRB. These are events
which already have passed, but which Merlin supposedly predicted
correctly and have verifiably come to fruition or can be understood
historically. The overall effect of a mystical prophet foretelling of events
that his audience can directly relate to (some of which is set on a
19
San Marte,Die Sagen von Merlin, Halle1853
contemporaneous stage of recent history), is testament to Henry’s illusory
brilliance.
Rhydderch shall die, after whom long discord shall hold the Scots and the
Cumbrians for a long time until Cumbria shall be granted to his growing tusk.
The Welsh shall attack the men of Gwent, and afterwards those of Cornwall
and no law shall restrain them. Wales shall rejoice in the shedding of blood; O
people always hateful to God, why do you rejoice in bloodshed?
20
Wales shall
compel brothers to fight and to condemn their own relatives to a wicked
death. The troops of the Scots shall often cross the Humber and, putting aside
all sentiment, shall kill those who oppose them.
Henry’s complaint against the Southern Welsh, the Northern Welsh, the
Scottish and the Cornish is that they always fought amongst themselves. In
various places in the HRB and Vita Merlini, Henry (as Geoffrey) bemoans
this tribal hate as the main cause for the depletion of the Briton’s power
before the Saxons and Danes arrived. Henry sees these old Britons, (more
properly the Celts), clearly as relatives with the Bretons because of the
exodus.
What has confused most commentators with ‘Geoffrey’s’ seemingly
contradictory stance (regarding the Welsh especially), is that Henry
personally hates the Welsh of his present day, but understands that they
constitute part of what he sees as a ‘once ancient independent Christian
culture’ prior to the Saxon invasion and prior to Augustine’s arrival. Henry
Blois as a Norman is fully cognisant of the early establishment of
Christianity in Britain, being concerned with this issue from his earliest
days at Glastonbury, as we shall get to when covering DA.
As I have implied already, Henry Blois tries to manipulate events against
Henry II by rousing sentiments of these old Britons as a collective, through
his prophecies. This takes place after his self-imposed exile between 1155-
1157. However, the above prophecy is pure skimble-skamble based on what
Henry knows of British history from ASC, Bede and Gildas.
20
Henry, from his own experience at Kidwelly in Wales looks on the Welsh as savages as is clearly expressed in
GS and accounts for the contradictions in HRB. Originally the pseudo-history written by Henry was destined for
Matilda and his Uncle. It was intended to be presented as a history where the Welsh were rough warriors. This
then became hard to compliment the idea of a Chivalric (highly civilised) Arthur from Wales; hence the
contradictions.
Not with impunity, however, for the leader shall be killed; he shall have
the name of a horse
21
and because of that fact shall be fierce. His heir shall be
expelled and shall depart from our territories. Scots, sheathe your swords
which you bare too readily; your strength shall be unequal to that of our
fierce people.
Henry was no fan of the Scots either and especially King David as we
shall clearly witnessed when I cover the GS. Anyway, not wishing to bore
the reader, it is worth looking at these prophecies as some are more current
than the latest version of prophecies which constitute those found in
Vulgate HRB.
The city of Dumbarton
22
shall be destroyed and no King shall repair it for
an age until the Scot shall be subdued in war.
Carlisle, spoiled of its shepherd, shall lie vacant until the sceptre of the
Lion shall restore its pastoral staff.
These two prophecies not in the Libellus Merlini or Vulgate HRB are
inserted in VM just so that Merlin appears to come from the north.
Carlisle was destroyed by the Northmen and restored by William Rufus.
In 1133 Henry Ist, the “Lion of Justice of the Prophecies, re-established its
bishopric. Æthelwulf (1133-1155), an Englishman, who Henry Ist had
established at Carlisle in 1102 died in 1156. It was a recent event at the time
of writing of the VM and Henry either knew the Bishop personally or had
news of his death by a traveller en route to Rome. It is most likely the sense
of ‘the spoiling of its shepherd,’
23
but Carlisle has its relevance because
Henry is portraying that Merlin is predicting about things in the north as
Henry has now located him there in VM. Especially, this would have
relevance to Henry’s audience of VM as this now is the most recent event to
have come to fruition by Merlin the seer all the way back in antiquity. Our
Merlin has a remarkable focus on events just prior to and including the
Anarchy and to the time when Henry is writing (the year after the nineteen
years of his brother’s reign).
Segontium and its towers and mighty palaces shall lament in ruins until
the Welsh return to their former domains.
21
See appendix 1.5
22
See Appendix 2
23
I do not think this has any relevance to Henry II being knighted at Carlisle.
The ruins of the old Roman station of Segontium are on the hill above
the modern city of Carnarvon. It was situated on higher ground to the east
giving a good view of the Menai Straits. There was a ‘motte and bailey’
castle in the area in Henry’s day, but it is doubtful Henry made it this far
north in 1136 to have knowledge of the location personally. However,
having read the Roman annals, Henry Blois would know Segontium was
founded by Agricola in 77 or 78 AD after he had conquered the Ordovices in
North Wales. The reason for naming Segontium is it implies Merlin knew
the place by that name; thus giving the illusion of antiquity for the VM
prophecies. More importantly, Merlin is again seen to be prophesying about
things further north than the Merlin Ambrosius of Vulgate HRB. ‘Geoffrey’
ever faithful to his illusion of the prophecies coming from a Brythonic
Merlin, proposes a location with Roman ruins so his audience would be
fooled into thinking the prophecies so old that even the old name was
current when the prophecies were told. The Earl of Chester, Hugh
d'Avranches, gained Norman control of north Wales in 1088 by building
three castles; one at Caernarfon. The Welsh recaptured Gwynedd in 1115,
and Caernarfon Castle came into the possession of the Welsh princes and so
Merlin is acquitted again with the powers of accurate prophecy.
Porchester
24
shall see its broken walls in its harbour until a rich man with
the tooth of a wolf shall restore it.
The city of Richborough shall lie spread out on the shore of its harbour and
a man from Flanders shall re-establish it with his crested ship.
25
The fifth from him shall rebuild the walls of St David’s and shall bring back
to her the pall lost for many years.
26
The prophecy here changes in time as Henry Blois harks directly back to
the narrative of HRB confirming material derived from the British annals
(from which the HRB was constructed) and concerning the emigration to
Brittany at the advent of the Saxon encroachment.
The City of the Legions shall fall into thy bosom, O Severn (Sabrina), and
shall lose her citizens for a long time, and these the Bear in the Lamb shall
restore to her when he shall come.
27
24
See appendix 3
25
See appendix 4
26
See appendix 5
27
See appendix 6
Saxon Kings shall expel the citizens and shall hold cities, country, and
houses for a long time. From among them thrice three dragons shall wear the
crown. Two hundred monks shall perish in Leicester
28
and the Saxon shall
drive out her ruler and leave vacant her walls. He who first among the
Angles shall wear the diadem of Brutus
29
shall repair the city laid waste by
slaughter. A fierce people shall forbid the sacrament of confirmation
throughout the country, and in the house of God shall place images of the
gods.
This last section of VM prophecies is set out to appear to conform to
known events on the Saxon arrival and the eradication of the British
church. ‘Rome’, in the next prophecy, refers to Augustine of Canterbury
who became Archbishop. Henry Blois however, by stating he is bringing
God ‘back’ establishes the fact that he was not the founder of the Church of
the Britons and this fact would not be lost on Papal authorities regarding
Henry’s application for metropolitan for Winchester. Therefore, Henry’s
intended polemic is that primacy should not be held by Canterbury when
both Winchester (by the accounts in HRB) and Glastonbury by the accounts
in GR3 and DA (and Caradoc) clearly were established before Canterbury
(even though fictionally by Henry’s interpolations).
Afterward Rome shall bring God back through the medium of a monk and
a holy priest shall sprinkle the buildings with water and shall restore them
again and shall place shepherds in them. Thereafter many of them shall obey
the commands of the divine law and shall enjoy heaven by right. An impious
people full of poison shall violate that settlement and shall violently mix
together right and wrong.
30
They shall sell their sons and their kinsmen into
the furthest countries beyond the sea and shall incur the wrath of the
Thunderer.
31
O wretched crime! that man whom the founder of the world
created with liberty, deeming him worthy of heaven, should be sold like an
cow and be dragged away with a rope. You miserable man, you who turned
traitor to your master when first you came to the throne; you shall yield to
God.
32
The Danes shall come upon [you] with their fleet and after subduing
28
See appendix 7
29
See appendix 8
30
The Danes and the Dane law
31
Perhaps Geoffrey’s reference to the Viking Thunder God Thor, yet in two cases in HRB it seems to refer to
God.
32
See appendix 11
the people shall reign for a short time and shall then be defeated and retire.
Two shall rule over them whom the serpent forgetful of his treaty shall strike
with the sting in his tail instead of with the garland of his sceptre.
33
This section of the prophecies would seem to be Merlin referring to
historical events in the Saxon and Dane era which Henry Blois’ audience
would naturally accept as historic events, especially the Danes coming in
ships. It is however, dispersed with allusions to recent events which they
can also recognise. We see here Henry Blois’ mechanism of employing
prophecy so it appears as genuine like biblical prophecy operates i.e. the
prophet sees across time and picks out events from different eras as they
appear to him.
In the next section, Henry refers to Neustrians
34
as if he has no
connection with them and to inappropriate behaviour of the Bishops in his
time.
Then the Normans, sailing over the water in their wooden ships, bearing
their faces in front and in back, shall fiercely attack the Angles with their iron
tunics and their fierce swords, and shall destroy them and possess the field.
35
They shall subjugate many realms to themselves and shall rule foreign
peoples for a time until the fury, flying all about, shall scatter her poison over
them.
36
Then peace and faith and all virtue shall depart, and on all sides
throughout the country the citizens shall engage in battles.
37
Man shall
betray man and no one shall be found a friend.
38
The husband, despising his
wife, shall draw near to harlots, and the wife, despising her husband, shall
marry whom she desires.
39
There shall be no honour kept for the church and
the order shall perish. Then shall bishops bear arms, and armed camps shall
be built. Men shall build towers and walls in holy ground, and they shall give
to the soldiers what should belong to the needy. Carried away by riches they
33
This refers to Matilda and Stephen ruling at the same time. He also was forgetful of his oath to the church and
Henry himself. Instead of being able to rule withgarlanded sceptre’, Stephen is stung as if from a serpent’s tail.
Henry makes plain in the Gesta Stephani it is God’s judgement against Stephen for wrongs against the church.
34
See appendix 32
35
The faces front and back is difficult to unravel and may refer to figureheads fore and aft of the ships, but the
allusion is to the Norman Conquest and more specifically the battle of Hastings.
36
The Norman subjection of Wales and Scotland the subsequent power feuds of continentals.
37
This directly relates to the Anarchy.
38
To convey the mistrust that prevailed throughout the country during the Anarchy is the aim of the prophecy.
This could be a personal reference to Henry’s own snubs from Stephen and the changes of allegiance, ‘no one
keeping their word’.
39
See appendix 9
shall run along on the path of worldly things and shall take from God what
the holy bishop shall forbid.
40
Three shall wear the diadem after whom shall
be the favour of the newcomers. A fourth shall be in authority whom
awkward piety shall injure until he shall be clothed in his father, so that
girded with boar’s teeth he shall cross the shadow of the helmeted man.
41
Four shall be anointed, seeking in turn the highest things, and two shall
succeed who shall so wear the diadem that they shall induce the Gauls to
make war on them.
42
The sixth shall overthrow the Irish and their walls, and
pious and prudent shall renew the people and the cities.
43
When he has made these predictions, Henry Blois, as far as he can into
the present, reminds his reader that they are from the same source as those
prophecies of Merlin found in the HRB and the libellus Merlini. However,
not only has Henry Blois updated prophecies in the Vulgate HRB, but now
he has come up with new prophecies. Some which are designed to have us
believe that Merlin is connected to the north and others which have insights
into the anarchy which were not in the original updated prophecies found
in Vulgate HRB.
All these things I formerly predicted more at length to Vortigern in
explaining to him the mystic war of the two dragons when we sat on the
banks of the drained pool.
We should not think that the composer of VM is any different from the
author of HRB and most commentators assume ‘Geoffrey is the author of
VM, but there are those who think VM was written by another author other
than ‘Geoffrey’. The foremost device which locates Avalon at Glastonbury is
found in VM as Henry Blois now informs us it is called Insula Pomorum.
Henry Blois convinces his audience these prophecies were made while
sat next to Vortigern. His gambit of remixing some of the prophecies found
in the Vulgate HRB and the Libellus Merlini are so that the prophecies of
Merlin in the Vulgate HRB and those found in the VM are convincingly
contemporaneous i.e. they are consistent and came from Merlin…. who
‘Geoffrey’ had originally founded upon Nennius boy Ambrosius.
44
Suspicion must have been much more acute as the updated Vulgate
40
See appendix 10
41
See appendix 12
42
See appendix 13
43
See appendix 14
44
See Appendix 36.
prophecies were published in 1155 and seen to have additions which were
not in the Libellus Merlini. William of Newburgh angrily protests against
them and the historicity of HRB. William of Newburgh who wrote around
1190 had problems with ‘Geoffrey’…. challenging the authenticity of the
Arthurian legends. ‘Geoffrey’s’ pseudo-history did not concur with Gildas.
William of Newburgh wrote: It is quite clear that everything this man wrote
about Arthur and his successors, or indeed about his predecessors from
Vortigern onwards, was made up, partly by himself and partly by others,
either from an inordinate love of lying, or for the sake of pleasing the Britons.
He also says: only a person ignorant of ancient history would have any
doubt how shamelessly and impudently he lies in almost everything. William
of Newburgh comments again: But in our own days, instead of this practice,
a writer has emerged who, in order to expiate the faults of these Britons,
weaves the most ridiculous figments of imagination around them, extolling
them with the most impudent vanity above the virtues of the Macedonians
and the Romans. This man is called Geoffrey, and his other name is Arthur,
because he has taken up the fables about Arthur from the old, British
figments, has added to them himself, and has cloaked them with the
honourable name of history by presenting them with the ornaments of the
Latin tongue....
Since these events agree with the historical truth set forth by the Venerable
Bede, all the things which that man took care to write about Arthur and
either his predecessors after Vortigern or his successors, can be seen to have
been partly concocted by himself and partly by others, either because of a
frenzied passion for lying or in order to please the Britons, most of whom are
known to be so primitive that they are said still to be awaiting the return of
Arthur, and will not suffer themselves to hear that he is dead....
For how could the old historians, to whom it was a matter of great
concern that nothing worthy of memory should be omitted from what was
written, who indeed are known to have committed to memory quite
unimportant things, how could they have passed over in silence so
incomparable a man, whose deeds were notable above all others? How, I ask,
could they have suppressed with silence Arthur and his acts, this king of the
Britons who was nobler than Alexander the Great.....
With even greater daring he has published the fallacious prophecies of a
certain Merlin, to which he has in any event added many things himself, and
has translated them into Latin, [thus offering them] as if they were authentic
prophecies, resting on immutable truth....
45
There was suspicion on the prophecies also. Abbot Suger had
commented on several prophecies before 1150 and the impression of early
provenance provided by the interpolation of Merlin prophecies into
Orderic’s work has given scholarship the illusion of early transmission of
those found in Vulgate. The illusion of a continuous unadulterated set of
prophecies is also aided by the back dating of Vulgate HRB through its
dedications, but there is less evidence of suspicion on the prophecies
themselves (recorded) than that of the dubious historicity of the main body
of HRB. The publication of John of Cornwall’s set of Merlin prophecies by
Henry Blois greatly aids the illusion that the prophecies were originally of
Brythonic origin.
William Newburgh’s comments about historians like Bede: who indeed
are known to have committed to memory quite unimportant things, how
could they have passed over in silence so incomparable a man, whose deeds
were notable above all others?... should be enough to point out that not
everyone was gullible. We should be very wary of Nennius’ testimony
because we can see blatantly that Henry Blois actively promotes Nennius as
Gildas’ work…. but I shall cover this shortly.
Henry reveals too much contemporary information in the VM
prophecies. His vanity got the better of him specifically alluding to himself
in the prophecies. However, because commentators believe ‘Geoffrey of
Monmouth’ died in 1155, they think it is the reason behind the Vita having
had so much less exposure. The real reason for its apparent lack of
readership is that because of its lack of historicity (and the fact it was in
metered rhyme) it did not get copied as much in the monastic system .i.e. it
was not considered important enough to be copied as extensively as
‘Geoffrey’s’ HRB.
46
The veracity of Merlin’s prophecies is often given credence by scholars
asking: How could any prediction of the ‘sixth’ invading Ireland be a fraud
45
William Newburgh Historia regum anglicarum. Newburgh writing c.1190 would probably be more surprised
than anybody when King Arthur’s gravesite is unveiled and King Arthur appears to be in a real grave which has
laid dormant 20 years.
46
It seems fairly certain that the initial distribution and copying was carried out by Henry Blois as he travelled.
since the invasion was not accomplished until 1171? It is coincidental that
this is the year of Henry Blois’ death. It has been this particular prediction
which alludes to an event after ‘Geoffrey’s’ supposed death, which has for
the most part provided the aura of prescience and substantiated Merlin’s
credibility as a prophet. For the less gullible commentator, Henry’s
knowledge of the Winchester court discussion about invading Ireland
subtracts from any predictive ability ascribed to Merlin.
Merlin’s predictive ability has especially been given credence by the
insertion/interpolation of the passage concerning some Merlin prophecies
into Orderic which also refers to the ‘sixth’ invading Ireland. Some
commentators date the interpolated chapter on Merlin’s prophecies in
Orderic to 1136 or thereabout. Given the nature of the prophecies it is not
only preposterous but naive to think that the sixth King i.e. Henry II, could
be predicted to invade Ireland from this early date.
47
At this point in VM, it is as if Henry Blois has just remembered why he is
writing the Vita and suddenly ends these prophecies from Merlin and
returns to the narrative storyline of the mad Merlin. Henry closes this
prophetic section by introducing Gildas and names Taliesin and records
Taliesin’s recent instruction under Gildas, which immediately provides
contemporaneity for Merlin with Gildas and Taliesin.
47
The passage in Orderic which establishes credibility for the existence of the prophecies for ‘scholars’ by its
appropriate insertion and clever reference to ‘time’ is quite obviously an interpolation and will be covered
shortly. Crick, appears to be duped into believing the existence of a body of prophecies by stating Orderic
Vitalis, first known reader of Geoffrey’s Merlinian prophecies, understood their function immediately. In the
same analysis she states: the Prophecies of Merlin, the core of Geoffrey’s own Historia, was arguably Geoffrey’s
own creation. How then is it possible to predict the Sixth in Ireland if it is Geoffrey’s work and yet supposedly
written prior to Henry I death (or even Orderic’s) unless Geoffrey is an actual prophet. The evident solution is
that it is an interpolation by Henry Blois into Orderic, as he is the inventor of both Merlin and Geoffrey. Henry
Blois dupes posterity by inserting an entire section concerning the Merlin prophecies which were originally in
the early Libellus Merlini with one added prophecy (the sixth in Ireland) qualifying their existence in the time of
Henry I by stating (in the Orderic interpolation): up to the times of Henry I and Gruffudd, who still,” uncertain
of their lot, await the future events” that are ordained for them. I realise that to become a scholar one must
spend a lot of time in dusty libraries and not much on the street. But one does not even have to be ‘street wise’ to
recognise the obvious guile and intended insinuation in Henry’s interpolation. The interpolation in Orderic must
have taken place post 1155.
But you, dear sister, go home to see the King dying and bid Taliesin come,
as I wish to talk over many things with him; for he has recently come from the
land of Brittany where he learned sweet philosophy of Gildas the Wise.
48
Ganieda returned home and found that Taliesin had returned and the
prince was dead and the servants were sad. She fell down lamenting among
her friends.
Gildas becomes highly relevant later when we consider Henry Blois’
hand in the manipulation of Glastonbury material in GR3 and DA.
We now hear Ganieda speaking about the death of the King. With only
slight variation, it is as if Henry Blois were doing the same internal
lamenting for his brother and using Ganieda as mouthpiece. It is couched as
a poetical and thoughtful tribute to her husband Rhydderch. As I have made
plain earlier, Henry Blois has lost his power, his castles and his brother.
The vision of his future when he wrote the original Libellus Merlini
prophecies has now been played out. Henry Blois continues on until, (still
speaking through Ganieda), he laments leaving all his nephews which he
had fought so hard to elevate into positions of power in England and
laments leaving his walls of Winchester and clothes himself in the monk’s
mantle as he is, in his present state at Clugny.
Therefore I leave you, ye nobles, ye lofty walls, household gods, sweet sons,
and all the things of the world. In company with my brother I shall dwell in
the woods and shall worship God with a joyful heart, clothed in a black
mantle.”
Henry Blois is setting up his next astonishing piece, by bringing Taliesin
and Merlin together with the most cursory introduction: Meanwhile Taliesin
had come to see Merlin the prophet who had sent for him to find out what
wind or rain storm was coming up, for both together were drawing near and
the clouds were thickening. He drew the following illustrations under the
guidance of Minerva
49
his associate.
Henry Blois uses his scholastic knowledge of previous writers through
the ‘voice piece’ of Taliesin to propagate the propaganda for his new vision
concerning Glastonbury. He has based much of the setting of the VM on
48
The Life of Gildas by the Monk of Rhuys tells that after Gildas settled in Brittany people began to flock to him
to entrust their sons for their instruction to his superintendence and teaching.
49
Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and defense also mentioned in the
prologue of John of Cornwall’s prophecies
records from the Book of Taliesin who is also contemporaneous with
Rydderch, so they provide the anchor of contemporaneity with Merlin. He
has also extracted ideas from Irish
50
and Scottish sources. Some of the
information in Taliesin’s speech in VM has been traced back to men such as
Pliny, Solinus, Martianus Capella, Pomponius Mela and Rabanus Maurus.
Henry Blois posing as Geoffrey of Monmouth through extracts taken from
Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae
51
now speaks as if in the words of Taliesin.
However, he starts this long nature episode reverting to Aristotle: Out of
nothing the Creator of the world produced four [elements]
52
Henry then follows on with a lengthy piece on origins and discussions on
various topics concerning stars, dragons and fish etc. Just as Isidore of
Seville covers a variety of naturist topics; so does ‘Geoffrey’. Isidore also
leads into his discourse on Islands much the same way as Geoffrey of
Monmouth does starting with Britain: Of these [islands] Britain is said to be
the foremost and best, producing in its fruitfulness every single thing.
He then proceeds by describing the various British blessings found in the
country culminating with the pleasing baths found in the city of Bath.
Henry’s aim is to refer back to the HRB before launching into his next piece
which names Bladud from the HRB.
In the HRB, Bladud is the founder of Bath. We can actually witness
Henry’s mind at work here. He is enabling himself to establish as fact in the
Vita, the connection between Bladud and Badon and as we know the
earliest mention of the Battle of Badon is in Gildas' De Excidio Britanniae
where Ambrosius Aurelianus organized a British resistance. But, as we
know, Geoffrey does his best to conflate Ambrosius with Arthur (or even
Merlin) and Nennius has Badon as the place of King Arthur’s last battle. But,
Geoffrey’s Camlann is also brought into the salad of confusion from the
Annales Cambriae where Arthur and Mordred fell (AC mentions Medraut,
but it does not specify that he and Arthur fought on opposite sides), as
Henry Blois has Mordred in Cornwall purely because Henry knows the
topography
53
and of the river Camel.
54
50
See Appendix 16
51
Adam of Damerham witnesses that Isidore of Sevilles Etymologiae sive Origines was donated to Glastonbury
abbey by Henry Blois.
52
Aristotle Metaphysics.
53
It becomes plain that Henry knows Cornwall, but this only becomes evident when we cover John of Cornwall’s
prophecies.
His main intention in VM is to conflate Badon (where Arthur’s battle
took place) with Avalon. As the reader will understand shortly, the purport
behind Henry’s very clever design is to set up Arthur’s last known location,
the Island of Avalon of HRB fame as being synonymous with Glastonbury.
So let us see in this next extract from the HRB, why Bladud’s name is
important to Henry and why this contrivance is essential to his overall plan
for the future of Glastonbury.
Next succeeded Bladud his son, in whose hands the Kingdom remained for
twenty years. He builded the city of Kaerbadon, that is now called Bath, and
fashioned hot baths therein, meet for the needs of men, the which he placed
under the guardianship of the deity Minerva, in whose temple he set fires that
could not be quenched, that never turned into ashes, but as they began to fail
became as it were round balls of stone.
55
Returning back to the VM we can now see where he is guiding his
contemporary audience and every reader of the HRB and the Vita Merlini
since 1157.
Besides all these it has fountains healthful because of their hot waters
which nourish the sick and provide pleasing baths, which quickly send people
away cured with their sickness driven out. So Bladud established them when
he held the sceptre of the Kingdom and he gave them the name of his consort
Alaron.
56
Immediately he has named this ‘Alaron’
57
which he has now established
as being the same as where we find Bladud, (who we know was the founder
of Badon, where Arthur’s battle took place); after one line on the healing
powers found in this Alaron he does his trickiest bit of sophistry and
conflation, he calls the same place an Island and to confuse us further he
says it is near Thanet.
58
Our ocean also divides the Orkneys from us. These are divided into thirty
three islands by the sundering flood; twenty lack cultivation and the others
54
From the Annales Cambriae, Camblanus becomes Geoffrey’s Camlann.However, more probably Colchester
was called Camulodunum and Henry changed the location having visited Cornwall and Tintagel. Henry Blois
knows the river Camel is four miles distant from Tintagel and on it stands Camelford. Henry Blois has
conveniently used conflation for his own end and located the battle in Cornwall,
55
HRB II, x
56
The account of Bladud is found in the HRB, II, x.
57
Geoffrey’s purposeful confusion of Avalon, the Vaus d'Avaron, used by Robert de Boron (3123, 3221) and the
grant valee’ in the Perlesvaus' description of Avalon, obviously represent the same locality.
58
See Appendix 15
are cultivated. Thule receives its name “furthest” from the sun, because of the
solstice which the summer sun makes there, turning its rays and shining no
further, and taking away the day, so that always throughout the long night
the air is full of shadows, and making a bridge congealed by the benumbing
cold, which prevents the passage of ships.
I have shown in appendix 15 why Henry Blois has a peculiar concern
regarding the island of Thanet. The above material is taken from Pytheas’
account through Diodorus or other ancient chroniclers who comments of
Pytheastravels. Even though the special status afforded by Thanet as being
near to Henry’s primary purpose (a conflation with Avalon), Isidore of
Seville also talks of the same list of Islands and many others beside in the
Mediterranean. Isidore provides the basis of material for ‘Geoffrey’s Islands
in VM. The ensuing Island material is derived from Isidore’s XIV.vi, De
insulis (“concerning islands”) but it becomes apparent why there is a
change in order from his list of Islands.
Vita Merlini Isidore’s Etymologia
1. Thanatos Thanet
2. The Orkneys Ultima Thule
3. Thule Orkneys
4. Ireland Ireland
5. Gades Gades
6. The Hesperides The Fortunate Isles
7. The Gorgades The Gorgades
8. Argire & Crisse The Hesperides
9. Ceylon Chryse and Argyre
10. Tiles
11. The Fortunate Islands
Rather than reveal his real intention, Henry Blois has decided to set up
his intended objective, (that of exchanging the Avalon of HRB to be
synonymous with the ‘Island of Apples’) in amongst what appears to be
Taliesin pronouncing upon the subject of ‘Islands’ just after the obvious
intended conflation of Alaron with Badon. Henry Blois already has another
project planned in the manuscript which was the forerunner of Perlesvaus,
where unfortunately, he cannot change the name Insula Avallonis (for
reasons that will be explained shortly).
The fact that Arthur was taken to Insula Pomorum shows to the gullible
that it must equate to the Avalon in HRB. The logic of such an assumption is
because the island now appears to be located in Somerset because Arthur
had appeared at Glastonbury in the concocted life of Gildas. Posterity has
been led to a conclusion to which Henry directed us in that: Insula
Pomorum must be Glastonbury. In 1191 when the leaden cross was
unearthed, Glastonbury was unequivocally associated with Avalon, but the
interpolator of DA has made this association long before the discovery. It is
only modern scholars erroneous chronology which assumes Avalon’s
association with Glastonbury was made after the disinterment.
A Welsh ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’ has little to gain in associating Arthur
with Glastonbury. Henry Blois not only is responsible for the connection of
Arthur to Glastonbury made by impersonating Caradoc, but he is also
responsible for the naming of Avalon and the invention of the character of
the Chivalric Arthur. He is responsible for Arthur’s association to
Glastonbury found in DA and is responsible for creating Arthur’s grave
between the pyramids. It is hardly surprising that as ‘Geoffrey’ in VM,
Henry persuades his audience that the apple country of Somerset possesses
an Island which is known as Insula Pomorum where Arthur is known to
have been taken by Barinthus.
The only assumption one can draw and to which the reader has been led
in VM is that Glastonbury must be the same location as Avalon with all the
other evidences which corroborate such a conclusion found in DA. Henry
Blois has achieved his goal and posterity and scholarship is none the wiser
even today. It will become apparent also that Henry Blois, amongst other
works of anonymity, is the author of the initial Perlesvaus.
The VM continues on with Taliesin pronouncing on the Islands:
The most outstanding island after our own is said to be Ireland with its
happy fertility. It is larger and produces no bees, and no birds except rarely,
and it does not permit snakes to breed in it. Whence it happens that if earth
or a stone is carried away from there and added to any other place it drives
away snakes and bees.
Isidore’s work describes Ireland: Ireland (Scotia), also known as
Hibernia, is an island next to Britannia, narrower in its expanse of land but
more fertile in its site. It extends from southwest to north. It’s near parts
stretch towards Iberia (Hiberia) and the Cantabrian Ocean (i.e. the Bay of
Biscay), whence it is called Hibernia; but it is called Scotia, because it has
been colonized by tribes of the Scoti. There no snakes are found, birds are
scarce, and there are no bees, so that if someone were to sprinkle dust or
pebbles brought from there among beehives in some other place, the
swarms would desert the honeycombs.
Isidore is not certain about who the inhabitants are and conflates the
Scottish to Irish, but knows its proportion and position. ‘Geoffrey’ (Henry
Blois) knows where Ireland and Scotland are, so he does not pretend to be
ignorant, which obviously Isidore is.
59
The island of Gades lies next to Herculean Gades, and there grows there a
tree from whose bark a gum drips out of which gems are made, breaking all
laws.
Isedore’s version of Gades: Cadiz (Gadis) is an island located at the edge
of the province of Baetica. It separates Europe from Africa. The Pillars of
Hercules can be seen there, and from there the current of the Ocean flows
into the entrance of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is divided from the mainland by
a distance of six hundred (Roman) feet. When the Tyrians, who had come
from the Red Sea, occupied it, they called it in their language Gadir that is,
“enclosed, because it is enclosed on all sides by the sea. This island
produces a palm-like tree whose sap, when mixed with glass, produces the
precious stone called ceraunius.
It is a coincidence that Pytheas mentions this substance as floating. One
would assume it is Amber
60
since it comes from tree sap. It is here that
Geoffrey of Monmouth changes the order found in Isidore because Isidore
follows with the Fortunate Isles. But ‘Geoffrey’ keeps this until the end of
Taliesin’s discourse, so that it seemingly grafts into the main point of re-
naming Avalon. However, ‘Geoffrey’ continues with Hesperides:
59
Saint Isidore of Seville (c. 560 4 April 636) served as Archbishop of Seville and Geoffrey surely knew his
source would be discovered, however the source for Geoffrey’s purposes is contemporaneous enough.
60
Herodotus in book 3 says ‘I cannot speak with certainty nor am I acquainted with the islands called the
Cassiterides from which tin is brought to us….it is never the less, certain that both our tin and our amber are
brought from these extremely remote regions, in the western extremities of Europe’.What Herodotus was
actually referring to is known as British glass a sometime by-product of the smelting process of tin.
The Hesperides are said to contain a watchful dragon who, men say,
guards the golden apples under the leaves.
Isidores Hesperides
61
are: The isles of the Hesperides are so called after
the city of Hesperis, which was located within the borders of Mauretania.
They are situated beyond the Gorgades, at the Atlantic shore, in the most
remote bays of the sea. Stories tell of an ever-watchful dragon guarding
golden apples in their gardens. There, it is said, is a channel from the sea
that is so twisted, with winding banks, that when seen from afar it looks like
the coils of a serpent.
On Isidore’s Hesperides we find Golden apples not as Geoffrey later
attests they are on the Fortunate isles from where he derives his Insula
Pomorum. ‘Geoffrey’s’ artifice is revealed when he would rather attach his
‘apple’ scenario to an Island described adjectively (fortunate) rather than
overcoming some previous nomenclature like Hesperides. We can witness
the conflation with the enchanted orchard of the classical Hesperides which
is eventually doubly conflated with Glastonbury later on by Henry through
‘Isle de Voirre’ or Isle of Glass. I will cover this conflation later through
Henry’s ingenious etymological conversion of Ineswitrin to Ynes Gutrin
which gives the Glass Island which Caradoc (Henry Blois) first introduces in
Life of Gildas. It is also though Henry Blois and his relationship with Marie
and Alix, and their relation to Chrétien de Troyes where we meet Maheloas
as lord of the Isle de Voirre which relates to Caradoc’s Melvas and his Urbs
Vitrea.
The Gorgades are inhabited by women with goats’ bodies who are said to
surpass hares in the swiftness of their running.
Isidore’s Gorgades are described thus: The Gorgades are islands of the
Ocean opposite the promontory that is called Hesperian Ceras, inhabited by
the Gorgons, women with swift wings and a rough and hairy body; the
61
According to the Sicilian Greek poet Stesichorus, and the Greek geographer Strabo, in his book Geographika
(volume III), the garden of the Hesperides is located in Tartessos, a location placed in the south of the Iberian
Peninsula. Since they are beyond the Gorgades which one must assume are the Canaries it would seem the
Hesperides may be the Cape Verde Islands as Isidore states: Islands (insula) are so called because they are ‘in
salt water’
islands take their name from them. They are separated from the mainland
by a passage of two days’ sailing.
Argyre and Chryse
62
bear, it is said, gold and silver just as Corinth does
common stones.
Isidores Argyre and Chryse are: are islands situated in the Indian Ocean,
so rich in metal that many people maintain these islands have a surface of
gold and silver; whence their names are derived.
Celon blooms pleasantly because of its fruitful soil, for it produces two
crops in a single year; twice it is summer, twice spring, twice men gather
grapes and other fruits, and it is also most pleasing because of its shining
gems. Tiles produces flowers and fruits in an eternal spring, green throughout
the seasons.
Celon and Tiles are Geoffrey’s addition and not found in Isidore’s
account on the Islands in the Sea.
The island of apples which men call “The Fortunate Isle”
63
gets its name
from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need
of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature
provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees
grow in its woods from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord
produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred
years or more.
Isidore’s Fortunate Islas are described as: The Fortunate Isles
(Fortunatarum insulae) signify by their name that they produce all kinds of
good things, as if they were happy and blessed with an abundance of fruit.
Indeed, well-suited by their nature, they produce fruit from very precious
trees; the ridges of their hills are spontaneously covered with grapevines;
instead of weeds, harvest crops and garden herbs are common there; hence,
the mistake of pagans and the poems by worldly poets, who believed that
these isles were Paradise because of the fertility of their soil. They are
62
Pliny refers to Chryse as an Island and was on the Medievalmappaemundi as an Island. Mention of Argyre is
made in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea as the last part of the inhabited world toward the east. However in
Pliny’s Natural History he mentions a Land of Gold via a peninsula. Pomponius Mela, says two lands lay to the
east of India one Argyre was said to boast soil of Gold and Chryse was said to have soil of Silver. In the vicinity
of Tamus is the Island of Argyre, in the vicinity of the Ganges, that of Chryse’.
63
See Appendix 17
situated in the Ocean, against the left side of Mauretania, closest to where
the sun sets, and they are separated from each other by the intervening sea.
We can see that Henry (‘Geoffrey’) has made Isidore’s Islands singular;
and now conflated it with the apples of the Hesperides to suit his goal in the
translocation of a nebulous Avalon in HRB to be located at Glastonbury. The
implications of this are huge at this date of 1157.
64
At this point in VM
Henry now leaves Isidore and a versification of his work which he
employed for his own ends.
In the HRB we hear of Avalon twice; once where Arthur is girt with
Caliburn, best of swords, that was forged within the Isle of Avalon.
65
The second is where the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded
deadly, and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his
wounds.
66
We were not introduced to Morgen or her sisters
67
in the HRB, but one
assumes that ‘Geoffrey’s’ reason for their inclusion in VM was to give a
valid reason why his hero of the HRB was taken to Avalon, i.e. she can cure
the sick and his wounds. Of course the nine sorceress priestesses of
Pomponius Mela’s island of Sena are to be conflated with the nine maidens
on Insula Pomorum in VM and of course again, in Henry’s interpolation into
DA.
To add to Henry’s salad of conflation in DA, Avalloc just happens to have
daughters and supplies the eponym for Avalon just to complete the
confusion.
68
In this instance alone we can witness Henry’s brilliance which
started out innocently by randomly picking a name from a Burgundian
town just as he had selected the environs of Autun for Arthur’s fictitious
continental battle.
To not recognize that the conversion of a completely fictitious island to
which a fictitious chivalric Arthur was taken to, (to what is nowadays
understood to be a real location of Avalon) is to underestimate the
brilliance of Henry’s subtle method of translocation. The translocation also
64
Scholars have contrived an a priori which assumes the name Avalon has no association with Glastonbury until
Arthur’s disinterment when the leaden cross is found.
65
HRB IX, iv
66
HRB XI, ii
67
It will be discussed later on in the chapter on Vera Historia de morte Arthuri, Henry’s later addition of this
lore to HRB where Morgen is also mentioned.
68
We should remember that the DA interpolations which associate Avalon with Glastonbury existed in DA long
before the unearthing of the Arthur in 1189-91.
bears witness to the evolvement of Henry’s propagandist thought processes
where Arthur was firstly associated with Glastonbury in the Life of Gildas.
Henry had initially posited Ineswitrin as synonymous with Glastonbury in
life of Gildas because by doing so it established the 601 charter’s credibility.
At that time Henry wished Glastonbury to be recognized as Ineswitrin. By
the end of the evolution of his propaganda Henry has effectually converted
Ineswitrin at Glastonbury into Avalon at Glastonbury.
Even though ‘Geoffrey’ in VM places Taliesin at the scene of Arthur’s
arrival in Insula Pomorum, it is irrelevant since we can clearly see Taliesin’s
inclusion in the narrative is because Henry Blois utilises material derived
from Taliesin which comprises some of the VM.
There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them
from our country. She who is first of them is more skilled in the healing art,
and excels her sisters in the beauty of her person. Morgen is her name, and
she has learned what useful properties all the herbs contain, so that she can
cure sick bodies. She also knows an art by which to change her shape, and to
cleave the air on new wings like Daedalus; when she wishes she is at Brest,
Chartres, or Pavia
69
and when she will she slips down from the air onto your
shores. And men say that she has taught mathematics to her sisters,
Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, Thitis; Thitis best known
for her cither. Thither after the battle of Camlan
70
we took the wounded
Arthur, guided by Barinthus
71
to whom the waters and the stars of heaven
were well known. With him steering the ship we arrived there with the
prince,
72
and Morgen received us with fitting honour, and in her chamber she
69
Pavia is presumably Paris; Brest and Chartres also places more relevant to Henry Blois than a Welsh Geoffrey
of Monmouth.
70
Geoffrey’s reference to the battle of Camlann is made to accord with an entry in the 10th-century Annales
Cambriae, recording the battle in the year 537 which mentions Mordred (Medraut). The Strife of Camlann in
which Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) perished’.
71
There seems little doubt that the Navigatio Brendani is the source; the early eleventh century account of the
voyage of St. Brendan. Followed by the Norman poem (ed. Fr. Michel), Voyages Merveille de St. Brendan (Paris
1878), where a certain ‘Barintz’ does the same (II. 75,101) and this version would certainly be known by Henry
Blois as it was written for his uncle’s Queen Adeliza. Barint in the St Brendan legend starts the saint off on his
voyage by telling him of a marvellous isle.
72
‘Geoffrey’ has based Arthur’s arrival at Avalon after the battle of Camlan. ‘Geoffrey’s’ artifice is clearly
revealed in setting up the association of ‘Alaron’ with his various Island material which leads into his Fortunate
placed the King on a golden bed and with her own hand she uncovered his
honourable wound and gazed at it for a long time. At length she said that
health could be restored to him if he stayed with her for a long time and made
use of her healing art. Rejoicing, therefore, we entrusted the King to her and
returning spread our sails to the favouring winds.”
Henry Blois, not forgetting that Merlin is supposedly speaking prior to
the Saxon invasions, makes recorded British history into predictions that
appear to have come true.
Merlin said in answer, “Dear friend, since that time how much the
Kingdom has endured from the violated oath, so that what it once was it no
longer is! For by an evil fate the nobles are roused up and turned against
each other’s vitals, and they upset everything so that the abundance of riches
has fled from the country and all goodness has departed, and the desolated
citizens leave their walls empty. Upon them shall come the Saxon people,
fierce in war, who shall again cruelly overthrow us and our cities, and shall
violate God’s law and his temples. For He shall certainly permit this
destruction to come upon us because of our crimes, that He may correct the
foolish.”
Taliesin then postulates by means of prophecy the expectation of the
Britons. Henry Blois using the voice of Taliesin pretends to state ‘the hope of
Arthur’s return’ into a current hope of the 6
th
century. I would not be
surprised if Henry Blois left the prophecy open so that at some future date it
might apply to him; especially as he would be returning by ship if some
mishap were to happen to Henry II. Until the reader is acquainted with the
prophecy of the seven Kings supposedly by Merlin and translated by John of
Isle scenario. ‘Geoffrey’s’ statement in the HRB where Arthur ‘wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the
island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, where he gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman
Constantine’ assumes that giving up his crown, he died there at Avalon and was never seen again. It is this same
assumption that facilitated any credence given to the fabricated find of Arthur’s remains at Glastonbury in 1191.
As we know, initially in Primary Historia, Arthur is not taken to Avalon….otherwise this would have been
mentioned by Huntingdon. In First Variant (Bern 568) Henry Blois uses the ambiguous word letaliter ‘mortally
wounded’, so a clear progression in storyline is witnessed; ultimately, to where a grave is manufactured by
Henry Blois to coincide with Arthur having died at Avalon. Also if we take Alfred of Beverley’s evolved First
Variant we can see that Henry Blois has not reached his second agenda in the development of Avalon: Alfred
omits mention of Avallon in his reworking of the passage concerning Caliburnus. Henry got his idea of the
sword being made on an island from the Aeneid where Aeneas’ arms are made by the Cyclops on the isle of
Lipari
Cornwall this proposition seems foolish; but Henry Blois definitely had
plans to return as a ‘chief’ if Henry II had been overcome by the Celts. In
any case, the meaning reiterates the same feeling current at the time, to
which William of Malmesbury referred. It also conveys the same sentiment
as that found in the prophecies of HRB; of a lost noble nation needing to be
returned to its former peace. The return of an Arthurian figure, a saviour,
might be more in line with what Henry Blois is trying to propose.
Merlin had scarcely finished when Taliesin exclaimed, “Then the people
should send someone to tell the chief to come back in a swift ship if he has
recovered his strength, that he may drive off the enemy with his accustomed
vigour and re-establish the citizens in their former peace.
Henry Blois then cuts Taliesin short with an unequivocal prediction
through the mouth of Merlin. Merlin speaks with powerful authority as he
did in the HRB prophecies. He contradicts Taliesin’s generalised hope and
sets about telling us what will transpire which his audience (having read
HRB) knows has already taken place historically. This in effect confirms
Merlin’s accuracy in the prediction about the Britons being enslaved for
many years.
“No,” said Merlin, “not thus shall this people depart when once they have
fixed their claws on our shores. For at first they shall enslave our Kingdom
and our people and our cities, and shall dominate them with their forces for
many years. Nevertheless three
73
from among our people shall resist with
much courage and shall kill many, and in the end shall overcome them. But
they shall not continue thus, for it is the will of the highest Judge that the
Britons shall through weakness lose their noble Kingdom for a long time,
until Conan
74
shall come in his chariot from Brittany, and Cadwalader
75
the
venerated leader of the Welsh, who shall join together Scots and Cumbrians,
Cornishmen and men of Brittany
76
in a firm league, and shall return to their
people their lost crown, expelling the enemy and renewing the times of
Brutus, and shall deal with the cities in accordance with their consecrated
laws. And the Kings shall begin again to conquer remote peoples and to
subjugate their own realms to themselves in mighty conflict. “No one shall
73
The three Geoffrey refers to may be Cadvan, Cadwallo, and Cadwallader, on the basis of Book XII of the
HRB.
74
See appendix18
75
See appendix 19
76
See appendix 20
then be alive of those who are now living,” said Taliesin, “nor do I think that
any one has seen so many savage battles between fellow citizens as you
have.”
We now have Henry’s true desire of unseating Henry II confirmed in
actual speech by Merlin rather than found in a list of other prophecies. It is
hard to grasp to which three Henry is relating to because Henry has
morphed the prophecies since he published the initial Libellus Merlini to
which his friend abbot Suger refers. Maybe originally the three were
Constans Uther and Ambrosius
77
against the Saxons. Maybe it is a case of
Henry squewing the number three of the Kings used to indicate William the
conqueror, William Rufus and Henry Ist, but it is not clear.
What is clear is that the prophecy’s main purport, whether originally
relating to the Saxon era (as is indicated by an initial resurgence and then
an eventual subjugation of the Britons) is that the end of the subjugation
comes through Conan and Cadwallader both coincidentally fighting against
Henry II in 1155. So here we have a clear indication that Henry Blois is
trying to rouse the indigenous Celts through prophecy. Henry Blois writing
as Geoffrey has made it clear that if the Bretons (with Conan) and the Welsh
(with Cadwallader), along with the Scots and Cornish rise up against the
invaders (specifically the Angevin Henry II) they will once again retain the
crown of Brutus.
I hope the reader can get an insight into how manipulative the real
Henry Blois actually was. Not only did he invent the story of Brutus in HRB,
he is now predicting that the fictitious crown would return to the
indigenous Britons. When the reader understands the JC prophecies we will
see upon whose head the crown is foreseen i.e. the seventh King….Henry
Blois!!!
All these things Merlin recapped for our benefit to run according to the
history as it was understood, so that we and ‘Geoffrey’s’ Anglo-Norman
readers were amazed at Merlin’s accuracy. Merlin, speaking in the sixth
century, comes out with a prediction, remarkably up to date by coincidently
naming two people
78
on the current political landscape. Henry Blois affects
77
Ambrosius’ name is employed in HRB to conflate with Gildas and Bede’s accounts as he is the resistance
leader conflated with Arthur by ‘Geoffrey’.
78
Not Cynan and Caduallo or Caedwalla
sedition through a fraudulent prophecy of Merlin inciting Conan and
Cadwallader to rebel against Henry II; prompting them to join in firm
league, to subjugate their own realm to themselves.
79
In John of Cornwall’s
rendition of the prophecies of Merlin (also fabricated by Henry Blois) it
becomes evident that Henry sees himself as the natural replacement of
Henry II once the rebellion has succeeded.
The last statement of Taliesin’s in the passage above underlines that
Henry Blois’ conception of Merlin is as someone who lives through the
ages
80
and has witnessed these battles fought between the Britons
themselves, the idiocy of which he laments constantly in that their power is
reduced which has allowed the foreigners to dominate them. He has seen
the various foreigners through the ages and the chaos they bring, and the
sentiment of Merlin can be understood as: (my words) ‘Oh, if only the Celts,
the Britons of a bygone age would stop fighting amongst themselves they
would not have been invaded down through the ages’.
Merlin said, "Indeed, that is the truth. For I have lived long and seen much;
our own folk turning on one another, and the chaos the barbarian brings.
The brief exchange acts as a conversational narrative conjunction before
Henry Blois launches into the next lot of text, the object of which again is to
endorse the historiography of the HRB.
“And I remember the crime when Constans was betrayed and the small
brothers Uther and Ambrosius fled across the water.
81
At once wars began in
the Kingdom which now lacked a leader, for Vortigern of Gwent, the consul,
was leading his troops against all the nations so that he might have the
leadership of them, and was inflicting a wretched death upon the harmless
peasants. At length with sudden violence he seized the crown after putting to
death many of the nobles and he subdued the whole Kingdom to himself. But
those who were allied to the brothers by blood relationship, offended at this,
began to set fire to all the cities of the ill-fated prince and to perturb his
79
We can see the same seditious prophecy in Vulgate HRB: 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. Here again, we are told the he-goat from the castle
of Venus with a silver beard will succeed and there will then be peace in his time. It does not take too much
imagination to see who this might refer to.
80
The same is posited by Robert de Boron who obtained his sense of Merlin from Henry Blois.
81
HRB, VI, v-xix.
Kingdom with savage soldiery, and they would not permit him to possess it in
peace. Disquieted therefore since he could not withstand the rebellious
people, he prepared to invite to the war men from far away with whose aid he
might be able to meet his enemies. Soon there came from divers parts of the
world warlike bands whom he received with honour. The Saxon people, in
fact, arriving in their curved keels had come to serve him with their helmeted
soldiery. They were led by two courageous brothers, Horsus and Hengist,
82
who afterwards with wicked treachery harmed the people and the cities. For
after this, by serving the King with industry, they won him over to themselves
and seeing the people moved by a quarrel that touched them closely they were
able to subjugate the King; then turning their ferocious arms upon the people
they broke faith and killed the princes by a premeditated fraud while they
were sitting with them after calling them together to make peace and a treaty
with them, and the prince they drove over the top of the snowy mountain.
Henry Blois in this last section confirms his HRB’s historiography,
whereas, before, it was written in the form of historical record in the body
of HRB, it is now re-iterated here in the VM as a future awaiting…. predicted
by the prophet whose vaticinations undoubtedly have materialised as
history for Henry’s audience. If the reader needs any help understanding
this; this was revealed to Vortigern at the same time as the original
prophecies in the HRB.
These are the things I had begun to prophesy to him would happen to the
Kingdom.
Henry Blois then goes on to relate that Vortigern had tried to repel the
Saxons he had initially invited to Britain until he was betrayed by Rowena
Hengist’s sister who he was infatuated with and who poisoned him. Rowena
recalls her brother back to Briton. Henry never forgets to put himself in
character as Merlin, supposedly speaking as an ancient Briton and of our’
army.
This therefore he did, for he came with such force against our army that
he took booty from everybody until he was loaded with it, and he thoroughly
destroyed by fire the houses throughout the country.
We then hear a complete contradiction in the story line where, (while
these events were happening), Vortigern, now alive again, is defeated by the
82
See appendix 1.5
returning Britons from Brittany. The only reason I suspect for doing this is
to locate Vortigern’s tower (for the narratives sake) in Wales so that he is
differentiated from the good Britons who returned from Brittany
83
and
associated with the savages (in Henry’s mind) that now inhabit Wales. This
is entirely consistent with ‘Geoffrey’s’ sentiments. By doing this, Henry
allows himself his own personal views on the Welsh and offers by way of
explanation the reason he is derogatory toward them.
“While these things were happening Uther and Ambrosius were in Breton
territory with King Biducus and they had already girded on their swords and
were proved fit for war, and had associated with themselves troops from all
directions so that they might seek their native land and put to flight the
people who were busy wasting their patrimony. So they gave their boats to
the wind and the sea, and landed for the protection of their subjects; they
drove Vortigern through the regions of Wales and shut him up in his tower
and burned both him and it. Then they turned their swords upon the Angles
and many times when they met them they defeated them, and on the other
hand they were often defeated by them. At length in a hand to hand conflict
our men with great effort attacked the enemy and defeated them decisively,
and killed Hengist, and by the will of Christ triumphed.
This episode is aligned with the pseudo-history concocted in HRB but has
nothing to do with the inciting to rebellion of the Celts found in the
prophecies.
After these things had been done, the Kingdom and its crown were with the
approval of clergy and laity given to Ambrosius….
Henry Blois always conscious of the role of Church in the state mentions
its relationship far too much throughout the VM and HRB which betrays his
own sentiments of the Cluniac, Gregorian reformation he had high hopes of
achieving when he installed his brother Stephen on the throne. Henry
carries forward with the story line repeating and setting in order the events
for the most part recorded in the HRB. The point of recapping of all this to
Taliesin is fairly pointless except for reasons of corroborating the
historiography of the HRB and by padding out the text. That is until he
83
HRB XII, xix: And, as barbarism crept in, they were no longer called Britons but Welsh, a word derived either
from Gualo, one of their Dukes, or from Guales. Also we can see Henry’s hatred of the Welsh of his era: But the
Welsh, degenerating from the nobility of the Britons, never afterwards recovered the sovereignty of the island…
arrives at his real objective which is to splice in new prophecies as if told
contemporaneously with those found in the Vulgate HRB.
Ambrosius dies and his younger brother Uther takes to fighting battles
over by the Humber. He is then succeeded by his son Arthur who is still a
boy and ‘Therefore after seeking the advice of clergy and laity he sent to Hoel,
King of Brittany, and asked him to come to his aid with a swift fleet, for they
were united by ties of blood and friendship’……whom at length conquered his
enemies the Saxons and forced to return to their own country, and he
calmed his own Kingdom by the moderation of his laws. He also subdued
the Scots and Irish and subjugated the Norwegians far away across the
broad seas, and the Danes whom he had visited with his hated fleet.
He conquered the people of the Gauls after killing Frollo to whom the
Roman power had given the care of that country; the Romans, too, who were
seeking to make war on his country, he fought against and conquered, and
killed the Procurator Hiberius Lucius who was then a colleague of Legnis the
general, and who by the command of the Senate had come to bring the
territories of the Gauls under their power.
84
(Vita Merlini)
Henry has no option but to invent fictional Roman names because of the
existence of the Roman annals. Merlin is now re-iterating and
corroborating the fictions as presented in HRB. Henry had already tried to
infer that Britons had overtaken Rome, but one cannot have a fictional
battle at the valley of Siesia without a commander which could be conflated
by his name with a real Roman in the annals. However, Henry has neatly
brought us to the juncture in the HRB where Arthur has to return from
France to take on Mordred.
Meanwhile the faithless and foolish custodian Modred had commenced to
subdue our Kingdom to himself, and was making unlawful love to the King’s
wife. For the King, desiring, as men say, to go across the water to attack the
enemy, had entrusted the queen and the Kingdom to him. But when the report
of such a great evil came to his ears, he put aside his interest in the wars and,
returning home, landed with many thousand men and fought with his nephew
and drove him flying across the water. There the traitor, after collecting
Saxons from all sides, began to battle with his lord, but he fell, betrayed by the
unholy people confiding in whom he had undertaken such big things. How
84
See Appendix 31
great was the slaughter of men and the grief of women whose sons fell in that
battle!
In the Vulgate HRB we have Arthur being delivered to an Island called
Avalon. We can witness Henry leading from an island Alaron through
pointless text lifted from Isidore to introduce us to the Fortunate Isle
(singular) which is also known as Insula Pomorum. Arthur was to receive
medical care there. However, the readership of VM now has the
confirmation of his trip to Avalon backed up by Taliesin, who accompanied
Arthur to Insula Pomorum, but it is now not just an Island, but a court of the
maidens.
After it the King, mortally wounded, left his Kingdom and, sailing across
the water with you as you have related, came to the court of the maidens.
The problem for Henry Blois is that Arthur is taken to Avalon in First
Variant and Henry has fabricated the name from a Burgundian town and
probably from the similarity of place name where
85
his father was killed i.e.
the Battle of Ascalon. The Island Ineswitrin is the real inspiration for his
mystical isle as presented by Melkin in his prophecy and to which Henry
Blois has changed the name to Avalon (in the prophecy also related by JG).
Only Henry knows that it equates with the same location in which Melkin
has said Joseph of Arimathea is buried and had called Ineswitrin…. but
Henry Blois has no idea where Ineswitrin exists (except that it is in the old
Dumnonia).
Melkin’s prophecy was the inspiration for his fictitious island he has
called Avalon on which he has conveyed Arthur according to the tale in
HRB and (by Barinthus) in VM. Now, this small shift of definition I just bring
to the attention of the reader because Arthur is now at the palace of the
nymphs or court of maidens. It is plain that it is Henry who has interpolated
the piffle about Avalloc and his daughters in DA, but what I am trying to
demonstrate is that Henry does not care what allusions or conflations he
makes; his aim (or post 1158 agenda) is to have the reader of DA, VM and
HRB all understand that Glastonbury was once known as Avalon. He
accomplished his mission because when Gerald of Wales spoke of Avalon
he understood that it was the old name for Glastonbury. Gerald was not
convinced solely by the leaden cross which was unearthed in front of him.
85
Henry’s Father died May 19, 1102 in Ramla, Holy Land at the Battle of Ascalon.This may have some Freudian
bearing on the choice of name in choosing the Burgundian town’s name.
He had already read HRB, VM, and most importantly, the interpolated DA
(as I shall cover shortly).
However, moving on to the conclusion of this section of VM which is in
essence a recap of HRB (cleverly, more convincingly confirmed by Henry
posing as ‘Geoffrey’ in the contemporaneous words of Merlin):
Each of the two sons of Modred, desiring to conquer the Kingdom for
himself, began to wage war and each in turn slew those who were near of kin
to him. Then Duke Constantine, nephew of the King, rose up fiercely against
them and ravaged the people and the cities, and after having killed both of
them by a cruel death ruled over the people and assumed the crown. But he
did not continue in peace since Conan
86
his relative waged dire war on him
and ravaged everything and killed the King and seized for himself those lands
which he now governs weakly and without a plan.
We now enter a phase where Henry remembers that he is still the
narrator of a story concerning the madness of Merlin with his friend
Taliesin. After the praising of God, Henry now introduces a spring which
miraculously will heal his madness. Not the most original of ideas but
enough to hold and delight his readers and puts the storyline in context
after the whole recap of the faux history in HRB. ….and all his madness
departed and the sense which had long remained torpid in him revived, and
he remained what he had once been - sane and intact with his reason
restored.
Merlin then continues on in soliloquy professing to understand the
movement of the heavens and the workings of animals etc. before ending
with the fact that due to the water he is now normal again: For now I have
the water which hitherto I lacked, and by drinking of it my brains have been
made whole. But whence comes this virtue, O dear companion, that this new
fountain breaks out thus, and makes me myself again who up to now was as
though insane and beside myself?
At this point in the text we are told ‘Taliesin answers’ but in effect does
not. He instead enters into a lengthy monologue lifted again from Isidore’s
XIII, Xiii. De diversitate aquarum, (concerning the diversity of bodies of
water).
86
The original Duke of Brittany not the contemporary Conan Earl of Richmond c. 11381171.
The point of which this monologue serves is to relate back to the healing
of the fountain which has cured Merlin of his madness where we hear
amongst other such marvels for example that of: another fountain, called
Cicero’s, which flows in Italy, which cures the eyes of all injuries. And also
of: The land of Boeotia is said to have two fountains; the one makes the
drinker forgetful, the other makes them remember.
87
Merlin then commences his own lengthy monologue; its main
constituents sourced from Isidore’s XII.vii, De avibus (concerning Birds).
This goes on for some time but is also not relevant to our discussion but it
commences with: Merlin presently said to them, “The Creator of the world
gave to the birds as to many other things their proper nature, as I have
learned by living in the woods for many days.
Then Henry introduces another character into the storyline with the
intent of carrying out a clever bit of subliminal contortion on the part of the
reader; in the hope conflation is caused in his readers minds. He introduces
us to a man named Maeldinus who, with the story line in VM, is associated
with apples and would naturally lead any future investigator that enquires
into his name to make the obvious conflation Henry has led us to. It is a
conflation between insula Pomorum and Insula Avallonis. It is not by
coincidence a certain Melchinus in his prophecy (found at Glastonbury)
refers of the island of Avalon; especially now that Henry has substituted the
original name of Iniswitrin to Insula Avallonis on the prophecy. I propose
throughout this work that Melchinus’ prophecy is the inspiration behind
Henry naming Avalon as the mystical island where Arthur was to be
buried. It is based on the Island on which Joseph was supposedly buried.
The Melkin prophecy (originally about Ineswitrin) is Henry’s template
for the place Arthur is taken after his fight with Mordred. Considering
Melkin’s prophecy speaks of an undiscovered sepulchre, I would suggest
Henry’s notion of planting Arthur’s body in the graveyard at Glastonbury is
derived from Melkin’s prophecy which in effect refers to Joseph’s
undiscovered tomb. Nor would it be too difficult to work out that Melkin’s
duo fassula are the template for Henry’s Grail. In progression I will show
that the Melkin prophecy existed at the time Henry Blois was alive and he
87
Similar non-sense was in the prophecy about the fountains at Winchester in the HRB prophecies.
was responsible for the change of name on the prophecy from Ineswitrin to
Avalon.
It seems propitious therefore that a certain Maeldinus is introduced as a
character in VM which suggests to readers also that his name is associated
with Insula Pomorum and therefore Avalon.
After he had finished speaking a certain madman came to them, either by
accident or led there by fate; he filled the grove and the air with a terrific
clamour and like a wild boar he foamed at the mouth and threatened to
attack them. They quickly captured him and made him sit down by them that
his remarks might move them to laughter and jokes. When the prophet
looked at him more attentively he recollected who he was and groaned from
the bottom of his heart, saying, “This is not the way he used to look when we
were in the bloom of our youth, for at that time he was a fair, strong knight
and one distinguished by his nobility and his royal race. Him and many
others I had with me in the days of my wealth, and I was thought fortunate in
having so many good companions, and I was. It happened one time while we
were hunting in the lofty mountains of Arwystli that we came to an oak which
rose in the air with its broad branches. A fountain flowed there, surrounded
on all sides by green grass, whose waters were suitable for human
consumption; we were all thirsty and we sat down by it and drank greedily of
its pure waters. Then we saw some fragrant apples lying on the tender grass
of the familiar bank of the fountain. The man who saw them first quickly
gathered them up and gave them to me, laughing at the unexpected gift. I
distributed to my companions the apples he had given to me, and I went
without any because the pile was not big enough. The others to whom the
apples had been given laughed and called me generous, and eagerly attacked
and devoured them and complained because there were so few of them.
Without any delay a miserable sadness seized this man and all the others;
they quickly lost their reason and like dogs bit and tore each other, and
foamed at the mouth and rolled on the ground in a demented state. Finally,
they went away like wolves filling the vacant air with howlings. These apples
I thought were intended for me and not for them, and later I found out that
they were. At that time there was in that district a woman who had formerly
been infatuated with me, and had satisfied her love for me during many
years. After I had spurned her and had refused to cohabit with her she was
suddenly seized with an evil desire to do me harm, and when with all her
plotting she could not find any means of approach, she placed the gifts
smeared with poison by the fountain to which I was going to return, planning
by this device to injure me if I should chance to find the apples on the grass
and eat them. But my good fortune kept me from them, as I have just said. I
pray you, make this man drink of the healthful waters of this new fountain so
that, if by chance he get back his health, he may know himself and may, while
his life lasts, labour with me in these glades in service to God.” This,
therefore, the leaders did, and the man who had come there raging drank the
water, recovered, and, cured at once recognized his friends. Then Merlin said,
“You must now go on in the service of God who restored you as you now see
yourself, you who for so many years lived in the desert like a wild beast, going
about without a sense of shame. Now that you have recovered your reason,
do not shun the bushes or the green glades which you inhabited while you
were mad, but stay with me that you may strive to make up in service to God
for the days that the force of madness took from you. From now on all things
shall be in common between you and me in this service so long as either
lives.” At this Maeldinus (for that was the man’s name) said, “Reverend
father, I do not refuse to do this, for I shall joyfully stay in the woods with you,
and shall worship God with my whole mind, while that spirit, for which I shall
render thanks to your ministry, governs my trembling limbs.” And I shall
make a third with you, and shall des