In my last post I mentioned that the textual tradition of Le Livere de Reis de Brittanie (LRB) was in large part shared with another text. This is the main tradition of genealogical rolls of English kings in Anglo-Norman, which is what I’d like to talk about in this post.
These rolls are from a common textual tradition with LRB, although it’s a tradition that’s never been completely mapped out (Cecily Clark first laid out the overlap between the texts, in ‘Appendix: The Anglo-Norman Chronicle’, in The Peterborough Chronicle (The Bodleian Manuscript Laud Misc. 636), ed. by Dorothy Whitelock, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile 4 (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1954), pp. 39-43. Whereas LRB was often added to manuscripts containing other longer texts, in these rolls the chronicle is the main item, written in blocks around a genealogical diagram, as in London, British Library, Royal MS 14 B VI below (this manuscript was also blogged about at the British Library Medieval Manuscripts blog).
London, British Library, MS Royal 14 B VI, membrane 3. This image identified by the British Library is free of known copyright restrictions.
The Anglo-Norman rolls also mirror similar rolls in Latin and Middle English, and there were also other genealogies of English kings in these languages (this site on the Canterbury Roll, for example, is beautifully illustrated with images of one example).
The roll-chronicles share, by and large, the entertaining and readable account of English history provided by LRB. As in LRB, some trace history back to Britain’s legendary founder Brutus, or even earlier, many open with a diagram depicting the seven separate kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England before its unification.
London, British Library, MS Royal 14 B.V, membrane 1. Diagram of the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy. This image identified by the British Library is free of known copyright restrictions.
Some from a subset of the tradition open with an image of the Wheel of Fortune and a poem on fortune that presents the history to follow as a prompt for ethical contemplation. These manuscripts have been discussed in Alixe Bovey, The Chaworth Roll: A Fourteenth-Century Genealogy of the Kings of England (London: Sam Fogg, 2005) .
The quality of the miniatures varies greatly between different manuscripts. Some like London, British Library, Royal MS 14 B.V (which can be viewed in full at the link) are quite fine. Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the attention these genealogies have attracted since Dean’s Anglo-Norman Literature was published has been from art historians, as in Judith Collard’s article, ‘Gender and Genealogy in English Illuminated Royal Genealogical Rolls from the Thirteenth Century’, Parergon 17:2 (January 2000), 11-34.
On the more literary and historical side, Olivier de Laborderie has made a massive contribution through his thesis ‘“Ligne des reis”. Culture historique, répresentation du pouvoir royal et construction de la mémoire nationale en Angleterre à travers les généalogies royales en rouleau du milieu du XIIIe siècle au début du XVe siècle’, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, E.H.E.S.S., Paris, 2002, which I’ve mentioned here before. This not only discusses these genealogies in great depth, looking at possible models and their later influence, but also examining almost every roll in great detail and providing full edited transcripts of many. Hopefully his thesis will soon be published as a book. Professeur de Laborderie has also published several articles discussing aspects of these genealogies, in particular: Olivier de Laborderie, J. R. Maddicott and D. A. Carpenter, ‘The Last Hours of Simon de Montfort: A New Account’, English Historical Review 115 (2000), 378-412; Olivier de Laborderie, ‘La mémoire des origines normandes des rois d’Angleterre dans les généalogies en rouleau des XIIIe et XIVe siècles’, in La Normandie et l’Angleterre au Moyen Âge, ed. P. Bouzet and V. Gazeau (Caen: Publications du CRAHM, 2003), pp. 211-31; Olivier de Laborderie, ‘A New Pattern for English History: The First Genealogical Rolls of the Kings of England’, in in Broken Lines: Genealogical Literature in Medieval Britain and France, ed. R. L. Radulescu and E. D. Kennedy, Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe 16 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008), pp. 45-61.
Other notable studies of the genealogical rolls since Dean’s Anglo-Norman Literature were published have included Diana Tyson, ‘The Manuscript Tradition of Old French Prose Brut Rolls’, Scriptorium, 55:1 (2001), 107-18; Meg Lamont, ‘“Genealogical” History and the English Roll’, in Medieval Manuscripts, Their Makers and Users: A Special Issue of Viator in Honour of Richard and Mary Rouse (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 245-62, who describes a further roll from this textual tradition, University of California, Los Angeles, MS Rouse 49; and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, L’Ombre des Ancêtres: Essai sur l’imaginaire médiéval de la Parenté (Paris: Fayard, 2000), who discusses these rolls at pages 180-5 in a rich and wide-ranging book discussing the idea and representation of genealogy in the high and late middle ages. I also wrote on these rolls in Reimagining History at pp. 13-14 (where I noted all the works in this textual tradition I was aware of), 17, 27, 46-53, 56, 61-3, 76, 88 n. 66, 91 n. 76, 108-114, 120 n. 57, 124, and 131.
Images of some of these genealogies are now online: in addition to those mentioned above, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, Houghton Library MS Typ 11, is available to view here. One manuscript whose images certainly don’t seem to be available online is a copy, now lost, which belonged to Joseph Mayer and was edited in Feudal Manuals of English History, ed. T. Wright (London: privately printed for Joseph Mayer, 1872), pp. 1-37 – the edition at least can be viewed online.
Have you come across other material about these genealogical roll-chronicles of English kings? Or are there other rolls that have been digitised of which I’m not aware? Please leave a comment if you know of anything, or if you have other thoughts about these rich texts and images. And definitely leave a comment if you have found the roll belonging to Joseph Mayer …