Memory and Kingship in the Manuscripts of Matthew Paris

On 13 October 1247, Henry III gave the church of Westminster a reliquary containing a portion of Christ’s blood. It was on the feast day of St Edward the Confessor. The king had given orders that all the priests of London, festively clad in hoods and surplices, together with their clerks, suitably attired, and bearing their symbols and crosiers and with lighted tapers, join him in procession. The king was dressed in humble clothes, carrying the vessel above his head, and walked from St Paul’s Cathedral to Westminster Abbey. He walked under a canopy. Afterwards

the King summoned him [Matthew Paris] to sit on the step separating the royal throne from the rest of the nave and said, “you have observed all these things and is what you have seen impressed on your mind?” To which he [Matthew] replied, “Yes, my Lord, for the splendid events of this day are worthy of being recorded.” The king then continued “… I therefore beseech you to write an accurate and full account of all these proceedings and write them in a noble and indelible script in a book that their memory may not be lost to posterity.” And he invited this person with whom he was speaking to dinner together with his three companions.1

Matthew Paris duly wrote about these events in his Chronica Majora. He also illustrated the procession, showing the king bearing the reliquary and walking under the canopy, thus reinforcing the importance given to this act. This was found on folio 216r in the Cambridge manuscript, Corpus Christi College MS 16 (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Henry III carries the relic of the Holy Blood to Westminster Abbey, 1247. (Chronica Majora, Corpus Christi College MS 16, folio 216r, by permission of The Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)

This was an important moment in the life of the monk and such a public acknowledgement of his role as a chronicler was unusual. Therefore it was not surprising that Matthew Paris recorded this honour. It was an exceptional distinction, and it was very unusual to find a record of such a meeting between the historian and the king. The events of this day were clearly regarded as being of great significance to both Matthew Paris and to the king, Henry III.

In this chapter, I will examine the role of Matthew Paris in the memorialisation of medieval kings, both his contemporaries and their predecessors. I will first contextualise Paris’s background and his relationship with Henry III. The remainder of this chapter will then see the analysis of the multiple kings Paris featured in his manuscripts and his role in facilitating the memory of these monarchs. Matthew Paris was a thirteenth-century monk based at St Albans Abbey. He was an important figure in the writing of English history, being responsible for several chronicles and saint’s lives that have provided us with much useful and intriguing information about the events and society of the thirteenth century. These included the Chronica Majora: the autograph text is now found in three manuscripts held in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and the British Library;2 the Historia Anglorum;3 and the Flores Historiarum, which was initially composed for Westminster Abbey, and also provided the basis for several other monastic chronicles.4 A copy of the Flores Historiarum manuscript that contains both Matthew Paris’s recognisable hand and some marginal notations is found in the Chetham Library, Manchester.5 The complicated history of this manuscript is revealed in the number of scribes who contributed to it. The images of the coronations of the kings of England from Edward the Confessor to Edward I were not by Matthew Paris. An important feature of most of Paris’s manuscripts is the presence of prefatory material such as genealogies and maps, as well as more elaborate ‘galleries of kings’ that appear in two manuscripts, the Historia Anglorum (fols. 9–9v) and the extensive genealogy of Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae (fols. 6–9v).6 Both are now in the British Library. The galleries of kings found in these manuscripts differ. The Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae begins with Brutus and ends with Henry III, while that of the Historia Anglorum begins with William the Conqueror, includes Henry the Young King, and concludes with Henry III. The information contained in this material was much valued at the time not only by chroniclers but also by the barons and the royal family, as Henry III demonstrated when he visited St Albans in 1257.

The significance of this encounter between the king and the chronicler has received less discussion than might have been expected. It featured in Vaughan’s translation of extracts, and he also referred to it in his study of the chronicler.7 Suzanne Lewis, in her important study of Matthew Paris’s Chronica Majora, also referenced it, suggesting that these events not only inspired Paris to soften his customary hostility to the king but to produce one of his more considered illustrations.8 She also suggested that this marked the king’s first acknowledgement of Matthew’s skills as an historian.9 The recognition that the chronicler received and which he was justifiably proud, not only allowed him to include himself in the historical record, but also provided us with a rare glimpse into a moment of both personal and national significance. It demonstrated to the modern reader the importance of recording of these events and that both the eyewitness, Matthew Paris, and the protagonist, Henry III, were aware of this. The importance of these events also led Nicholas Vincent to devote a monograph to this occasion and tease out some of its implications.10 In his book, Vincent took Paris’s account as evidence of the close connection between the king and the historian, but he was more interested in the wider background behind these events and in investigating other primary sources that further fleshed out these events. He does describe Paris’s illustration as “one of his better known drawings.”11 The effectiveness of Matthew Paris’s recording of these events and their accompaniment by this image are demonstrated in both this book and by works such as those by David Carpenter, further indicating the importance of his work in memorialising the actions of the king. David Carpenter wrote about these events, pointing out their significance to the king. The possession of the Holy Blood honoured both Henry and his kingdom, potentially transforming the spiritual life of both. It was also related to his rivalry with Louis IX, the king of France, who had obtained in 1239 the crown of thorns, fragments of the True Cross and other relics of Christ’s passion, and was now building Ste-Chapelle in Paris to house them.12 Matthew Paris recognised the significance of these relics, referencing them several times in both the Historia Anglorum (fols. 131v and 137v) and the Chronica Majora (fols. 139v, 141v, and 182).13 By giving this relic to Westminster Abbey Henry was offering it to both St Edward the Confessor and to the Abbey, as well comparing the Abbey to Ste-Chapelle, as both now housed relics directly related to Christ’s Passion. Björn Weiler also mentioned how the king spied Paris amongst those who watched these events and then called up both the chronicler and his companions to sit near him, inviting him to record these events. Then he invited all four to join him at dinner, as noted above.14

Paris’s work as a chronicler and recorder was well known to the king, who acknowledged his activities on several occasions. For example, in 1244 he was asked by Henry to record the miraculous cure of Thomas Savoy from fever by St Edward the Confessor.15 In March 1257, when Henry III stayed at St Albans Abbey for a week, he honoured Matthew by inviting him to the royal table and to his chamber, where he was flattered by the king’s insistent demonstration of his own knowledge of historical and political matters such as the names of the German electors, English sovereigns who had been canonised, and the titles of 250 English barons.16 Paris was continually with the king, who ‘directing amicably and diligently the pen of the writer’ to include such evidence of his mastery of material that he considered important.17 Paris was aware that such moments might otherwise be lost.

This type of knowledge was valued not only by the king but also found in a variety of historical documents that Matthew Paris possibly consulted, if not compiled himself. One such text that has been associated with Paris and St Albans was the Eton copy of Peter of Poitiers’s Compendium Historiae (MS 96).18 Such texts circulated throughout the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries and were filled with information that was highly valued at the time. It underlines that memory was a skill necessary for both kings and historians. Matthew Paris himself showed a familiarity with heraldry and royal genealogies in his own manuscripts. Not only did he record the heraldry of those mentioned in his various chronicles but in the Liber Additamentorum he included approximately 50 coloured shields and 25 uncoloured in this manuscript.19 That this type of knowledge was considered important was demonstrated by the series of shields that decorated Westminster Abbey. These were added to the decoration of the Abbey following the king’s visit to France.20 These carved and coloured shields run along the choir aisles, each series organised by rank, starting with St Edward the Confessor and England at the east end of the south aisle, while the Empire and France were on the corresponding northern side.21 Henry III had first seen such shields on his trip to France. There such shields were hung, as was the continental custom, in the Great Hall in the Palace of the Old Temple where the king had feasted. Carved straps were attached to them to recreate what the king had seen in Paris.22

Memory was a recurrent theme in Paris’s work. He recorded different kinds of memory and strategies used in commemorating figures and events that he considered of significance. In the examples given above we have the mixing of the individual, personal memory of Matthew Paris, with his ‘humble’ account at the end of his very detailed description, together with the recognition by the king of the need for an official recording in a chronicle. Paris was probably an eyewitness to various events during the reign of Henry III. According to Vaughan, Paris seems to have been present at the translation of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in 1220, and at the marriage of Henry III and Eleanor at Westminster Abbey in 1236.23 It was much rarer for him to record his personal interactions with the king. There were two more events that Paris singled out as they also involved his own contributions. In 1250 or 1251, he described how he defended St Albans Abbey, remonstrating against the granting rights of free warrant contrary to the Abbey’s privileges.24 The final occasion that he recorded such an intimate occasion was in March 1257 when, again at St Albans, Henry III invited the monk to eat with him and come to his royal lodgings where the king shared his own knowledge of history. Matthew took the opportunity to speak on behalf of the University of Oxford, whose Masters of Arts had sent a complaint against the bishop of Lincoln.25 Such singling out of these types of encounters was rare in the chronicler’s writings.

The naming of kings and the recording of their deeds was central to works like Matthew Paris’s chronicles. They recurred throughout these works to form cohesive histories, be they of the realm or an abbey. The genealogies of the kings of England appeared in most of Paris’s historical writings.26 The naming of individual kings became, literally, a framing device of his histories. They defined the time covered in text, the appearance of illustrations, and in the ancillary devices that framed the manuscript. Their individual names appeared in the running headings in several of his chronicles and reinforced the idea that history, and indeed time, was broken up into the reigns of individual kings. In the Chronica Majora, for example, these named headings did not begin until the reign of King Harold, which immediately preceded the commencement of William I’s conquest and then reign over England. This is found on folio 87v of Corpus Christi College MS 26. Thus, the use of this device in Matthew Paris’s chronicle only commenced during the lead up to the Norman conquest of England. It marked the beginning of a new regime and a radical change in the way the country was governed.

The royal genealogies featured in all of Matthew Paris’s histories, as well as in the La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei,27 although they did emphasise the different lessons such genealogies could teach. Within the chronicles themselves, genealogies could be linked to diagrams of the Heptarchy, which described an England ruled by seven different kings. This was subject to change as allegiances and alliances were fluid. Generally these kingdoms were listed as Northumbria, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, Wessex, and Mercia. In the Chronica Majora, such a diagram included a bust of King Alfred, who here was described as the “protomonarchia” (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 26, fol. iv verso). The image also was connected to a second drawing on page 139,28 in the Chronica Majora where Alfred was identified as the first king to rule England alone. This second image on page 139 also looked back to the opening genealogy, describing it as the “genealogia orbiculata,”29 an unusual example of such self-conscious cross-referencing. This would also suggest that the prefatory material found in this volume was designed to accompany this manuscript as it made explicit reference to the contents in this text. As Lewis pointed out, this diagram also included additional texts relating to Alfred’s reign, as well as to King Offa, purported founder of St Albans monastery.30 An enthroned King Offa was also shown holding a book opposite another circular diagram of the Heptarchy in the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae (London, British Library, MS Cotton Claudius D.VI, fol. 5).

This image of Offa served as the opening of the manuscript Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae and on the following folios was the ‘gallery of kings,’ a useful designation derived from Suzanne Lewis’s study.31 These kings began with Brutus and concluded with Henry III. While it followed the order of kings found in Geoffrey of Monmouth, it was not as comprehensive. For example, it did not include Egbert, although it did have King Offa, one of the founders of Matthew Paris’s own monastery.32 Cnut as a conqueror of England was included but his sons were not, while all the Norman and Plantagenet kings were also included. Following the ‘gallery of kings’ was a genealogical diagram that ran over three pages and was divided again by banded borders.33 In this genealogy the Heptarchy diagram appeared a second time, and there were also individual busts of Alfred, here holding a book and labelled ‘the wise’ (sapiens), as well as William I (labelled the ‘Conqueror’) and Richard I (bellipotens or ‘mighty in battle’). Both William and Richard held raised swords, while William also held a shield emblazoned, very crudely, with representations of three rampant leopards. This genealogy concluded with Henry III and five named children: Edward, Margaret, Edmund, Beatrice, and Katherine. While each were placed in individual roundels, none were illustrated. On the following page was a map of England, Scotland, and Wales.

The layout of this manuscript followed a pattern of heptarchy diagrams, maps, and genealogies found in most of Paris’s manuscripts, although none were identical nor were they formulaic. There was something almost ritualistic in the manner that these works presented. These diagrammatic, visual forms presented a very readable text. The welfare of the kingdom was bound up in strong and continuous leadership, a message that these continuous lists of lineage reinforced, particularly if the reader overlooked the inevitable breaks in the line through conquest or deaths. This is further expanded when the related portraits of kings are added. These sequences of kings were only found in two manuscripts: the Historia Anglorum (London. British Library, MS Royal 14 C. VII, fols. 8v–9) (Figs. 23) and the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae (London, British Library, MS Cotton Claudius D. VI, fols. 6–9v) (Figs. 45).

Fig. 2

William I, William II, Henry I, and Stephen, Historia Anglorum (London. British Library, MS Royal 14 C. VII, fol. 8v)

Fig. 3

Henry II, Richard I, John, and Henry III, with a bust of Henry the Young King in a small niche between them, Historia Anglorum (London. British Library, MS Royal 14 C. VII, fol. 9)

Fig. 4

Uther Pendragon, Arthur, Ethelbert, and St Oswald, Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae (London, British Library, MS Cotton Claudius D VI, fol. 6v)

Fig. 5

Henry II, Richard I, John, and Henry III, Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae (London, British Library, MS Cotton Claudius D VI, fol. 9v)

These ‘galleries of kings’ were visually striking. In the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae, most of the kings were seated holding a variety of attributes including models of churches, swords, books, or spears. The attributes in the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae were used to signify different aspects of royal duty and simultaneously to identify noteworthy or memorable features of their reign. Consequently, Brutus, the legendary founder of Britain, was shown resting his feet on the heads of three giants, whilst holding the boat that carried him to Britain. This refers to the race of giants who inhabited the land before he conquered it.34 Unlike the more impassive figures found in the Historia Anglorum, these images were distinctly engaging, for all their crudity of execution.

The figures in the Historia were more refined in style, although they were also distanced through their more archetypal presentation. The sole exception was the depiction of William the Conqueror, who sat with an upturned long boat at his feet.35 This was a subtle reference, almost lost within the decoration of the frame. The motif itself reappeared in the series found in Cotton MS Claudius D. VI, where Brutus, Cnut, and William I all held boats. The boats identified them as foreign conquerors of the British Isles, who won victory through battle, whether over giants or the Anglo-Saxons.36 As such they mark significant disruptions to the royal line. Each of these kings, however, was interpreted differently. Brutus held a model of his ship by the mast, while trampling on the defeated giants, while Cnut clasped his ship to his side while he held an axe on his right hand. William I raised up a model of his boat in his left hand, while his right rested a sword on his knee.

Attention was paid to the peculiarities of particular reigns. On folio 6v of the Cotton Claudius manuscript, Uther Pendragon was shown with a dragon’s head to his right, while Arthur rested his feet on Mordred’s severed head and seemed to juggle four crowns. On the same page, St Oswald held a large green cross, a reference to his victory over Penda, the Mercian king, who was also depicted beneath the king’s feet. The king’s poses were varied, giving each a lively persona in contrast to the formally arranged figures in the Historia Anglorum. Offa (fol. 7), the founder of St Albans, held a magnificent church with three spired towers. Egbert (fol. 7), Edmund I and Ethelred the Unready (fol. 8) and John (fol. 9v) held nothing. On folio 8v another king was also shown. He held no attribute to aid in his identification. Matthew Paris had identified this figure as ‘Alfredus’ in the right margin. Robert Cotton (1571–1631), who added additional labels to these images, omitted to write a caption for this image, thus side-stepping an awkward break in the accepted narrative of royal descent. Lewis, in her discussion of this image, suggested that Matthew Paris here deliberately ignored Cnut’s two sons, Harold I and Hardacanute, in favour of Ethelred’s son.37 This was Alfred, who came over to England from Normandy in 1036, to unsuccessfully claim the throne after the death of Canute. His brother was Edward the Confessor, who eventually did become King of England after Hardacanute’s death. It was also possible that Matthew Paris had made a mistake when compiling this ambitious, but idiosyncratic series.38

In keeping with the more informative, colourful depictions of kings it is in this series that probably the most unexpected image occurs. This was of King John, who was shown with his crown aslant.39 It was unprecedented in medieval art. While the figure shared many characteristics with other images in the series, he was distinguished from others in two ways: the church founded by him, Beaulieu Abbey, was placed in the background of the image, and his crown was shown slipping, seemingly drunkenly aslant on his head. In itself, the position of the Abbey was an unusual variation on the standard composition, since such motifs were usually held by the patron. These disruptions to the more formulaic formal representations found in this series, and in other such depictions of kings, signalled the uneasiness with which King John was presented throughout Matthew Paris’s texts.

The use of the falling crown in visual representations of King John complemented the textual accounts. The portrait found within the written text of the chronicles was severely critical of the king. He was seen as being far worse than any of his predecessors. He was presented as a cruel and ruthless tyrant, and an unsuccessful one, able to preserve neither his lands nor the peace within the boundaries of his kingdom.40 This attitude was summed up in a speech found in the Chronica Majora:

John was a tyrant rather than a king, a subverter rather than a governor, an oppressor of his own people, and a friend to foreigners and rebels; for, owing to his idleness, he lost the duchy of Normandy and many other of his territories, and moreover was eager to lose or destroy the kingdom of England; and he was an insatiable extorter of money, and an invader and destroyer of the possessions of his own countrymen.41

In Paris’s portrayal of John, the criticism of the king in the text was reinforced by the accompanying images. This is unusual in any medieval manuscript. In a sense, John had placed himself outside the boundaries of Christendom during the time of the interdict (1208–1214).

Showing King John with his crown slipping revealed the seriousness with which Paris regarded both him and the events of his reign. The falling crown was an image that the artist used twice more in his references to John’s reign. Its significance is underlined by its appearance within the Chronica Majora, where the inverted shield signalling the king’s death was accompanied by a falling crown with the inscription “vae labenti coronae Angliae” (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 16, fol. 48) which can be translated “woe to the tottering crown of England.”42 Given how closely the depiction of John conformed to the image of the king found in both the written accounts and the use of signa, it seems that this gallery was designed to appear in one of Paris’s chronicles. This is because it did so carefully reflect the contents of these manuscripts in its visualisation of the criticism found in both the text and the imagery.

It seems unfortunate then that the execution of this image should be so ineffectually done. Despite the crudity of execution, both Suzanne Lewis and Nigel Morgan identified these pictures as being by Paris.43 In contrast, Vaughan tentatively suggested that the attribution of these images to Paris was doubtful because of their sketchiness.44 Lewis had suggested that these sketches may have been preparatory drawings for a prolegomen for the large Chronica Majora.45 In that case, the final version would have been more polished, as was found in the Historia Anglorum. Certainly, the expansive nature of these illustrations would have made them particularly suitable for this massive chronicle. It may also be argued that it seems unlikely that the sequence that preceded the Historia Anglorum was only a fragment of a similar series.46 The latter manuscript, besides being unified by the iconographical theme of king as donor, appeared in the choice of kings, from William I to Henry III, to reflect the contents of this particular chronicle, which began with the coming of the Normans to England and ended with the contemporary reign of Henry III. The history found in the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae, beginning with Brutus and concluding with Henry III, suited a more comprehensive history of England. Therefore it did seem probable that the colourful sequence that accompanied the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae was intended for the more complex Chronica Majora, which began with the Creation and included the history of the legendary kings of Britain first recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth.

The sequence of kings found in the Historia Anglorum was much tighter in both its treatment and in its uniformity of subject matter, reflecting the nature of this chronicle, which traced the fortunes of the Kings of England from the time of the Norman Conquest to Henry III. It began with William I (the Conqueror), marking this new regime of kingship through conquest, and concluded with Henry III, and this sequence in the Historia Anglorum only occupies two folios. It also included a very rare image of Henry the Young King, son of Henry II. Henry the Young King is sat in an arched frame in the centre of the second folio. The prefatory material, in addition to the genealogical material, included the maps (fols. 4v—5v), the gallery of kings (fols. 9—9v), and the Madonna and Child (fol. 6) are some of the more polished works that Paris produced. His maturity as an artist was on display in these finely designed and produced works. In Paris’s work, the nine kings were shown formally seated within individual, arched frames in a static elegant arrangement. Each was labelled, with an accompanying rubric also in the artist’s hand. The presentation was restrained, and considerable care was taken in the treatment of the drapery and the details on these figures. The pages were brightly coloured with their alternating blue, red, and maroon backgrounds. This was particularly noticeable when compared to the more robust, almost cartoonish figures found in the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae gallery from the same decade. Both were probably done in the 1250s. With the exception of Henry the Young King, each held a model of a building that was either founded by or benefitted from their patronage. The upturned ship under William I’s feet marked him as the founder of this dynasty and as Conqueror, reinforcing the message that appeared in the opening of the chronicle.

Unlike the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae, in the Historia Anglorum the nine kings shown are all presented in the role of patrons or founders of churches. There were two exceptions: Henry the Young King, son of Henry II, and William Rufus. Neither was shown with a church building, although William Rufus holds a model of Westminster’s Great Hall. Accompanying each of these seated figures texts explained the significance of these attributes. In the top and bottom margins were short texts written by Paris in his distinctive hand. These explanatory rubrics described the royal foundation of each king therefore explaining the model of a building held by these kings. Together, they presented a picture of these Norman and Angevin kings as royal patrons of the Church and as defenders of the great monastic houses, which was something that Matthew Paris as a monk from St Albans Abbey was keen to encourage.

There was a long tradition in Christian art of donor portraits, dating back at least to the sixth century.47 These images generally occurred in locations associated with a specific church. With this in mind, the Historia Anglorum was highly unusual, as the figures were isolated from their sites of patronage. None of the buildings were associated with St Albans, which was the site of Matthew Paris’s abbey. In the Historia Anglorum, the separation of the motif from a specific church detaches it from a particular act of charity or devotion, instead underlining a broader importance of this royal role of patronage for the Church in general. Thus, their appearance in this setting presented an image of the king as the English Church’s pious protector and supporter, in a manner similar to the eleventh-century coins of Emperor Henry IV, on which the figure was shown holding a model of Speyer Cathedral. The spread of this image around the Empire presented Henry at once as patron of a particular church and as protector of the institutional Church in its widest sense.48 Locating the church behind the figure of King John in the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae therefore marked a significant disruption to a well-established trope.

An obvious comparison with Paris’s chronicles was with the near contemporary Abingdon Chartulary, or Chronicle (British Library, MS Cotton Claudius B. VI). The theme of king as patron was the principal organising theme behind that entire chronicle, which was constructed around charters given by the depicted kings and queens.49 As Lewis pointed out, the principal difference between these images and those found in Matthew Paris’s works was that they were spread throughout the manuscript, accompanying the relevant charters, rather than being collected together as they were in Paris’s galleries of kings.

The imagery found in the Historia Anglorum also recalled other manuscripts by or associated with Paris that began with visual references to genealogy and the succession of kings. Although done in a later hand, but generally thought to be based on a now lost Matthew Paris manuscript is the Cambridge manuscript of La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei. This work began with a vision of England’s past, with its tradition of good governance (Cambridge, University Library MS Ee.3.59, fol. 3v). It showed three earlier kings crowned by angels, proclaiming the nobility of the royal line. These kings were identified by rubrics as Alfred, labelled the Wise, the first king of England; Edgar, the king who brought “peace to the English and prosperity to the reign”; while Ethelred was recorded as the father of St Edward. The emphasis in this manuscript, and by implications others that included genealogies, was of the merits of inherited power. The text in La Estoire reinforced this: “When the root is from good stock, the fruit should rightly taste of it. When a good graft grows from a good trunk, it stands to reason that good fruit comes from it; and bad fruit comes from the bad.”50 The author pointed to the continuing importance of Henry III’s heritage for the prestige of the throne.51 In many ways, the succession of kings in the gallery reinforced this.

The linking of the ideals of good kingship and the prosperity of a nation was a major theme in La Estoire that was also repeated in the Historia Anglorum. The saint’s life, as with the chronicle’s gallery of kings, was a more abstract version of the genealogies that appeared in Paris’s other chronicles, where a genealogy began was important. While the latter generally began with Alfred, represented as a wise lawgiver and the first real king of England, the protomonarch, the galleries of kings in both the Historia Anglorum and the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae began with conquerors, William and Brutus, both of whom defeated the unworthy occupiers of the country, Harold the oath-broker, and the giants whom Brutus vanquished. Both founded new lines. Both sequences also demonstrated, like more standard genealogies, as much about the concerns of the compilers as they did about the history of the dynastic line.52 In the Estoire Paris was even more explicit about this. The links between legitimacy and the continuity of the royal line had an impact on the nation’s well-being. The most obvious example of this was the Norman Conquest, where the illegitimacy of Harold’s claims to the throne was overthrown by William I’s conquest of England. In the depiction of Harold’s coronation the absence of a clerical presence or approval further emphasised this. Harold was shown placing the crown on his own head (Cambridge, University Library, MS Ee. 3 59, fol. 30v). In this and his chronicles, Matthew Paris used his images to reinforce the underlining messages he was presenting.

The Historia Anglorum began with a brief prologue outlining a moral purpose for history as it served to help the reader to remember the past and the people and events that it recorded. Paris also included the range of those who wrote historical narratives such as Josephus, Eusebius of Caesaria, and Bede, as well as more recent historians such as Marianus Scotus and Sigisbert of Gembloux.53 Paris’s account was very much influenced by previous writers, and not just by his knowledge of those based in his own abbey, such as Roger of Wendover, whose chronicle was used by Paris.54 Even the preliminary material that accompanied Paris’s chronicles reinforced this. His maps and itineraries that preceded his main chronicles also found precedents in earlier writings. Bede, for example, began his important chronicle with a description of Britain.55 The presence of lists of kings, and even bishops, was also a feature. John of Worcester included such material in his chronicle.56 The opening text of his Historia Anglorum continued: “So here begins the Chronicle of the English with Duke William of the Normans, who attacked Harold, the perfidious and perjurious king of the English, and drove him from the throne of his kingdom as one who had broken faith, providing his readers a brief instruction on these actions.”57 The phrasing signalled both the timeframe of the Historia and the underlying belief that history acted as “a mirror of the human condition.”58 The very visual framing of the manuscript with its almost ceremonial procession of prefatory images of kings also reinforced this. By his referencing of such antecedents in the introduction he further anchored himself in a tradition of European chronicle writing.

The appearance of images of kings within the context of Matthew Paris’s chronicles occurred within a much wider collection of images. While the images found in prefatory material were exclusively devoted to English monarchs, within the chronicles themselves they were surrounded by illustrations reflecting the variety of material covered within. These included events involving England, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Papacy, as well as references to Saracens, the crusades, and the appearance of the Mongol army. There was also information about domestic affairs and natural phenomena.

The kings were shown in these manuscripts in a variety of situations: in battle, in birth and death, their marriages, treaties and their coronations, as patrons of relics, travelling and in formal depictions as enthroned rulers. Despite their variety, these illustrations showed the king in his public role. The informality of the image was restricted to the manner of the execution rather than the situation. In part, this sense of informality found in many of the drawings was due to Paris’s style, in his use of lively lines and light washes. The kings and their activities were depicted in three basic ways: through emblems such as crowns and shields, in narrative scenes, and in formal poses.

The ceremony and events recorded in 1247 acted as a reminder of the role of a chronicler in the thirteenth century. They revealed that Henry III was aware of Matthew Paris and his activities as an historian when he asked him to record these events. Matthew Paris was also able to remind potential readers of his chronicles of his connection to those who had power and who could shape current affairs. Thus from examining his chronicles, the prefatory material that accompanied his writings were of greater interest and relevance than might have seemed immediately obvious. The succession of kings and their deeds that made up much of his histories were also of interest. Indeed, the very walls of Westminster Abbey carried similar messages in the decorative scheme that recorded the shields of important families and in the recognition of the primacy of the site for royalty. Both Paris and the king shared this interest in royal genealogy. Knowledge about the succession, the significant families of the realm, and their heraldic devices was information that became important elements in his chronicles, acting not only as recording documents but as aide-mémoire. As is readily demonstrable, not only did Matthew Paris record the events from 1247 in his chronicle, but by following the king’s instructions that “I therefore beseech you to write an accurate and full account of all these proceedings and write them in a noble and indelible script in a book that their memory may not be lost to posterity”59 they were indeed not forgotten. The addition of his evocative image made it even more memorable. The gifting of the relic of the Holy Blood and the pomp that accompanied it proved unforgettable not only for those present at this ceremony but also for later readers of the chronicle. In his chronicles and genealogies Matthew Paris utilised text and imagery to create vivid accounts of deeds and events, as well as memorials to the kings of England. His histories became important sites for recording and retaining accounts that were considered worthy of memorialising, such as Henry III’s gift of the relic of the Holy Blood and the events that surrounded it.

Bibliography

Primary Sources

1. Anonymous. Lives of Edward the Confessor. Edited by H. R. Luard. London: Rolls Series, 1858.

2. ———. La estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei. Edited by M. R. James. Oxford: Roxburghe Club, 1920. Accessed 1 February 2020. http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/manuscripts/Ee.3.59/.

3. Bede. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Edited by Bertram Colgrave and R.A.B. Mynors. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.

4. British Library, UK, MS. Cotton Claudius D. VI.

5. British Library, UK, MS. Cotton Nero D. I.

6. British Library, UK, MS Otho D.

7. British Library, UK, MS. Royal 14 C. VII.

8. Chetham Library, Manchester, UK, MS. 6712.

9. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK, MS 16.

10. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK, MS. 26.

11. Corpus Christi College, Oxford, UK, MS 157.

12. James, M. R. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912.

13. John of Worcester. The Chronicle of John of Worcester. Edited by Reginald P. Darlington, P. McGurk, and Jennifer Bray. 2 volumes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995–1998.

14. Paris, Matthew. Historia Anglorum. Edited by F. Madden. 3 volumes. (London: Rolls Series, 1866–1868).

15. ———. Chronica Majora. Edited by H.R. Luard. 7 volumes. London: Rolls Series, 1872–1884.

16. ———. La estoire de seint Aedward le Rei attributed to Matthew Paris. Edited by Kathryn Young Wallace. London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1983.

17. Roger of Wendover. Flores Historiarum. Edited by H.G. Hewlett 3 volumes. London: Rolls Series, 1886–1889.

18. The History of Saint Edward the King by Matthew Paris. Translated by Thelma S. Fenster and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2008.

Secondary Sources

1. Binski, Paul. Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power 1200–1400. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995.

2. Carpenter, David. Henry III: 1207–1258. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020.Crossref

3. Collard, Judith. “Gender and Genealogy: English Illuminated Royal Genealogical Rolls from the Thirteenth Century.” Parergon n.s. 17 (2000): 11–34.

4. ———. “Flores Historiarum Manuscripts: The Illumination of a Late Thirteenth-Century Chronicle Series.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 71.4 (2008): 441–466.

5. ———. “King John and the Symbol of the Falling Crown in the Chronicles of Matthew Paris.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 3rd series, 6 (2009): 35–52.

6. ———. “Henry I’s dream in John of Worcester’s Chronicle (Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS 157) and the Illustration of Twelfth-Century English Chronicles.” Journal of Medieval History 36 (2010): 106–125.

7. Dumville, D. “Kingship, Genealogies and Regnal Lists.” In Early Medieval Kingship, edited by P.H. Sawyer and I.N. Wood, 72–104. Leeds: University of Leeds, 1977.

8. Galbraith, V. H. Roger Wendover and Matthew Paris. Glasgow: Jackson, Son and Co, 1944.

9. ——— “Good and Bad Kings in English History.” History 30 (1945): 119–132.

10. Lewis, Suzanne. The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

11. Laborderie, Oliver. “The First King of England? Egbert and the Foundations of Royal Legitimacy in Thirteenth-century Historiography.” In The Image and Perception of Monarchy in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, edited by Sean McGlynn and Elena Woodacre, 70–83, Newcastle-on-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.

12. Lipsmeyer, Elizabeth. “The Donor and his Model Church in Medieval Art from Early Christian Times to the Late Romanesque Period.” (Ph.D. Diss., Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 1981.

13. Morgan, Nigel. Early Gothic Manuscripts 1190–1250. New York: Harvey Miller Publishers, 1982.

14. Schramm, G. Die Deutschen Kaiser und Könige in Bildern ihrer Zeit. Leipzig: Leipzig University, Institut für Kultur- und Universalgeschichte, 1928–1929.

15. Sisam, K. “Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies.” Proceedings of the British Academy 3 (1953): 289–348.

16. Tremlett, Thomas D., ed. Rolls of Arms: Henry III. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.

17. Tudor-Craig, Pamela. “The Painted Chamber at Westminster.” Archaeological Journal 114 (1957): 92–105.Crossref

18. Vaughan, Richard. Matthew Paris. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958.

19. Vincent, Nicholas. The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood Relic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

20. Weiler, Björn. “Matthew Paris on the Writing of History.” Journal of Medieval History 35 (2009): 254–278.Crossref

Footnotes

1

Translated in Suzanne Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 225–226. The full text can be found in Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. H.R. Luard, 7 vols. (London: Rolls Series, 1872–1884) (hereafter referenced as CM), iv, 644–645.

2

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK, MSS. 26 and 16; and British Library, UK, MS Royal 14 C. VII.

3

British Library UK, MS Royal 14 C. VII.

4

Judith Collard, “Flores Historiarum Manuscripts: The Illumination of a Late Thirteenth-Century Chronicle Series,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 71.4 (2008): 441–466.

5

Chetham Library, Manchester, UK, MS. 6712.

6

British Library, UK, MS Cotton Claudius D. VI.

7

Richard Vaughan, Matthew Paris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), 3

8

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 224–227, Plate X.

9

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 4.

10

Nicholas Vincent, The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood Relic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

11

Vincent, The Holy Blood, 4.

12

David Carpenter, Henry III: 1207–1258 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020), 476–478. Carpenter also points out the connection with the June 1247 canonisation of Edmund of Abingdon who was recently translated to a new shrine in Pontigny and was taken up by the French royal house.

13

M.R. James, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912), 58; Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 306–309.

14

Björn Weiler, “Matthew Paris on the writing of history,” Journal of Medieval History 35 (2009): 263.

15

Paris, CM, vi, 92–94, Carpenter, Henry III, 419.

16

Paris, CM, v, 617–618; Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 4; Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 5; Carpenter, Henry III, 399.

17

Carpenter, Henry III, 399; Paris, CM, V, 617–618.

18

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 39.

19

See, for example, the Liber Additamentorum, (British Library, UK, MS. Cotton Nero D. I, fols. 171–171v, 186, 199.) Thomas D. Tremlett ed., Rolls of Arms: Henry III (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 45–52; Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 250–253; Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 467–468.

20

Pamela Tudor-Craig, “The Painted Chamber at Westminster,” Archaeological Journal 114 (1957): 104.

21

Paul Binski, Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power 1200–1400, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995), 76–82.

22

Pamela Tudor-Craig, “The Painted Chamber,” 103–104, Matthew Paris, CM, v, 480.

23

Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 3; Matthew Paris, Historia Anglorum, ed. F. Madden (hereafter referenced as HA), 3 vols. (London: Rolls Series, 1866–1868) ii, 241; CM, iii, 336.

24

CM, v, 233–234; Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 4.

25

CM. v, 42–45; Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 4.

26

The manuscripts that include such genealogies are: the Chronica Majora, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK, MS. 26, fol. iv verso; Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK, MS 16, fols. Iii–iii verso; Historia Anglorum, British Library, UK, MS. Royal 14. C. VII, fols. 8v-9, Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae, British Library, UK, MS. Cotton Claudius D. VI, fols. 5 verso–9 verso.

27

M.R. James edited a facsimile of this manuscript, La estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei, (Oxford: Roxburghe Club, 1920); the manuscript is also available digitally: accessed 1 February 2020, http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/manuscripts/Ee.3.59/. The text has been edited twice in Lives of Edward the Confessor, ed. H. R. Luard, (London: Rolls Series, 1858) and La estoire de seint Aedward le Rei attributed to Matthew Paris, ed. Kathryn Young Wallace, (London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1983). The text has also been translated in The History of Saint Edward the King by Matthew Paris, trans. Thelma S. Fenster and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2008).

28

Unusually this manuscript is paginated rather than the usual foliation.

29

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 168–170

30

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 170.

31

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 140.

32

Olivier Laborderie, “The First King of England? Egbert and the Foundations of Royal Legitimacy in Thirteenth-century Historiography,” in The Image and Perception of Monarchy in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, eds. Sean McGlynn and Elena Woodacre, (Newcastle-on-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), 75.

33

This is found in the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae, British Library, UK, MS. Cotton Claudius D. VI, fols. 8 verso–9 verso.

34

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 147.

35

This is found in the British Library, UK, MS. Royal 14 C. VII, fol. 8v.

36

Lewis cites the example of Brutus; Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 143, 147.

37

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 156.

38

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 147.

39

Judith Collard, “King John and the symbol of the falling crown in the Chronicles of Matthew Paris,” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 3rd series, 6 (2009): 35–52.

40

Galbraith, Roger Wendover and Matthew Paris, 17–19, 34–37; Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 182; see also V.H. Galbraith, “Good and Bad Kings in English History,” History 30 (1945): 119–132. Here Galbraith argues that the idea of a good king, as found in medieval chronicles, was bound up with a king’s religious activities. Little account was taken of the tensions between good government and papal encroachments. A king was considered to be good if he was generous to the Church and successful in war (120–124).

41

Translated in Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 182, CM, ii, 562–563.

42

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 185; Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK, MS 16, fol. 48.

43

See Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 156; Nigel Morgan, Early Gothic Manuscripts 1190–1250 (New York: Harvey Miller Publishers, 1982), 144, no. 93.

44

Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 223.

45

Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 145.

46

Morgan, Early Gothic Manuscripts 1190–1250, 142–143, 144, no. 93; Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 143.

47

Elizabeth Lipsmeyer, “The Donor and his Model Church in Medieval Art from Early Christian Times to the Late Romanesque Period,” (Ph.D. Diss., Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 1981).

48

Lipsmeyer, “The Donor and his Model Church,” 74; see also G. Schramm, Die Deutschen Kaiser und Könige in Bildern ihrer Zeit (Leipzig: Leipzig University, Institut für Kultur- und Universalgeschichte, 1928–1929), 137.

49

Morgan, Early Gothic Manuscripts 1190–1250, 89–90; Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 140.

50

History of Saint Edward the King, 54; Wallace, La estoire de seint Aedward le Rei, 4.

51

History of Saint Edward the King, 54; Wallace, La estoire de seint Aedward le Rei, 2–3.

52

Judith Collard, “Gender and Genealogy: English Illuminated Royal Genealogical Rolls from the Thirteenth Century,” Parergon n.s. 17 (2000): 15; K. Sisam, “Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies,” Proceedings of the British Academy 3 (1953): 289–348; D. Dumville, “Kingship, Genealogies and Regnal Lists,” in Early Medieval Kingship, eds. P.H. Sawyer and I.N. Wood, (Leeds: University of Leeds, 1977), 72–104.

53

Paris, HA, i, 3–5.

54

British Library, UK, MS Otho D. iii; Roger of Wendover, Flores Historiarum, ed. H.G. Hewlett, 3 vols. (London: Rolls Series, 1886–1889). Wendover’s influence and importance was discussed in several texts. V.H. Galbraith, Roger Wendover and Matthew Paris, (Glasgow: Jackson, Son and Co, 1944); Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 21–34.

55

Bede, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, eds. Bertram Colgrave and R.A.B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.)

56

An autograph version is housed at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, UK, MS 157; Judith Collard, “Henry I’s dream in John of Worcester’s Chronicle (Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS 157) and the Illustration of Twelfth-Century English Chronicles,” Journal of Medieval History 36 (2010): 121. See also John of Worcester, The Chronicle of John of Worcester, eds. Reginald P. Darlington, P. McGurk, and Jennifer Bray, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995–1998).

57

Paris, HA, i, 5.

58

“…ecce speculum humanae conditionis.” Paris, HA, i, 4.

59

Translated in Lewis, The Art of Matthew Paris, 226.

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