An Itinerary of Edward I in Scotland in 1296

I’ll continue for a little longer with looking at shorter historical accounts with a focus on a particular set of events. Unlike the longer historical narratives, which were often the main text in a large manuscript, these shorter works were frequently included alongside other more substantial texts. They might end up surviving in only one manuscript, like the account of the battle of Evesham, or they might appear in several manuscripts like the Itinerary.

The Itinerary is a record of Edward I’s successful 1296 campaign in Scotland. This campaign probably constituted the high water mark for Edward I’s attempts to secure overlordship of Scotland, and he did not fully consolidate his position subsequently, but it was nevertheless celebrated in this text.

The Itinerary recounts his army’s movements day by day in the campaign, providing some detail on key events. It is a much drier account than the Evesham narrative, mainly concerned with places, names and key facts. However, it appears it was written very close to the campaign either by someone who participated or someone with access to eyewitnesses, so has long been valued as an important record by historians.

The text’s latest edition, with an introduction and full notes, is Diana B. Tyson, ‘A Royal Itinerary – The Journey of Edward I to Scotland in 1296’, Nottingham Medieval Studies 45 (2001), 127-144. Tyson identified several new manuscripts in this edition and discusses their key features in the introduction. Descriptions for some of those manuscripts can be viewed online, specifically London, British Library, MS Additional 29901, London, British Library, MS Additional 32097London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero D.VI and London, British Library, MS Stowe 140. Other manuscripts are also mentioned by Tyson, including seven manuscripts of an English translation of the Itinerary (p. 128 and n. 5a).

This seems like a text that historians might know more about – please add references and information in the comments if you do.

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Recent reflections on translating Anglo-Norman

I’ve been translating recently, and have been checking my first draft. As I’m checking for errors, I’ve been trying to spot patterns so that hopefully next time I can make a cleaner translation with the first draft.

I’ve been translating an early Anglo-Norman verse text, and most of the texts I’ve translated from in the past have been later prose works, so it’s a new challenge. There’s always likely to be some unfamiliar vocabulary, but it was mainly points of grammar or syntax that I was looking to identify. Here are some of the things that caught me out on the first pass this time:

  • I still sometimes assume a subject-verb-object word order when it is actually object-verb-subject;
  • Verb tenses are important to keep a close eye on – particularly the various past tenses;
  • li is usually the dat.sg.m. or dat.sg.f. 3rd person pronoun;
  • Plurals with no s on the end of the word can still catch me out on a first pass (this is much less common in later works);
  • Where there are a string of 3rd person singular verbs with no pronouns, I need to be careful – the subject of the verb may switch without the text providing a new pronoun.

What has caught you out when you are translating or reading Anglo-Norman (or other languages)?

Posted in How do I, language | 5 Comments

Account of the Battle of Evesham

As I mentioned before, sometimes the genealogical roll-chronicles of English kings would have other texts added to them. One of the most interesting of these texts is an account of the battle of Evesham (the decisive final battle between Simon de Montfort and forces led by the lord Edward (later Edward I)). This text is found on the back of the roll which is now College of Arms, MS 3/23 B. This account is probably based ultimately on eyewitness testimony and is valuable as a source for the events of the battle. It is also a lively narrative in its own right with several vivid moments such as the stoicism of Simon de Montfort Hugh Despenser in the face of likely defeat and death:

E quant il vindrent au lavour de la vile de Evesham, le conte communement dit a touz: ‘Beaus seygnurs, asses i ad de vous qe ne sount nient du siecle unkore provez, e joefnes; dames aver e enfants, e pur ceo pensez de vous mesmes sauver, e eaus; e passez outre le pount si eschaperez bien le grant peril qe est a venir.’ Et a sire Hue le Despenser dit: ‘Misire Hue, pensez de vostre grant eage et de vous mesmes sauver, e qe vostre conseil poet unqore mout valeir a tote la terre, kar aprés vous de tant de leautee e tant de value a peine lerrez nul.’ E sire Hue maintenant respondist: ‘Sire, sire, lessez ester. Tous beveroms hui de un hanap, com pieça avoms fet.’ (p. 408)

And when they came to the conduit of the town of Evesham, the earl addressed everyone together and said: ‘Fair lords, there are many among you who are not as yet tried and tested in the world, and who are young; you have wives and children, and for this reason look to how you might save yourselves and them; cross the bridge and you will escape from the great peril that is to come.’ And to Sir Hugh Despenser he said: ‘My lord Hugh, consider your great age and look to saving yourself; consider the fact that your counsel can still be of great value to the whole country, for you will leave behind you hardly anyone of such great value and worth.’ Straightaway Sir Hugh replied: ‘My lord, let it be. Today we shall all drink from one cup, just as we have in the past.’ (p. 410)

The scenes from the end and aftermath of the battle are also rendered memorably and gruesomely, as the lord Edward (later Edward I) and his men chase down the defeated soldiers mercilessly:

Et puis sire Edward et sa partie pursuirent ceo qe remist par touz les champs et partut les occistrent. Et en la ville et en la court de l’abbeye et en les cimitiers et en le mouster, par tere drus et espeçs a la guyse des bestes, jurent lé corps tuees et, qe lede fu a ver et dolorouse a parler, le queor de la eglise et la pareies deinz et la croiz et les ymages et les auters furent del sanc des plaiez et des tuez arosez, issi qe del haut auter, des corps qe la furent, corut un russel de sanc desqes a croudes. (p. 409)

And then Sir Edward and his side pursued those who survived all over the fields, and everywhere killed them. Within the town, the abbey courtyard, the cemeteries and the monastery church the dead bodies lay thick and dense on the ground like animals, and, what was horrendous to see and painful to speak of, the choir of the church and the inside walls and the cross and the statues and the altars were sprayed with the blood of the wounded and the dead, so that from the bodies that there were around the high altar a stream of blood ran right down into the crypts. (pp. 411-12)

Appearing in this mid-fourteenth-century copy, the text is evidence of the continuing resonance of these events.

The text was edited and translated, along with a full discussion of its contents and contexts – including other related accounts of the battle – in 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. I don’t always add links where there’s a paywall,  but on this occasion, I’ll do so – it can be found here and here. I’m not aware of subsequent work which has discussed this text, but I’d be very interested to learn of any.

Posted in historical writing, prose | 8 Comments

My book is on Google Books

My book Reimagining History in Anglo-Norman Prose Chronicles is now available to preview at Google Books here, if that is of interest.

Posted in historical writing, prose | 8 Comments

Genealogical roll-chronicles of the kings of England

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.

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.

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 …

Posted in Dean 6, historical writing, prose | 1 Comment

Le Livere de Reis de Brittanie (LRB)

Although not quite the first Anglo-Norman prose chronicle of English kings, Le Livere de Reis de Brittanie (often known as LRB) may have been the first of these to gain a wide audience. Originally written in the thirteenth century, its account started with the unification of various kingdoms under Egbert, and traced the descent of the English crown down to King John or Henry III. It was a brief but lively account drawing mainly on Latin histories like those of William of Malmesbury and Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon. It later attracted a prequel covering the legendary history of Britain which probably drew ultimately on Wace’s Brut and / or Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britannie. It also received various continuations. I know of 28 manuscripts of LRB from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

A fascinating text and quite important in the development of vernacular history-writing in England, LRB has been edited several times, but not often otherwise studied in its own right. Of the available editions, the most useful is Kritische Ausgabe der Anglonormannischen Chroniken: Brutus, Li Rei de Engleterre, Le Livere de Reis de Engleterre, ed. C. Foltys (Berlin, 1962), pp. 45-114, which uses about 10 of the available manuscripts – but that still leaves almost two-thirds of the available evidence unexamined. Two other editions of the text from individual manuscripts provide additional variants: D. Tyson, ‘An Early French Prose History of the Kings of England’, Romania 96 (1975), 1-26 (edited at pp. 13-19) and Registrum Malmesburiense, ed. J. S. Brewer, Rolls Series, 2 vols (London: HMSO, 1879-80), i, pp. 50-9, available online here. Le Livere de Reis de Brittanie e Le Livere de Reis de Engleterre, ed. and trans. J. Glover, Rolls Series (London, 1865), pp. 2-31, is an older edition, based on two manuscripts which Foltys also edits, but its introduction is still useful; and it is available in full online here.

There is a useful blogpost by Sharon Goetz where she lists manuscripts of the Livere de Reis de Brittanie and related texts which she and others have identified, and discusses these in some detail, here.

There is also not that much criticism looking at LRB. I have discussed various aspects of it in Reimagining History, particularly at pp. 12-13, 46-8, 76-7, and 110-11. In my next post, I will also mention some scholars who have discussed its relationship to another very important textual tradition in Anglo-Norman history writing.

Some of the manuscripts of LRB have attracted individual attention. In part this is because as a short text, it was often copied alongside more elaborate works, as in the example of London, British Library, MS Royal 20 C. VI, described here, where it followed an English copy of the Continental Arthurian prose romance Lancelot du Lac.

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud misc. MS 636 is extremely well-known as the ASC MS E, the ‘Peterborough Chronicle’, and also has LRB copied around the margins of this text on some folios: Jane Roberts, Guide to Scripts used in English Writings up to 1500 (London: The British Library, 2005; repr. 2008), plate 23a and pp. 108-12, discusses both texts from a palaeographical point of view. This manuscript can also be viewed in full online here (LRB starts from folio 86v).

Another manuscript containing LRB, described here, is Harvard Law School Library, MS 1, which can also be viewed online – here is a link to the first page of LRB.

Also, three copies of LRB, in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College,can also be viewed online via the Parker Library on the Web website; MS 50, folios 90r – 90v here, MS 53, folios 180v – 184v,  here, and MS 469, folios 178r – 181r, here.

Also at Cambridge, Corpus Christi College is MS 405, online here, which at folios 6v-7r contains a list of English kings – Keith Sinclair argued it was related to LRB in ‘Anglo-Norman at Waterford: The Mute Testimony of MS Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 405’, in Medieval French Textual Studies in Memory of T.B.W. Reid, ed. I. Short, ANTS Occasional Publications Series 1 (London, 1984), pp. 219-38 (p. 225).

If anyone knows of other work on Le Livere de Reis de Brittanie (LRB), or has any comments on this interesting narrative tradition, I’d be very pleased to hear from you.

Posted in Dean 13, historical writing, prose | 3 Comments

Earliest prose chronicle of the kings of France

Another contender for the earliest extant historical narrative in Anglo-Norman prose was announced by Ian Short in 2005. This is a brief, possibly page-filling, account of the kings of France. It is found in London, British Library, MS Cotton Appendix LVI (a manuscript which is actually several separate medieval manuscripts later bound together), at fol. 109 recto, columns a and b. It has been edited and discussed in Ian Short, ‘Une généalogie hybride des rois de France’, Romania 123 (2005), 360-83.

Though the account this brief note provides is not at all a reliable one, the text is of interest for several reasons. Firstly, it is a very early example of Anglo-Norman historical prose (Professor Short suggests at p. 366 a date between about 1140 and 1180 on the evidence of the manuscript’s other contents and the evidence of the handwriting). Secondly, it is early evidence of English interest in the history of the kings of France, alongside a similar interest in some Latin works (as Professor Short notes at pp. 377-8). Thirdly, and most fascinating of all, are the apparent echoes of various chansons de geste which Professor Short detects in the account  (pp. 367-78).

Is anyone aware of any other work on this text or the manuscript?

Posted in chanson de geste, historical writing, Not in Dean, prose | Leave a comment