Howlett, Richard, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I. (London: Longman & Co. (Rolls Series, No. 82), 4 vols.)
Text name(s): Historia rerum Anglicarum; Draco Normannicus; Gesta Stephani Regis Anglorum; Relatio de Standardo; Continuatio Beccensis
Number of pages of primary source text: 1969
- Aelred of Rievaulx
- Etienne de Rouen
- Fantosme, Jordan
- Richard of Hexham
- Robert de Torigni
- William of Newburgh
Dates: 1135 - 1298
Archival Reference: BL Cotton MS. Cleopatra A. 1.; Bodleian MS. Rawl B. 192; Vatican Library; Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; Durham Cathedral Library;
- Translated into English.
- Original language included.
Translation Comments: The portions in Anglo-Norman have been translated
- Chronicle, Annals
- Literature - Verse
- Architecture and Buildings
- Classics / Humanism
- Clergy - Monks, Nuns, Friars
- Clergy - Priests, Bishops, Canons
- Early Germanic Peoples: Goths, Franks, etc.
- Economy - Trade
- Education / Universities
- Family / Children
- Literature - Arthurian
- Material Culture: Food, Clothing, Household
- Muslims / Islam
- Nobility / Gentry
- Religion - Institutional Church
- Royalty / Monarchs
- Towns / Cities
- Travel / Pilgrimage
- War - Chivalry
- War - Military History
- Women / Gender
These volumes contain several chronicles, a few poems and a cartulary relating to the reigns of Kings Stephen (1135-1154), Henry II (1154-1189) and Richard I (1189-1199) of England.
The first work is the “Historia rerum Anglicarum” by William of Newburgh, a monk in Yorkshire. Howlett describes the author as “a man of unusual moral elevation, mental power and eloquence” (ix). His narrative runs from the Norman Conquest (1066) to 1198 and was later continued to 1298 (the continuation is printed in the second volume). Although Newburgh relies heavily on previous chroniclers including Symeon of Durham, Henry of Huntingdon and Jordan Fantosme, he was a scrupulous compiler and his work is valuable for its reflection of attitudes towards men and events at the turn of the thirteenth century. William’s style also suggests that he was familiar with classical poets.
The next work is the “Draco Normannicus”, which was written in verse by Etienne de Rouen, a French monk. It discusses Henry II and his parents, the Norman settlers in Neustria, William the Conqueror, Stephen, Pepin, Charlemagne, Hugh Capet and the papal schism. Each topic is separately treated in the order recounted here. Like William of Newburgh, Etienne relied on previous chronicles, particularly those written by Dudo of St. Quentin, William of Jumieges and Robert of Torigni.
The third volume contains a “miscellaneous collection of short historical treatises” (vii). These include the “Gesta Stephani,” the chronicle of Richard of Hexam, St. Aelred of Rievaulx’s “Relatio de Standardo,” the metrical chronicle of the war with Scotland by Jordan Fantosme and the Chronicle of Richard of Devizes. The Gesta Stephani was written by an ecclesiastic and who was a partisan of Stephen. However, most of its information is in strict agreement with Malmesbury, who supported Maud (sometimes called Matilda, the empress), Stephen’s rival claimant for the thrown. Their similarities suggest the accuracy of both texts. The Gesta Stephani also gives detailed information about many individual noblemen who were involved with the conflict between Stephen and Maud. The chronicle of Richard of Hexam is extremely short, covvering the years 1135-39. He wrote the text when he was a canon at Hexam but he later became the abbot of the monastery. The text by St. Aelred is also extremely brief. The chronicle of Jordan Fantosme is written in verse. It describes the war with Scotland and was consulted by William of Newburgh. The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes is better known than the other texts in this volume. It is notable for its bombastic speeches and eager criticism as well as its historical facts relating to the period between the ascension of Richard the Lionhearted and his departure from Jerusalem (1189-1192). Richard was a monk of St. Swithun’s in Winchester.
The final volume contains the Chronicle of Robert of Torigni and its continuation. It is a valuable account of the reign of Henry II written by a monk at Bec in France. The chronicle was probably completed by 1157 and contains information about the affairs of Henry II in England and about his relationship with the French. The appendix in this volume has extracts from the cartulary of Mont St. Michel of Normandy.
In his introduction to the first volume Richard Howlett briefly outlines what is known about William of Newburgh, gives a history of Yorkshire, lists Newburgh’s sources along with his mistakes and describes the surviving manuscripts. In the second volume he discusses the “Draco Normannicus” and then continues his discussion of William of Newburgh and of the continuation of his text. In this volume he also gives an extensive summary of English history from 1154-1169. In the introduction to the thrid volume Howlett discusses the credibility of the “Gesta Stephani” before listing some special features of the other chronicles in this volume. In the final book the editor collects all of the information available about Robert of Torigni, evaluates his chronicle and lists Robert’s sources as well as the manuscripts used to compile this edition.