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© 2018 Jane Bliss, CC BY-NC 4.0

Longue est la geste des Normanz

E a metre grieve en romanz.

Se l’on demande qui ço dist,

Qui ceste estoire en romanz fist,

Jo di e dirai que jo sui

Wace de l’isle de Gersui,

Qui est en mer vers occident,

Al fieu de Normendie apent.

En l’isle de Gersui fui nez,

A Chaem fui petiz portez,

Illoques fui a letres mis,

Pois fui longues en France apris;

Quant jo de France repairai

A Chaem longues conversai,

De romanz faire m’entremis,

Mult en escris e mult en fis.

‘The tale of the Normans is a long one, and it’s hard work to turn it into French. If anybody wants to know who says this, and who put this story into French, I say and I’ll tell you that I am Wace from the island of Jersey,1 which is in the sea away to the West; it belongs to Normandy. I was born in the isle of Jersey, and taken to Caen when I was small. There they set me to learn my letters; I spent a long time at my studies in France.2 When I came back from France, I stayed in Caen for a long time. I set myself to making histories in French;3 I wrote many, and I composed many, of these.’ (vv. 5297–312)

The modern French word ‘histoire’ conveniently includes both History and Story,4 whereas the English language distinguishes between them. In medieval literature it is usually a waste of time trying to decide which is which; here I simply group passages according to Dean’s catalogue. Her sections are ordered generically, and my passages are taken from the following: (1) Historiographical, (3) Romance, (4) Lais Fables Fabliaux & Dits. However, it will be seen that there are plenty of stories in the later part of this book.5

For this book I begin, as I end, with a Channel Islander: Wace tells us he was born in Jersey. One of the earliest ‘histories’ in the vernacular was written by the father of Arthurian literature and thus of many romances and, later, novels. My book travels from Wace of Jersey back at last to Alderney, another Channel Island and also home to story-tellers.

Wace uses several terms for story and writing:

Geste means both Action (doings, exploits, adventures),6 and Story (Wace is referring to the history of the Normans), although the terms may be interchangeable.7 Chansons de Geste is a widely-used term for epic poems,8 which are conventionally distinguished from romances by their theme of a hero representing his culture and kin-group against a common enemy, typically Saracens.

Romanz means both Language (early, and often Insular, French) and Story (the word quickly became standard for narrative, often historical and often romantic).9 Both Wace’s chronicles are entitled Roman (de Brut, and de Rou). Wace says both ‘romanz faire’ and ‘romanz escrivre’ (above). He is both making and writing, not only history but also story, in French.10

Estoire, as has been pointed out, means both History and Story. The two words mean different things in modern English. Wace identifies himself as the one who has put the ‘estoire’ (fictional or not) into French.

Letres means, straightforwardly enough, ‘letters’: Wace learns to read and write when he learns his letters, and he continues his education later. However, he would have become literatus, which meant lettered in Latin; you could not call yourself lettered if you could read only French. Nor did the skills of reading and writing go together automatically as part of medieval education: some people learned to read, at least in French (or English) but could not write except perhaps their name. Others might be ‘literate’ in a more modern sense in that they were familiar with a good range of literature, but (in a less modern sense) they enjoyed it by getting somebody to read to them.

Given the number of different terms for language and literature used by Wace in one short passage, it is not surprising he uses a double phrase for his method of composition in the last line.


Ne vos voil mie metre en letre,

Ne jo ne m’en voil entremetre,

Quels barons e quanz chevaliers,

Quanz vavasors, quanz soldeiers,

Out li dus en sa compaignie

Quant il out prest tot son navie;

Mais jo oï dire a mon pere

— Bien m’en sovient, mais vaslet ere —

Que set cenz nes, quatre meins, furent

Quant de Saint Valeri s’esmurent,

Que nes, que batels, que esqueis,

A porter armes e herneis;

E jo ai en escrit trové

— Ne sai dire s’est verité —

Que il i out trei mile nes,

Qui portoent veiles e tres.

‘I don’t want to write it all down for you — I don’t even want to bother — which barons and how many knights, how many vassals and soldiers, the Duke had in his train when he had got his navy ready. But I heard my father say, I remember quite clearly though I was only a little chap,11 that there were seven hundred ships less four when they set out from Saint Valery: various ships, boats, and hulks for transporting arms and equipment. And I have found it written, though I don’t know whether it’s true, that there were three thousand vessels with their masts and sails.’ (vv. 6417–32)

The Anglo-Norman period conventionally begins with the Conquest of England by William Duke of Normandy. Themes in the present chapter, some of whose texts describe pre-Conquest events, include invasion (Hengist and Horsa), possession (Albina’s arrival in the land one day to be called Britain), political building (Westminster Abbey, some of the main roads we know today) … the stuff of history.

Wace’s Roman de Rou12

Besides introductions to three versions of Rou,13 see also Wace’s Brut, ed. and tr. Weiss, for a sketch of Wace’s life and work.14 My extracts, two short (above) and one longer, are taken from the later Holden edition (Jersey, 2002). I have provided my own translation; that of Burgess may readily be consulted, as the text is facing-page.15 My only reference to the Conquest is in the passage heading this chapter;16 the Rou has been plundered for historical references to this event, and anthologies such as Lecco’s contain passages from it.17 I have chosen the author’s identification of himself, together with what his father said about William’s navy, before moving to another kind of story altogether. There are numerous passages in Wace’s history which are interesting to compare with the Nun of Barking’s Life of Edward the Confessor:18 descriptions and actions of Edward, and of Godwin and Harold, for example. This passage has been chosen to match a passage in the Nun’s life which complements it.19


5457Li reis Ewart fu de bon aire,

Ne volt a home nul tort faire,

Sainz orgoil e sainz conveitise20

5460Volt faire a toz dreite justise;

Assez estora abeïes

De fieus e d’altres mananties,

E Westmostier meesmement,

Oez par quel entendement!

5465Par un besoig aveit voé

— Ne sai sel fist por enfermté,

Ou por son regne recovrer,

Ou por poor qu’il out en mer —

Que por orer a Rome ireit,

5470De ses pechiez pardon querreit,

A l’apostoile parlereit,

Penitance de lui prendreit.

A un terme que il proposa

Li reis son eire apareilla,

5475Li baron furent assenblé

E li evesque e i abé;

Communement ont porparlé

E par conseil dit e loé

Qu’il nel lairront nïent aler,

5480Cel vo fait bien a trespasser.


King Edward was a gentle man, and never wanted to do harm to anybody. Without pride, and without envy, he wanted to give proper justice to everybody. He provided for many abbeys, with their fiefs and all maintenance; including Westminster. Listen to why this happened! In his need, he had made a vow — I don’t know whether it was because of some illness, or because he wanted to recover his kingdom, or because he was afraid of sea-travel — that he would go to make his prayers at Rome, and ask pardon for his sins; he would talk to the Pope, and accept penance of him.21 At a time when he decided it was right, he made preparations for his journey; the barons were gathered, and the bishops and abbots. They all spoke together, giving their advice and telling him that they would never let him go. He would have to give up his vow!


Ne porreit pas, a lor quider,

A grant travail longues durer;

Trop i a lonc pelerinage

Ker li reis est de grant aage,

5485S’a Rome vait, qu’il ne revienge,

Que mort ou mal [la] le retienge;

Mult lor sereit mesavenu

S’il aveient le rei perdu.

A l’apostoile enveieront,

5490Del vo assoldre le feront;

Bien en porra aveir quitance,

Si en face altre penitance.

A l’apostoile ont enveié,

Cil a le rei del vo laissié,

5495Mais enjoint li a e loé,

Por aveir del vo quiteé,

C’une abeïe povre quere

Que seit fondee el non saint Pere;

Tant i doinst del soen, tant l’enort

5500E de ses rentes tant i tort,

Que toz tens mais seit asazee

E el non saint Pere enoree.


They said that in their opinion he couldn’t stand a long journey,22 and the pilgrimage was too far for such an old king.23 If he went to Rome, he might never come back; death or sickness might keep him there. And if they lost their king, terrible things would happen to them. They would send to the Pope and make him absolve Edward of his vow; he could easily be forgiven it if he carried out some other penance. So they sent to the Pope; and he let the king off his vow but commanded him by his advice, in return for freeing him from the vow, to seek out an impoverished abbey that was founded in the name of Saint Peter. He was to give it enough of his own goods, and honour it so much, and divert enough of his incoming rents to it, that it would have adequate provision for ever and the name of Saint Peter would be glorified.


Ewart reçut le mandement

De l’apostoile bonement.

5505Dejoste Londres, devers west,

Si com encore i pert e est,

Out de saint Pere une abeïe,

Qui de viel tens ert apovrie;

En un islet esteit assise,

5510Zornee out non, joste Tamise.

Zornee por ço l’apelon

Que d’espines i out foison,

E que l’eve alout environ.

Ee en engleis isle apelon,

5515Ee est isle, zorn est espine,

Seit raim, seit arbre, seit racine;

Zornee ço est en engleis

Isle d’espines en franceis;

Westmostier fu pois apelez

5520Quant le mostier i fu fundez.


Edward accepted the Pope’s orders willingly. Just near to London, towards the west, where it is still and can be seen,24 there used to be an abbey of Saint Peter, which had been poor for a very long time. It was situated on an islet, called Thorney, beside the Thames.25 We call it Thorney because it is full of thorns and because the water goes around it! ‘Ee’ is what we call an isle, in English, so ‘ee’ is isle and ‘zorn’ is thorn — whether branch or tree or root. What is Thorn-ey in English, is ‘Isle of Spines’ in French. Afterwards it was called Westminster, when the great church was founded there.


Li reis Ewart [vit] Westmostier

Ou mult aveit a redrecier,

Vit le leu qui apovrisseit

E le mostier qui dechaeit;

5525Par conseil des clers e des lais,

Od le boen tens qu’il out de pais,

Par grant cure e par grant entente,

De son aveir e de sa rente

A Westmostier bien estoré,

5530E tant i a del soen doné,

Beles viles e boens maneirs,

Croiz e textes e boens aveirs,

Ja mais li leus n’avra chierté

S’il est deduit par lealté.

5535Mais quant chascun moine fait borse

Li communs bien faut e reborse;

Moines qui quert obedience

De deniers velt aveir semence.

Li reis Westmostier estora,

5540Le lieu tint chier e mult l’ama;

Emprés dona a saint Edmont

Tant donc li moine manant sunt.


King Edward saw that Westminster had much that needed doing to it; he saw how the place was impoverished and the church was falling down. He consulted with his clerks and his laymen, and given the good time of peace that he now had, he rebuilt Westminster with his own money and rents, attentively, taking the greatest care. He gave much of his wealth to it, fine towns and manors, as well as crosses and books26 and other rich goods. The place would never lack for anything again, if its affairs were managed faithfully. But when every monk makes himself a money-bag, ordinary people go short and so renege [on an agreement to contribute]. Any monk seeking a position of authority wants to have a good sprinkling of cash.27 The king built Westminster, and he held the place dear, loving it fondly. In after days he gave a lot of money to Saint Edmund’s, so that the monks there are thriving.28

Description of England29

This text is edited in Anglo-Norman Anniversary Essays (pp. 31–47); there is an Introduction to it in the same volume (pp. 11–30).30 Such an important piece therefore takes up two of the volume’s chapters. What could be a rather dry description is enlivened with authorial comments, making it very readable. The writer expects an audience to share the feelings of French-speaking English people against the wild Welsh, and to understand references to ancient (legendary) history in which figures such as Hengist and Corineus, Belin and Arthur, shape the land as we know it; it is possible, if the audience are Northerners, that they share the writer’s preference for York over Canterbury as chief seat of archbishops.

The following introductory notes are taken from the aforementioned chapters in Essays, with page numbers marked ‘LJ’ and ‘AB’ (Lesley Johnson and Alexander Bell, respectively).31

The Description was probably composed soon after 1139, certainly before the end of the twelfth century. There are four extant texts; the base for this edition is in Durham Cathedral Library C. iv. 27. Describing a country inevitably involves charting its history. The contents and context of the manuscript reflect the complex relationship between twelfth-century Latin and vernacular traditions. The Description draws from Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum (c. 1129) but also some details from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia (c. 1138). It was used as part of the epilogue to Gaimar’s Estoire des Engleis; elsewhere part of his prologue, and also as part of a larger descriptive survey (LJ pp. 11–13). Its format is drawn from Henry of Huntingdon, opening his history with ‘a portrait of the island’; Henry follows Bede and Gildas, who use description not only as setting for their histories but also to signal some of the latter’s themes (LJ pp. 17–18). However, the process by which the material was further transmitted to the vernacular is not entirely clear: it is possible there was an interim version of excerpted material,32 because it seems to contain more contextual information than is found in Henry (LJ pp. 20–1). The Description amplifies the situation in Wales, mentions cultural distinctions on account of the Saxon conquest, the names of shires or counties; and stresses the narrator’s superior knowledge. Details of Corineus, Belin, and perhaps the mention of Hengist’s treachery, all suggest material drawn from Geoffrey, as in Gaimar (LJ pp. 22–3). Versions of history in Henry, as in William of Malmesbury, are at odds with Geoffrey’s view which notoriously draws on ‘the old book’ rather than on Bede and others. The Description provides yet another view of the transition to Saxon rule. Its schematic effect is comparable to the so-called ‘platte’ of England which precedes the Brut in London, BL, Royal 13. A. xxi;33 and Johnson emphasizes its mnemonic quality (on pp. 27–8).

MS D, the base text for the edition, seems to accept Gaimar’s authorship, but it cannot be by Gaimar. On further examination, the possibility of common authorship with the Anglo-Norman Brut is suggested; the author manages to use a remarkable number of characteristics common to the latter in only 260 lines.34

‘The history of early British and English chorography has yet to be written’; it is a history that stretches back at least to Orosius, and (among later writers) Ranulf Higden’s highly detailed outline must have a special place ‘… The Anglo-Norman Description of England has a modest place within this history’ (LJ pp. 29–30).

A notable detail in this text is the spelling of the town Bath: Baðe (vv. 91 & 93). The Middle and Old English letter eth is unusual in French; it seems one of the copyists failed to understand it, writing Bae. Two manuscripts have Baðe, and a fourth has transliterated correctly: Bathe (IPN, AB p. 46). Evidently the name was taken over either from an English text or from a text containing the English spelling. Other names where eth might be expected include Sudsexe (v. 77), spelt as here with a d. The trilingual Receptaria contains the letter thorn in both French and Latin (as well, of course, as English); for example, I found one of each on the facing pages 116 & 117.

The king of Wessex mentioned, but not named, in the poem may perhaps have been meant as Athelstan (925–39). The tenth century was when the shires took shape (Brooke, From Alfred to Henry III, 871–1272, pp. 70–71), and England was not beginning to look like a whole country until some time after Alfred’s day (pp. 49–52). Alfred is sometimes mentioned as a well-known king in medieval texts, in a vague sort of way.35 However, apart from this king’s power, his laws, and the making of the shires, there is scant evidence to show which king our writer means.



Sicum Hengist e li Seisun

Orent faite la traïsun

E furent saisi des citez,

4Des chastels e des fermetez,

Les Bretuns unt dechacié,

Des lur le païs hebergié.

En .vii. departent le païs

8E .vii. reis i unt asis;

As realmes nun ont doné,

A chascun sulunc lur volenté.

Kent apelent le premerain,

12Icest tint Hengist en sa main;

Plenier esteit mult le païs,

Dous citez i ot de pris:

Cantuorbiri l’arcevesquéd

16E Rouecestre l’evesquéd.

L’autre unt Sudsexe apeléd;

En Cicestre ert le real siéd.


As soon as Hengist and his Saxons had done their treason;36 as soon as they had possessed themselves of cities, castles, and fortified places; and had chased out the Britons from the country, settling it with their own people; they divided the country into seven. They established seven kings, and they gave such names to each kingdom as suited them. They called the first one Kent, and Hengist himself took charge of it. The land was rich, and had two valuable cities in it: Canterbury the archbishopric, and Rochester the bishopric. The next one they called Sussex,37 with a royal seat at Chichester.


Westsexe apelent le tierz,

20U dedenz ad plusurs citez,

Kar Wiltune chief en esteit,

En demeine li reis l’aveit,

U ore est grant abeïe,

24Nuneins l’unt en lur baillie;

E de Wincestre la citéd

U ore ad riche evesquiéd,

E l’evesque de Salesbire

28Od la cité de Ambresbire.

Li quarz est Essexe apeléd

Qui gueres nen ad durét,

Kar povre ert a demesure,

32Ne durad pur ço gueres d’ure.

Estengle est li quinz numé,

De dous cuntrees onuré:

La dedenz est Norfulke


36E la terre de Sufolke.


The third they called Wessex, and there are several cities in it. For Wilton was the principal one, which the king held personally; there is now a great abbey there, with nuns in charge of it. There is Winchester, now a powerful bishopric;38 and the bishop of Salisbury, with the city of Amesbury. The fourth one is called Essex, but it didn’t last long: because it was so poor it endured for a very short time. East Anglia is the name of the fifth, and it boasts two countries: in it is Norfolk and also the land of Suffolk.


Cum nus recunte li legistres,

Des Mercïens fu fait li sistes;

Citez i ot asez plusurs,

40Viles, chastels, riches burcs.

Cest realme riche esteit

E plusurs citez i aveit,

Kar i apendeit Dorkecestre

44E Nicole e Leïrcestre.

Li setme mult riche esteit,

Kar Everwic i aveit

E trestut tresqu’en Cateneis;

48Plus ot cist sul que les .vi. reis.

Cist ot suz sei Norhumberlant

E la terre de Cumberlant

E le cunté de Loeneis,

52E d’Escoce ert cist reis.

A la parfin un rei poanz

Qui par armes fud mult vaillanz

Par force les .vi. reis cunquist,

56A sun os lur onurs prist.


As our learned source tells us,39 the sixth was made up of the Mercians. It had many cities, towns, castles, and rich boroughs. The kingdom was rich with many cities, for Dorchester belonged to it, as well as Lincoln and Leicester.40 The seventh was extremely powerful, for it had York and all the land as far as Caithness. Its king had more than all the other six. He was lord over Northumberland, the land of Cumberland, and the county of Lothian; and he was king of Scotland. In time, a strong king who was most valiant in arms conquered the other six kings in battle, and took their honours for himself.41


De Westsexe cist ert reis,

Es païs mist nuveles leis,

Par proesce tuz les cunquist

60E a sei sujez les mist.

Sitost cum il le regne tint,

Sil departi en .xxxv.;

A chascun sun nun donat,

64En engleis ‘scire’ l’apelat,

Mes nus ki romanz savum

D’autre maniere les numum:

Ço que ‘schire’ ad nun en engleis

68‘Cunté’ ad nun en franceis.

Par nun tuz les numerai,

Kar numer mult ben les sai.

Kent i est el premier chief:


72Iloches est l’arcevesquiét

En Dorobelle la cité

Que Cantorbire est apelé,

E si ad un evesquié

76En Rouecestre la cité.


This one was a king of Wessex, and he established new laws in the land. He conquered all of them by his prowess, and made them all subject to him. As soon as he had hold of the land, he divided it into thirty-five, giving each its name. He called each ‘shire’ in English; but those of us who know French call them differently: what is ‘shire’ in English we call ‘county’ in French.42 I shall name them all in order, because I know them all well.

Kent is the very first of them: the archbishopric is there in the city of Dorobelle,43 which is called Canterbury. There is also a bishopric in the city of Rochester.


Sudsexe ad nun l’autre cuntree,

D’un evesquié est äurnee,

Cicestre est chief del cunté,

80Iloc est l’evequal sié.

Le tierz cunté fud Surrie,

E le quart Hamtesire;

Iloc si est un evesquié

84Dedenz Wincestre la cité.

Le quint apelent Berkesire,

E le siste Wiltesire,

U dedenz ad un evesquiéd,

88En Salebire est le sied.

Le setme païs est Dorsete,

E puis le oitime Sumersete;

En Baðe est l’evesquié

92Dunt en Welles fud ja le sié;

Ceste Baðe ot jadis autre nun,

Sicum dient li Seisun

Qui primes la herbergerent,

96Achemannestrate l’apelerent.


Sussex is the name of the next region,44 and it is adorned with a bishopric; Chichester is the county town, and the episcopal seat is there. The third county was Surrey, and the fourth Hampshire. Here there is a bishopric in the city of Winchester. The fifth is called Berkshire,45 the sixth Wiltshire, where there is a bishopric whose seat is in Salisbury. The seventh region is Dorset, and then the eighth is Somerset. The bishopric is in Bath, whose seat was in Wells.46 This Bath once had another name, as the Saxons tell who first settled it: they called it Akeman Street.47


Devenesire le nofme ad nun;

C’est un païs mult riche e bon.

Iloc ad riche evesquié,

100En Essecestre en est le sié.

Le disme si est Cornuaille;

Cil sunt pruz en bataille;

Corinëus la herbergat,

104Cil qui les jeanz enchaçat.

Essexe apele um le unzime,

E Middelsexe le duzime;

De Lundres i est l’evesquié


108Qui cité est d’antiquité.

Suffolke i est le trezime,

Norfolke le quatorzime;

Or est en Norwiz l’evesquié

112Dunt en Tiedfort fu ja la sié.

De Cantebruge le cunté

Al quinzime est acunté.


The ninth is Devonshire, and is a very fine rich county; it has a powerful bishopric whose seat is in Exeter.

The tenth is Cornwall, and these people are fierce in battle. Corineus settled it, the man who chased out all the giants.48 The eleventh is called Essex, and Middlesex the twelfth. Its bishopric is of London, which has been a city since antiquity.49 Suffolk is the thirteenth, and Norfolk the fourteenth; now the bishopric is in Norwich, that was once in Thetford. The county of Cambridge is counted as the fifteenth.


De Ely i est l’evesquié,

116En cest mareis siet la cité,

Cil qui la maint ad grant fuisun

Suventesfeiz de bon peissun

E volatille e veneisun;

120Dedenz le mareis le prent l’um.

Le sezime est mult renumé,

De Nicole est icel cunté,

Riche en est mult l’evesquiez,

124Kar la apendent .viii. cuntez:

Nicole e Norhamtune,

Herteford e Huntindone,

Leïrcestre e Bedeford,

128Bukingehame, Oxeneforde.

Mult est riche l’evesquié,

Dous eves l’unt enviruné,

Humbre apelent la menur,

132Tamise ad nun la greignur.

Le vint e quart est Gloucestre,

Le vint e .v. est Wirecestre;

De Wirecestre l’evesquié

136Cel païs est mult onuré.


Here is the bishopric of Ely; the city sits in the marsh that supplies it so well, with frequent good fish, and fowls and venison; they catch these in the marsh. The sixteenth is very famous, this being the county of Lincoln[shire].50 It is a very powerful bishopric, for eight counties belong to it: Lincoln and Northampton, Hertford and Huntingdon, Leicester and Bedford, Buckingham and Oxford. So it is a very rich bishopric, and two rivers surround it: the lesser is called Humber, and the greater one is the Thames. The twenty-fourth is Gloucester, and the twenty-fifth is Worcester; the bishopric of Worcester is the pride of this county.


Le .xx. e .vi. est Hereford

Qui de l’evesquié est plus fort,

Kar mult en sunt reduté

140Qui mainent dedenz la cité.

Le .xx. e .vii. Salopesire,

Le vint e uitme Cestresire;


Dedenz Cestre la cité

144Si a mult bel evesquié.

Warewic est vint e nof,

E Stafford .xxx., qui est aprof.

Derebi est trente e un

148Od le païs tut envirun.

Notingehame le cunté

A trente dous est acunté.

Everwic est trente treis,

152Chief est devers les Norreis;

Cité est d’antiquitét,

Iloc si est l’arcevesquét

D’Engleterre la meillur;

156Iloc est, ben le savum.


The twenty-sixth is Hereford, whose bishopric is very strong: those who live in the city are greatly respected for it. The twenty-seventh is Shropshire,51 the twenty-eighth Cheshire. In the city of Chester there is a very fine bishopric. Warwick is twenty-nine, and Stafford the thirtieth comes after it. Derby is thirty-one, with the country all around it. The county of Nottingham is counted as the thirty-second. York is thirty-three, and its capital faces in the direction of Norway.52 It has been a city since ancient times. Here is the best archbishopric in England; it is here, as we know.53


La lungur est de Toteneis

Desci tresqu’en Cateneis,

Sifaitement le nus descrist

160Belins qui mesurer le fist.

Le cunté de Norhumberlande

Est acunté a .xxx.iiii.,

E la si unt tut aturné

164De Durelme l’evesqué.

La terre de Cumberlant

Od tute Westmerilant

Al derain unt tut acunté;

168La ad nuvel evesqué.

Issi cum jo vus ai mustré,

En Engleterre est acunté

A sul dous arcevesquiez

172E a dis e set evesquiez.

Asez i ad plusurs citez

U il n’i ad nul evesquiez,

Que Oxenefort que Leïrcestre,

176Que Warewic que Gloecestre;

Plusurs en peusse numer,

Meis ne me quier tant travailler!


The length of it is from Totnes all the way to Caithness. That is how Belin describes it, who had it measured.54 The county of Northumberland is counted as the thirty-fourth, and the whole bishopric of Durham is established here. The region of Cumberland, with the whole of Westmorland, counts as the last, where there is a new bishopric. So, as I have told you, there are in England only two archbishoprics, and seventeen bishoprics. There are quite a lot of cities where they have no bishop, such as Oxford and Leicester, Warwick and Gloucester … more than I can name, because I don’t want to make so much work for myself!



Mais de Guales parlerai,

180De cez de la vus dirai.

En Wales ot plusurs citez

Que mult par furent renumez

Cum Carwein e Karliun

184E la cité de Snaudun,

E la si ot .v. evesquez

E un autre arcevesquez.

De cez n’i ad ore remés for treis;

188De cez vus dirai les faiz.

A Saint David en est li uns

Qui jadis fud a Karliuns;

Ço fud jadis arcevesquié,

192Ore si est povre evesquié.

L’autre est a Bangor recetez,

A Clamorgan si est li tierz.

Ne sunt en nule cité,

196Par la guerre sunt deserté.


But I’ll tell you about Wales, and say what they are there. In Wales there are many cities that used to be very famous, such as Caerwent and Caerleon, and the city of Caer Saint.55 There are five bishoprics, and another archbishopric. Of these, there are only three left, and I will tell you how it is. One of them is at St Davids, which used to be at Caerleon; this was once an archbishopric, and is now a poor bishopric.

The next has its abode at Bangor, and the third is at Llandaff. None of them is in a city, having been wasted by war.


Mais neporquant ben savom

Que li evesques ot pallium

De Saint David, sil deraisnad;

200Ben le savum, a Rome alat.

Ore n’i a cité remis,

Kar destruit est tut le païs,

Premierement par les Seisuns,

204Puis par la guere des Bretuns;

De l’autre part puis que Franceis

Vencu orent les Engleis

E orent cunquis la terre

208Par feu, par faim e par guerre.

L’eve passerent de Saverne,

As Waleis si murent guerre.

De la terre mult cunquistrent

212E mult grieves leis i mistrent,

Kar les Galeis enchacerent,

Des lur la terre herbergerent


E si i firent mult chastels

216Qui mult par sunt e bons e bels.


Nevertheless, we do know that the bishop had the pallium for Saint Davids, and defended it; we are well aware that he went to Rome.56 Now there is no city remaining, for the whole country was destroyed: first, by war with the Saxons, and then by war with the British. Then again, it is because the French had conquered the English, and overcome the land with fire and famine and war. They passed over the river Severn and took the war into Wales. They conquered much of the land, and put harsh laws in place: they chased out the Welsh and settled the land with their own people, and they made many castles — very powerful and fine.


Mais nepurquant suventesfeiz

Ben s’en vengerent les Waleis.

De noz Franceis mult unt ocis,

220De noz chastels se sunt saisiz;

Apertement le vont disant,

Forment nus vont maneçant,

Qu’a la parfin tute l’avrunt,

224Par Artur la recoverunt,

E cest païs tut ensement

Toldrunt a la romaine gent,

A la terre sun nun rendrunt

228Bretaine la repelerunt.

De Wales ore nus tarrum,

Des chemins si parlerum

Qui furent fait en cest païs;

232Faire les fist li reis Belins.


However, the Welsh frequently took vengeance! They killed many of our Frenchmen, and seized our castles. They go round saying openly, fiercely threatening us, that in the end they will have the whole lot back! They will recover it with the help of Arthur,57 and they will take the entire country away from the French-speaking people.58 They will give the country back its name, and call it Britain again. Now I shall leave off about Wales, and talk about the roads that were made in this country.

King Belin had them made.


Li premerain vait dés orient

Desci que vient en occident;

Cist traverse le païs,

236Ikenild ad nun li chemins.

L’autre sulunc les Seissuns

Erningestrate or l’apeluns;

Cel chemin est ben cuneud,

240Del north vait dreit el suth.

Li tierz si est mult renumé,

Watlingestrate est apelé;

A Dovre comence cest chemin,

244Dreit en Cestre si prent fin;

Del païs purprent la lungur.


The first one goes from the East, whence it comes to the West. It crosses the country, and is called Icknield. The next, according to the Saxons, we now call Ermine Street; this road is very well known, and it goes straight from the North to the South. The third is very famous, and is called Watling Street; this one begins at Dover and goes all the way to Chester where it ends. So it crosses the whole length of the country.


Li quarz si est mult encumbrus;

Cest chemin est Fosse apelez,

248Si vait par multes citez;

Cel cumence en Totenes


E dure tresqu’en Kateneis;

.Viii. cenz liues i sunt cuntez.

252Cest chemin est mult renumez.

Belins, ki faire les fist,

En grant franchise les mist:

Quikunques dechaciez esteit,

256En cez chemins sa peis aveit.

Descrit vus avum les cuntez

Del païs e les evesquez,

E des chemins les .iiii. nuns.

260Or aïtant le vus larruns.


The fourth is called Fosse Way; it gets very clogged up, because it goes through many cities. It begins at Totnes and runs all the way to Caithness — a distance of eight hundred leagues!59 A very famous road. Belin, who had them made, endowed them with special privileges: anybody who is exiled will have the King’s peace on these roads.60

I have described the counties of the land, with their bishoprics, and the four names of the roads. And there I must now leave you.

The French Chronicle of London61

Some excerpts from this chronicle,62 headed ‘Croniques de London, depuis l’an 44 Hen. III jusqu’à l’an 17 Edw. III’ on its title-page, have been added to this book out of the order chosen by Dean.63 This is because the very ‘romantic’ Des Grantz Geanz will make a suitable piece with which to end this chapter and lead into the next. Not that the Chronicle is unromantic: in the first passage chosen, the story of Fair Rosamond was clearly added for a readership far more interested in romantic fiction, rivalling the most lurid of modern media scandals that involve the Royal Family from that day to this, than in genuine lists of mayors and sheriffs.64 Further, many parts of the Chronicle are taken from one of the Brut texts that were so well known in England.65 One of the prophecies of Merlin was known and, after a fashion, acted upon: in the year xi Edward I (1282–3) Llewellyn Prince of Wales was taken in battle and beheaded. His head was placed on a lance, crowned with a silver circlet. This was to fulfil or to ridicule the prediction of Merlin, who told the prince that one day his head would parade through Cheapside adorned with a silver coronet.66 Some London chronicles were planned as Brut continuations; it is probable this one originally began in the year 1189 when, as popular belief would have it, the commune was first established and the first mayor elected. The audience for this kind of chronicle, which so mixes annalistic history with tabloid gossip, may be envisaged as the Londoners who idolize the King’s favourite (perhaps even copying her hair-style), who mistrust the ‘foreigners’ at court, who are familiar with Merlin’s prophecies (as if they were regularly copied among horoscopes on the back page), who gather open-mouthed to watch the translation of a saint (perhaps hoping to touch the holy casket), and grumble about salty beer at times of flood.

It should be noted at the outset that the Chronicle is arranged by regnal year, counting from the day of the monarch’s coronation (or accession). But the Liber from which it takes some of its material, and which both its editor and its translator consult for footnotes, is arranged by civic year, that is from one Michaelmas (29th September) to the next; the date when the sheriffs were elected.67 Therefore some dates do not appear to fit, if they have been copied or calculated wrongly: Edward’s proclamation and Isabel’s landing, in the second extract below, are both dated after the end of the regnal year but before Michaelmas, so they do in fact come into the year 1325–6.

Like many of the texts here presented, this Chronicle deserves to be better known.68 I have chosen three passages as widely differing as possible:69 the year containing the scandal of poor Rosamond,70 a year in which the doings of another queen are interspersed with titbits of local gossip, and a year in which the Channel Islands are mentioned as part of the wars with the French. The Hundred Years War was proverbial in Guernsey into modern times, becoming a byword for a long-drawn-out legal case.71

As usual, I have copied the French text as exactly as possible with very minor modernization; I have added line numbers, and the editor’s notes where they shed light on the events of the year in question. Folio numbers are not provided in the edition.


xlvii Henry III72

7(p. 2) Thomas fitz Thomas, meir. Robert de Mounpelers et

Hubert de Suffolk, vicountes.73

En cele an comensa la guerre entre le roy et ses barouns pur les

purveaunces d’Oxenford. Adonk fu pris l’evesk de Hereford

par les barouns. Cele an fut la novele sale de Weimouster ars.

(p. 3) Cele an fut la reyne vileinement escriré et ledengé à le Pount

de Loundres, sicome ele voleit aler del Tour a Weymouster,

pur ce qe ele avoit fait occire une gentile damoysele, la plus

bele qe homme savoit, et luy mist sure qe ele estoit la concu-

5bine le roy. Par quey la reyne luy fist prendre et despoiller


Henry III and Fair Rosamond

Thomas Fitz-Thomas, Mayor.

Robert de Mounpelers and Hubert de Suffolk, sheriffs.

In this year began the war between the king and his barons, because of the Provisions of Oxford.74 Then the Bishop of Hereford was taken by the barons.75

In this year the new hall of Westminster was burned.76

In this year the queen was disgracefully provoked77 and slandered at London Bridge, as she was making her way from the Tower to Westminster,78 because she had had a gentle damsel murdered, the most beautiful any man had ever seen, and she accused her of being the king’s concubine.79 Therefore the queen had her taken and stripped,


tut nue, et luy fist seer entre deus grauntz fues en une chaum-

bre mult ferm clos, si qe la tresbele damoysele estoit mult es-

pountée, qar ele quidoit bien daver estre ars, si comenza graunt

deol demesner. Et endementers la roygne avoit fait faire une

10baigne, si fist la bele damoisele leinz entrer, et meintenaunt fist

une mauveise vielle ferir la bele damoisele ove une launce en

ambe deus les bras, et si tost come le saunk hors sailist vint une

autre escomengée sorceresse, si porta deus horribles crapaudes

sure une troboille, si les mist sure les mameles au gentile damoi-

15sele, et taunttost seiserent les mameles et comenserent à leiter.


and put between two huge fires in a room that was locked fast; the lovely girl was terrified, thinking she was going to be burned, and began to cry pitifully. And then the queen had a bath prepared, and forced the lovely girl into it; now she makes a foul old woman strike the beautiful young woman with a lance, in both arms. As soon as the blood starts to burst forth, then comes another cursed witch, she is carrying two horrible toads on a shovel. She puts them on the gentle lady’s breasts! Immediately, they seize the nipples and begin to milk her!


Et deus autres vielles tindrent ses braz estendues, qe la bele

damoisele ne poeit en l’eawe avaler, taunqe le saunk q’estoit

en son corps fust hors curru. Et totdis les ordes crapaudes

les mameles de la tresbele damoisele leterent, et la roygne riaunt

20totdis le moka, et out graunt joye en queor, qe ele estoit ensy

vengée de Rosamonde. Et quaunt ele fu morte, si fist prendre

le corps et en une orde fossée enterer, et les crapaudes oveske

le corps. Mais quaunt le roy avoit entendu les noveles, coment


Two other old hags hold her arms stretched out, so that the sweet lady can’t sink in the water until all the blood in her body has run out. All the while the filthy toads are sucking at the lovely lady’s breasts, and the queen laughs, mocking her the while. She is overjoyed to have got her revenge thus on Rosamond. When she was dead, she had the body taken and buried in a dirty ditch, and the toads with her.

But when the king heard the news, what


la roygne avoit faite de la tresbele damoisele q’il taunt ama et

25taunt chiere avoit en queor, graunt deol demesna et graunt

(p. 4) lamentacion fist:

‘Allas! dolent! qe fray pur la tresbele Rosa-

monde? qar unkes son pierre ne fust trovée de beaute, naturesse,

et cortesie.’ Et quaunt lungement avoit fait tiele lamentacion,

il voleit savoir où le corps de la bele damoisele fust devenu.

5Lors fist le roy prendre une des mauveises sorceresses, et la fist

mettre en graunt destresse, pur luy counter tot la verité come


the queen had done to the lovely girl that he so loved and cherished in his heart, he mourned and made great lamentation: ‘Alas! ah, wretched! What can I do for fair Rosamond? Never was her like ever seen, for beauty and good nature and courtesy!’ And when he had lamented in this way for a long time, he wanted to know what had become of the lovely lady’s body.

Then the king had one of the wicked sorceresses taken up, and put to torture so that she would tell the whole truth of what


avoyent fait de la gentile damoisele, et jurra par Dieu omni-

potent qe si nul parole mentit qe ele avera auxint vile jugement

come homme purra ordeiner. Lors comenza la vielle à parler

10et counter au roy tot la verité, coment la roigne avoit fait de la

tresbele corps au gentil damoysele, et où e en quele lieu l’en la

troveroit. Et endementiers la roygne fist prendre sus le corps

de la tresbele damoisele, et comaunda amener le corps à une

mesoun de religioun qe aad a noun Godestowe près de Oxenford

15à deus luwes, et illoqes le corps Roseamond enterer pur colurer


they had done to the gentle lady, and he swore by God Almighty that if she lied by one single word she would be subjected to the vilest punishment that could be devised. Then the old hag began to speak, and told the king the whole truth: what the queen had done to the lovely lady’s body, and where and in what place it might be found.

So the queen immediately had the body of the lovely lady fetched up, and ordered this body to be taken to a religious house named Godstow, some two leagues out of Oxford. There they were to bury Rosamond’s body, to cover up


ses mauveise faitz, si qe nully aparcevereit les ordes et trop

vileines faitz qe la roygne avoit fait, et de ele excuser de la

mort la tresgentile damoisele. Et lors le roy Henry comensa

de chivacher vers Wodestoke là où Rosamonde q’il taunt ama

20en queor estoit si trecherousment murdriz par la roigne. Et

sicome le roy chivacha vers Wodestoke, si encountra le corps

mort de Rosamounde enclos fortement dedeinz une ciste bien

et fortement liée de fer. Et le roy meintenaunt demaunda quey

corps çeo estoit, et quele noun avoit le corps mort q’ils amenerent.


her wicked deeds,80 so that none would know the horrible and most shameful deeds that the queen had done, and to clear herself of the sweet lady’s death.

Then King Henry rode forth to Woodstock, and he met the dead body of Rosamond sealed up in a strong casket well and truly bound with iron. Now the king asks what body this is, and the name of the dead body they are carrying.


25Lors luy respondirent qe çeo estoit le corps la tresbele Rosa-

mond. Et quaunt le roy Henry çeo oyist, si comaunda errau-

ment de overir le cyste q’il purreit veer le corps qe si vilement

estoit martirée. Lors meintenaunt firent le comaundement le

roy, et luy mostrerent le corps Rosamond, qe estoit si hidouse-

30ment mis à mort. Et quaunt le roy Henri vist tot la verité, pur

graunt dolur à tere paumist et lungement jeust en traunce avant

qe homme poeit avoir parler de luy. Et quaunt le roy reveilla


They reply that it is the body of fair Rosamond. When King Henry hears this, he immediately orders them to open the casket so that he can see the body of Rosamond who has been so shamefully martyred.81 They obey the king’s order right away, and show him the body of Rosamond who has been so cruelly put to death. When King Henry saw the full truth, he fell to the ground in agony; he lay unconscious for a long time before anybody could get a word out of him.82 When he awoke


de son paumysoun, si dist et jurra à graunt serment, qe bien se

vengereit de la très orde felonie qe au gentile damoysele fu faite

(p. 5) par graunt envie. Lors comensa le roy à waymenter et graunt

deol à demener pur la tresbele Rosamounde, q’il taunt ama en

queor. ‘Allas! dolente!’ fist il, ‘douce Rosamonde, unkes

ne fust ta pere, si douce ne si bele creature ne fust unkes trovée:

5ore douce dieux qe meint en trenite, del alme douce Rosamonde

en eyt mercy et luy pardoint touz ses meffaitz; verray Dieu

omnipotent, qe estes fyn et comensement, ne suffrez jà l’alme


from his swoon he spoke, and swore a great oath that he would avenge the disgraceful felony that was perpetrated because of great jealousy upon the gentle lady.83 The the king began to lament and make great mourning for the fair Rosamond, whom he loved so deeply.

‘Alas! ah, poor darling’, he cried, ‘sweet Rosamond, you had no peer, never was seen so gentle and lovely a creature! Now sweet God abiding in Trinity have mercy on the soul of sweet Rosamond, and pardon her all her misdeeds. True God Almighty, thou that art the beginning and end of all things, never suffer the soul


en nul horrible peine estre perii, et luy doigne verray remissioun

de tous ses pecchez, pur ta graunt mercy.’ Et quaunt çeo out

10pryée, il comaunda meintenaunt de chivacher avant droit à

Godestowe ove la corps de la meschyne, et là fist faire son

sepulture en ceste religiouse mesoun de nonaynes, et illuques

ordeina tresze chapeleins à chaunter pur l’alme la dite Rosa-

monde taunqe le siecle dure. En ceste religious mesoun de Gode-

15stowe, vous die pur verité, gist la bele Rosamonde ensevely.

Verray dieux omnipotent de s’alme en eit mercy. Amen.


to perish in horrible torment, and grant her true remission of all her sins, by thy great mercy.’84

When he had made this prayer, he gave the order to ride straight to Godstow with the body of the maiden, and there had a sepulchre made in this holy house of nuns, and there established that thirteen chaplains should sing [Mass] for the soul of the said Rosamond as long as this world shall endure. I tell you truly that in this religious house of Godstow the body of Fair Rosamond lies buried. May the true God Almighty have mercy on her soul. Amen.85


xix Edward II86

(p. 49) Hamon de Chikewelle, meir.

Gilbert de Mordone et Johan Cotoun, viscountes.

En le mesme temps fut cryé par le roy qe nul homme portoit

lettres de la reygne, ne de son fitz heir d’Engeltere, qe adonkes

5furent en les parties de Fraunce, et si nul porteit lettre qe il

fut attaché, et celuy à qi la lettre irreit, et q’ils fussent amenez

devant le roy et son counseil. En cele temps la reyne usa


Edward II and London Gossip

Hamo de Chigwell, Mayor.

Gilbert de Mordone and John Cotoun, Sheriffs.

At this time the king had it proclaimed that no man must carry letters for the queen, nor for her87 son the heir of England, who were now in regions of France. If anybody carried letters, let him be taken up together with whomever the letter was directed to, and let them be brought before the king and his council. In those days the queen wore


simple apparaille come dame de dolour qe avoit son seignour

perdue. Et pur langwis q’ele avoit pur maintener la pées, le

10commune poeple mult la plenoit. En cele an, le dymeygne

prochein devant le conversioun seint Poul, un sire Roger Belers,

justice le roy et graunt seignour, fut occys près de Leycestre,

dont graunt clamour y fut, et mult des gentz enprisonez. En

cele temps fut sire Henry de Beaumond et autres grauntz de

15poer attachez et enprisonez par le roy, pur çeo q’ils ne voleient

acorder de faire la volunté sire Hughe Despencer le fitz. Et


simple apparel, as a mourning lady who has lost her lord. Because of the suffering she endured for the keeping of the peace, the common people sorrowed greatly for her.88

In this year, on the Sunday next before the Conversion of Saint Paul,89 one Sir Roger Belers, a king’s justice and a great lord, was killed near Leicester.90 This caused a great outcry, and many were imprisoned.

During this time, Sir Henry de Beaumond and other powerful lords were taken and imprisoned by the king, because they would not agree to do the will of Hugh Despenser the younger. So


donk le roy par se[s] conseilers fit estover le tour de Loundres et

autres chastels de vitaille. Et sire Hughe Despencer le fitz fist

prendre touz les carpenters et masouns et fevres qe adonk

20estoient en Loundres, et par tut entour, si fist faire sus touz

les turettes et kerneux en la tour, et à totes les portes illoqes,

barrer et bretaxer del plus grosse meryn qe par mi Engeltere

puet estre trovée, et fit faire magneles, springaldes, et autres

maners engins, à graunt costage, et rien ne luy valust, kar son

25propos fust bestourné en autre manere, et tot çeo fu faite pur


then the king, at his councillors’ advice, had the Tower of London and other castles provisioned. And Hugh Despenser the younger had all the carpenters and masons and smiths gathered, who were then in London or all round about, and he had all the turrets and crenellations of the Tower done up; as for all the gates there, they were barred and reinforced with the strongest timber that could be got anywhere throughout England. And he had mangonels and catapults and all manner of other engines made, at great expense. But all this achieved nothing, for his plans went awry; all this was done for


doute de la venue d’estraunge en la companie la reigne. En

cele an, le surveille de la chaundelure à nuit, fut mis seint

Erkenwolde en sa novele fertre en l’eglise seint Poule. Lors

(p. 50) comaunda le roy qe sire William de Hermine, eveske de Norwiz,

doit estre tenu pur traitour, et le roy luy mist sure q’il fut en-

chesoun qe la reigne se tenist et son fitz en les parties de Fraunce.

Et le comune poeple pleinout mult le dit William Hermyn, pur

5çeo qe il fut prodhomme, et mult avoit travailée pur mayntener

l’estat de la tere. Adonk fut le roy à Dovere, et messagers de


fear of the arrival of foreigners in the queen’s company.

In this year, two days before Candlemas, Saint Erkenwald was put into his new tomb in the church of St Paul during the night.91

Then the king proclaimed that Sir William de Hermine, bishop of Norwich, was to be regarded as a traitor, and the king accused him of being the reason why the queen remained with her son in France.92 The common people greatly mourned the said William Hermine, for he was a gentleman and had worked hard to maintain the good of the land.

Then the king was at Dover, where messengers


l’apostoile vindrent là à luy, et ils retournerent ove lour re-

spounce prevément, qe comune parlaunce ne fust pur quey ils

vindrent ne quele respounce ils avoyent. En cele an fut graunt

10secheresse de rivers et de fountaigne, issint qe il avoit graunt

defaute de ewe en plusours paiis. En cele temps, devant le

feste seint Johan, ardoit la vile de Roiston et partie de Wandles-

worth, l’abbeye de Croxtone pres de Leicestre, et autres

arsouns furent adonke en Engeltere. En cele temps, pur de-

15faute de ewe douce, la mer surmonteit issint qe le ewe de Tamyse


came to him from the Pope; they went back again secretly with their reply, so that there would be no common talk about why they had come and what reply they had had.

In this year there was a great drought in the rivers and fountains, so that there was a severe lack of water in many areas.

During this time, before the feast of Saint John,93 the town of Roiston burned, as did part of Wandsworth; also the abbey of Croxton near Leicester, and there were many other fires around England.94

During this time, for lack of fresh water the sea came up so far that the water of the Thames


fut salé, dont mult de gentz se pleinoient de la servoyse fut salé.

En cele temps, à le sein Barnabé, les Engleisse conquistrent la

tere de Gascoigne, qe le roy de Fraunce avoit chivauché, issint

qe plusours gentz furent occys, pur quey le roy fist cryer le

20jour de seint Margarete qe nul Fraunceis deit marchaunder en

Engeltere, ne venir en ces parties, et contient en le dit cri qe la

reigne d’Engeltere ne doit estre apellé reigne. En cele temps

touz les Engleisse qe furent en Fraunce furent attachez en un

jour, qe fut graunt multitude de gentz. En cele temps le dit


became salty, and because of this many people complained the beer was salty.

At the same time, at Saint Barnabas,95 the English conquered the land of Gascony, that the King of France had overrun, so that many people were killed. Therefore, on Saint Margaret’s Day,96 the king made a proclamation that no Frenchman was allowed to market his wares in England, nor even to come over here. In the same proclamation he said that the Queen of England should not be called queen. At this time all the English who were in France were apprehended, all in one day; this was a huge number of people.

Then at this time the said


25sire Edward, heir d’Engeltere et dame Isabele sa miere, reygne

d’Engeltere, acrocherent à eux graunt poer de gentz, et graunt

(p. 51) navye, de venir en Engeltere ove multz des Henaud, et lors

comaunda le roy de assembler graunt navye d’avoir destourbé

le venue son fitz et la reyne et lour companie. Mès les mari-

ners d’Engeltere ne furent pas en volunté à destourber lour

5venue, pur le graunt errour q’ils avoyent vers sire Hughe le

Despencer, et pristrent lour conseil d’aler en Normondie, et la

ariverent, robberent, et ardoyent, à graunt destruction de la tere,


Sir Edward, heir of England, and Lady Isabel his mother the Queen of England, gathered to themselves a great force of men and a great navy, to come to England with a large number of Hainaulters. So the king commanded a large navy to assemble, so as to hinder the arrival of his son and the queen with their company.97 But the mariners of England were not so eager to prevent their arrival, because of their violent dislike98 of Sir Hugh Despenser, and took the decision to go into Normandy; once arrived there, they pillaged and burned, causing great destruction in the land.


mès multz de nos gentz Engleisse furent illoqes occys. Et lors

le meskerdi devant le feste seint Michel, qe fut par lundi, la

10reigne d’Engeltere et son fitz et le Mortimer, ove graunt com-

panie de grauntz seignours et gentz d’armes, ariverent à Herwiche

et Orewelle en Essex, pur destrure les enemys de la tere.


But many of our English people were killed there.

And then on the Wednesday before the feast of Saint Michael, that was on a Monday, the Queen of England and her son, and Mortimer, with a large company of great lords and men-at-arms, arrived at Harwich and Orwell in Essex, to destroy the enemies of the land.99


xiii Edward III100

10(p. 71) Henry Darcy, meir.

William Pountfreit et Hughe Marberer, vicountes.

En cele an nostre joevene roy se apparila ove graunt poer

des Engleis et de Gales, si passa la mer à Orewelle en Essex,

et ariva sus en Flaundres, et ses gentz passerent avant en le

15ysle de Cagent, et tuerent touz qe leinz porroyent estre trovez,

et si avoyent illoqes graunt avoir, et puisse ardoient sus tot

le dit isle. Et adonke nostre joevene roy prist son host, si s’en

ala en Braban, et demorra pur long temps à Andwerp, et tint

illoqes son parlement, et là furent jurez à luy tous ceux de

20Flaundres, de Braban, de Henaud, et de Alemaygne à nostre


Edward III and the Hundred Years War

Henry Darcy, Mayor.

William Pountfreit and Hugh Marberer, Sheriffs.

In this year, our young king prepared himself, with a great army of English and Welsh, and he crossed the sea from Orwell in Essex, and arrived to land in Flanders. His men went ahead into the Isle of Cadzand, and killed everybody they found there; there was much booty to be had there, and then they burned up the whole of the said island.101 Then our young king gathered his host and went to Brabant; he stayed at Antwerp for a long time, and held his parliament there. All those of Flanders, of Brabant, of Hainault, and of Germany were sworn to him there,


joevene roy, de vivere et morir ovesqe luy en sa querele vers le

roy de Fraunce. Auxint nostre joevene roy graunta d’estre

lour lige seignour, de vivere et morir ovesqe eux et lur defendre

et meintenir vers totes gentz de mounde pur touz jours.


25quaunt ceste alyaunce fu fait par assent des avantditz teres, sire

Edward nostre joevene roy prist son host, si se remua de And-

werp, et comensa de chivacher sure le roy de Fraunce dedeinz

sa tere, si ardoit par tot et conquist plus qe viiixx. luwes de la

tere. Et lors estoit sertein jour assigné d’aver en bataile


to live and die with him in his quarrel with the King of France. And so our young king promised to be their liege lord, to live and die with them, and to defend and keep them for ever against all the peoples of the world.

And when this alliance had been made with the assent of those aforesaid lands, our young King Edward gathered his host and moved out of Antwerp, and began to ride against the King of France in his territory; he burned all over the land, and conquered more than eightscore leagues of it.102 Then a certain day was assigned for the battle to take place


30parentre les deux rois. Et quaunt le houre avint qe la bataile

doit aver esté feru, Phelip de Valoys le roy de Fraunce, le queor

(p. 72) luy chaunga, et comensa à fremir quaunt il vit nos gentz tous

prest en chaumpz batailez sertein assys, si se retrait come chi-

valer desleaux, et dit come coward qe son queor luy dona

d’estre desconfit en la bataille à ycele jour. Par quey il se

5retrait ove son host vers Paris, à graunt hounte de luy pur touz

jours, et à nostre roy d’Engeltere honour et victorie pur touz

jours. Et à cele houre Phelip de Valois perdit le noun d’estre


between the two kings. But when the hour of battle arrived Philip de Valois, King of France, had a change of heart. He began to tremble when he saw our men drawn up all ready in the battlefield, and he withdrew like an unworthy knight, saying in most cowardly fashion that he knew in his heart he would be discomfited in battle that day. Therefore he retreated with his host towards Paris, with the deepest shame to himself for ever, and for our King of England honour and victory for ever.

In this hour did Philip de Valois lose the name by which


appellé le roy de Fraunce, et à sire Edward nostre roy fust

donée le noun d’estre apellé droiturel roy de Fraunce et d’En-

10geltere, et fust graunté de tot le chivalrie de cristienté. Et

adonke nostre joevene roy, le duk de Braban, le counte de

Henaud, le counte de Julers, le counte de Gerle, et plu-

sours autres grauntz de diverses teres, se retournerent chescun

vers son paiis. Mès avaunt qe le host se departist, les Ale-

15mauns riflerent les Engleiss de çeo q’ils avoyent gaigné à cele


he was called King of France, and to Sir Edward our king was given the name by which he was called the rightful King of France and England, and it was granted by all the chivalry of Christendom.103

And then our young king, the Duke of Brabant, the Earl of Hainault, the Earl of Juliers, the Earl of Gueldres,104 and many other great nobles of many lands, all returned each of them towards his own land.

But before the armies separated, the Germans rifled the English of what they had gained during the


alée, et occyrent plusours de nos gentz. Mès sire Edward nos-

tre roy et le duk de Braban et autres grauntz firent la graunt

conteke sesser et peser, si qe touz furent acordez. Et adonkes

le roy ove son poeple revint à Andwerp en Braban, et la de-

20morra longe temps ove graunt conseil de touz les grauntz qe

estoyent jurez à luy. Et unqes en le mesme temps ne osast

Phelip de Valoys ove son orgeliouse bobaunce aprocher à nostre

(p. 73) joevene roy. Mès dit à touz qe entour luy erent, qe ly suffreit


expedition, and killed a number of our men. But Sir Edward our king and the Duke of Brabant and other nobles put a stop to this mighty quarrelling, and restored peace, so that all were reconciled. Then the king, with his people, came back to Antwerp in Brabant. He stayed there for a long time, with a great council of all the nobles who were sworn to him.

Never in all this time did Philip de Valois in his arrogant pomposity dare to come near our young king. But he said to all those around him that he will let him


giser en pées et despendre quaunt qe il avoit, e plus qe tot son

realme d’Engeltere ne poeit suffire, issint qe luy ferroit le plus

riche roy ou le plus poveres de tot le monde. Et adonkes

5nostre joevene roy prist son congée del duke de Braban, et de

touz les grauntz de là qe à luy furent jurez, de revenir en En-

geltere pur ordeiner son estat de son realme, taunqe à sertein

houre q’ils porroyent mieutz estre avengée de Phelip le Valois,

roy de Fraunce. Adonqes revint nostre roy en Engeltere, et lessa

10la reigne dame Phelipe illoqes en hostage,


stay in peace and spend whatever he has got, and yet more than his whole realm of England could afford him, this will make him either the richest king or the poorest in all the world.

Then our young king took his leave of the Duke of Brabant, and all the nobles of that region who were sworn to him, to return to England and order the state of his kingdom until such time that they would be able to take better revenge on Philip de Valois King of France.

So then our king came back to England, and left the lady queen Philippa there as hostage,


la reigne dame Phelipe illoqes en hostage, et ses enfauntz en la

garde le duke de Braban, et autres grauntz assocyez à luy, et

demorra à Gaunt jeske le revenue de son seignour. Et en le

mesme temps furent pris monsieur William Mountagu, counte

de Salesbury, et monsieur Robert de Offorde, counte de Suffolk,

15et amenez à Paris vilement. Et adonkes le roy de Fraunce à

eux dit, ‘A! tretours, vous serrez pendus pur çeo qe vous ne

pussetz amender le damage qe vostre roy et vous avetz fait en

ma tere.’ ‘Sertis, sire,’ dit monsieur William Mountagu,


with the children, in the keeping of the Duke of Brabant and other great men of his entourage, and [she] remained at Ghent awaiting the return of her lord.

At this time Monsieur William Mountagu, Earl of Salisbury, and Monsieur Robert de Offorde, Earl of Suffolk,105 were captured and led in shame to Paris. Then the King of France said to them: ‘Ah, you traitors! you shall be hanged, as you are not capable of making amends for the damage that you and your king have done to my land.’

‘In truth, Sir,’ said Monsieur William Mountagu,


‘vous avez le tort et nostre roy le verité, et çeo voille jeo pro-

20ver vers qi qe le countredirra, cum leal chivaler ferra en es-

traunge tere.’ Et adonke dit la royne de Fraunce jurra q’ele

ne serra jammès lée ne joyouse, si ils ne soyent vilement mis

à mort. ‘Sire,’ dit le roy de Beame, ‘çeo serreit mult graunt

damage et folie de occyre tels seingnours; kar si il avigne qe le

(p. 74) roy d’Engeltere entre autre foithe en vostre reaume de Fraunce

et preigne ascun pere de vostre reaume, uncore put un aler en


‘you are wrong and our king is right. This I wish to prove against any who shall contradict me, as any loyal knight should do in a foreign land.’106

The the Queen of France spoke, swearing she would never be happy or joyful unless they were shamefully put to death.

‘Sire,’ said the King of Bohemia, ‘it would be the greatest injury and folly to kill such lords as these, for if it happened that the King of England should come again into your realm of France and capture any peer of your realm, one could still go in


eschaunge pur un autre de nostre amis.’ Et si ariva adonkes

nostre seignour le roy à Herwiz en Suffolke, et vint à Loundres

5devant le qaremme pernaunt, et illoqes demorra, et tint son

general parlement à Weymouster de tous les grauntz de sa

tere. Et à cele parlement vindrent messagers d’Escoce pur

demaunder pés, mès nule ne lour fust graunté. Et en le mesme

temps Phelip de Valoys fist faire tote la navie qe homme savoit

10ordeiner, des galeyes, spynagtz, grosses barges, et tous les grauntz


exchange for another from among our friends.’

And thus arrived our lord the king at Harwich in Suffolk, and came to London before the start of Lent, and he stayed there and held his general parliament at Westminster with all the nobles of his land. To this parliament came messengers from Scotland seeking peace, but none was granted to them.

At the same time Philip de Valois had the biggest navy assembled that any man could command, of galleys and pinnaces and great barges, and all the big


niefs d’Espaygne de Normondie, et par tot où eles pussent

estre trovez, de forbarrer la venue de nostre joevene roy ariere

en sa tere, et tot le realme d’Engletere avoir pris et occys. Et

en le mesme temps graunt mal et graunt destruccion sure En-

15geltere fesoit. Car à le houre la vile de Suthamton et Portes-

mouthe furent ars nutaundre, robbez, et enportez. Et le chas-

tel de Gerneseye pris, et les gentz leinz occys, par tresoun del


ships from Spain to Normandy wherever they could be found. [This was] to prevent the arrival of our young king back into his land, and so that the whole kingdom of England should be taken and slain. And all the while he caused dreadful harm and wrought enormous destruction to England. This was when the towns of Southampton and Portsmouth were set ablaze by night, and pillaged and [the spoils] carried off. And the Castle of Guernsey was taken, with the people inside killed, through the treason of the


conestable du dit chastel. Mais quaunt nostre joevene roy çeo

(p. 75) oyst, et aparceust la graunt felonye et compassement de son

enemy Phelip de Valoys, il comaunda en haste qe tote son navie

d’Engeltere fust prest, et chescun bien apparaillé et vitaillé à

sertein jour assis.


Constable of the said castle.107 But when our young king heard of this, and perceived the great wickedness and machinations of his enemy Philip de Valois, he hastily commanded his whole navy to make ready, each to be prepared and provisioned for a certain set day.

Des Grantz Geanz108

Il n’a manqué à cette victorieuse nation que des historiens, pour célébrer la mémoire de ses merveilles.109

Wace’s Roman de Brut was (and is) immensely popular: it translates Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, very freely, into the vernacular, and develops the story of King Arthur. The legend that Britain was founded by men of Trojan descent (matched by similar legends in other European countries) was believed by many, and London is frequently termed ‘New Troy’ in chronicles. But how did the giants get there, whom Brutus and his companions overthrew when they arrived? A prequel was composed, known as Des Grantz Geanz: the Albina legend.110 It is an interesting example of a medieval story almost exclusively about women, and not very heroic ones at that.111 It will be seen, from the closing portion of the text presented here, that this version does not explain how the story of the giants was transmitted to posterity (hence my epigraph): it omits the passage, present in the other version published in Brereton’s edition, where it is explained that Gogmagog survived to tell his history to the newcomers.112 The proliferation of versions of this story may be surmised by looking at the number of entries in Dean’s catalogue;113 unsurprisingly, it was often added as a prologue to versions of the Brut chronicle — itself a version or versions of the story of Britain based on Wace’s narrative.114 Although the heading of my chapter is History, there is much that is ‘romantic’ about the story of the giants.115 It has been noted that the Latin title De Origine Gigantum makes the text appear more historical; the French title suggests a fabulous narrative.116 For the sources of the work, or at least the chief themes, see Brereton’s pp. xxxiii–v; analogues include the story of the Danaïds.117

There are a number of romance motifs, such as the unhistorical king of Greece, the rudderless boat, the lack of names (except for one special name).118 The demons’ ability to father children on mortal women resembles the story of how Merlin was begotten.119 In vv. 13–15 we are offered a pseudo-historical precision, which is tied to precisely nothing historical, not even to Biblical events. However, at the end of the story we are firmly grounded in chronicle history, perhaps because the Brut narrative is coming up. Legge mentions this text briefly in her Background (pp. 277–8), in context of Wace’s Brut (there is no separate discussion of his Rou).120

The short account of the giants prefacing the Boke of Brut known as Castleford’s Chronicle differs substantially and unsurprisingly from the version presented here.121 In this ‘Prolog Olbyon’ the king (of Syria) and his wife are both named, and so are two of the giants; no daughter rebels against her sisters; the giants survive until the coming of Brutus so that the story can be passed on to the next possessors of the land. It can be seen how widespread this legend became. The narrator of the present version attempts to woo his audience by modestly claiming not to know everything. He does not know all the daughters’ names, nor where the harbour was from which they were set adrift; he points to structures made by the giants that are still to be seen; he reminds us several times of his source, especially at the end. This attitude enhances the pretended veracity of the facts he does know and is offering for our enjoyment. The parallel version of this text explains that the Brut narrative was to be recited at feasts;122 no doubt the writer envisaged such an audience, although the story could equally have been enjoyed ‘en famille’ or with a few friends.

The text presented here is taken from Brereton’s edition; I give the shorter version because this one accompanies Brut in most MSS.123 I follow the line numbers in the edition; breaks in the numbering show where the other manuscript, on Brereton’s facing page, gives more detail.124 As far as I know mine is the first translation of this version into modern English. For further editions, translations, and criticism see Evans, ‘Gigantic Origins’; Johnson, ‘Return to Albion’; and Carley and Crick, ‘Constructing Albion’s Past’.125


[f.8] Ci poet home saver coment

Quant et de quele gent

Les grauntz geantz vindrent

Ke Engleterre primes tindrent,

5Ke lors fust nomé Albion,

Et qe primes mist le noun.

Ore escotez peniblement,

Et l’em vous dirra brevement

Des geantz tote la some,

10 Come jeo l’oi d’un sage home.

13Aprés le comencement

Du mound, trois mil et neef cent

15Et .lxx. aunz,

En Grece estoit un roi puissauntz,

Ke taunt feust pruz, noeble et feer

Ke sur touz rois aveit poer.

Reigne aveit bele et gent

20De qui engendra filles trent,

Forment beles, qe totes crurent;

Nories ensemble furent.


This is where you can find how, when, and from what people came the great giants who were the first to hold England. It was then called Albion — who gave it that name? If you will take the trouble to listen carefully, I will briefly tell you the whole story of the giants, just as I heard it from a wise man.126

After the beginning of the world, three thousand nine hundred and seventy years,127 there was a mighty king of Greece. He was most worthy, noble, and fierce, and had power over all other kings. He had a beautiful and graceful queen, on whom he engendered thirty daughters — very beautiful, as everybody said — and they were brought up all together.


Piere et mere furent grauntz,

Auxi devendrent les enfauntz.

25Lour nouns ne vous sei counter,

Onqes ne les oi nomer,

Fors cele q’estoit eigné,

Ke mult feust bele et haut levee;

Mult estoit bele meschine:

30Cele fust nomé Albine.

Et qaunt totes furent d’age,

As grauntz rois de graunt parage

Totes lour feilles donerent,

Et as hautz rois marierent.

35Chescune out roi et fust reigne,

36 Mes par lour orgoil demeine

43Tost aprés assemblerent,

44 Et ensemble counseillerent

47Ke a nuli, en nule guise,

48 Nul ne feust de les soumise;

51Mais chescun de son baroun

Teigne en subjection.


The father and the mother were big, and so the children grew big. I can’t tell you what they were called because I never heard their names,128 except for the eldest one, very fair, and highly-bred. She was a most beautiful maiden, and she was named Albina. When they were all old enough, [the parents] gave all their daughters to magnificent kings, and married them to these high kings. Each one of them had a king, and was a queen, but because of their own pride they later got together and took counsel among themselves, that nobody at all would subject them to anybody in any way, and each would hold her husband in subjection!


55Feilles furent au roi de pris

Ke a nulli feust souzmis;

Ne ne voleient eles estre,

Ne ne voleient aver mestre,

Ne estre souz nulli destresce;

60Mes touz jours estre mestresce

De son seignur et de quant q’il out.

A chescune cest conseil plout.

Si lur seignurs a lur voleir [f.8v]

Ne se voleient obeier

65A faire tote lur volenté

De qaunt qu’il ount en poesté,

Entre eux issint assurerent

Et par lour foi affermerent

Ke toutz, chescun en un jour,

70Occiereit mesmes soun seignur,

Privément entre ses bras,

Com melz quidereit aver solaz.

Un certein jour assignerent

A faire come purparlerent.


They were daughters of a king so powerful that he was never subject to anybody. So, nor did they want to be subject to anybody, and nor did they want to have masters or be under any constraint. Each wanted to be absolute mistress of her husband and everything he possessed. This plan pleased all of them. If their husbands didn’t want to obey their will in all things within their power, then they resolved among themselves, each pledging her faith, that they would all at once, all at the same time, kill their husbands! It was to be done privately in bed, where any man would expect to find the greatest pleasure. They agreed on a day to carry out what they had planned.


75Touz ount en volenté

Fors qe soulement la puisnee;

Cele ne vout mesprendre rien

Vers soun seignur, q’ele aime bien.

Qant tut lur counseil ount finee,

80En lour pais sount retournee.

Ceste chose purparlee

Riens ne plout au puisnee,

Ke son seignur ataunt aime

Come ele fait son corps demeine.

85Ele ne voleit a nule foer

Damage ver de son seignur;

Mes kaunt furent au parlement,

Ne les osa countredire nent;

Car, si ele eust riens contredit,

90Moerdré la eussent saunz respit.

Bien li avent ke lors se tent.

Pluis tost come poeit al ostel vint;

Kaunt vist son mari son doel crust;


They were all of one mind, excepting only the youngest. She didn’t want to hurt her husband because she loved him! When they had completely finished their discussion, they all went home. But this thing they had discussed didn’t please the youngest one at all, because she loved her husband as if he were her own self. She really didn’t want to see any harm come to him, but when they were all talking together she didn’t dare to disagree with them. For, if she disagreed with them in any way, they would slaughter her mercilessly! It was well she did so. She hurried home as fast as she could, and when she saw her husband her distress redoubled;


Et qant son seignur aperceust

95K’ele feseit murne semblaunt,

Il la demaunda maintenaunt

Pur quoi ele est taunt dolent.

Et la dame, qe mult ert gent,

As peez son seinur s’estendi

100Et en ploraunt cria merci.

De son trespas merci cria

Et de la treson lui counta;

Coment ses soers, a graunt tort,

Lui feseient jurer sa mort,

105Ke de ceo n’aveit talent.

Et son seignur hastivement

Tost la prist entre ses braz,

Et beise, et fist greignor solaz

Ke fait lui aveit onqes mes.

110‘Dame,’ fet il, ‘tenez en pes,

Et lessez passer la dolour.’

112Et l’endemain, au point du jour,

117Ne demora graunt pece,

Vers son seignur, roi de Grece,

Ambedeux lour voie tindrent.


when her husband saw her looking so terribly unhappy he immediately asked her why she was upset. The noble lady threw herself at her lord’s feet and burst into tears, begging for mercy. She asked mercy for her sin, and told him all about the treacherous plot; how her wicked sisters had made her swear to kill him, and she didn’t want to! Her husband immediately snatched her into his arms, kissing her, being more affectionate than ever before.

‘Lady,’ he said, ‘calm yourself, and let this grief go from you.’ The next morning, at break of day, he didn’t delay long; they both made their way to his overlord, the king of Greece,


120Tant erreient qu’il vindrent;

Mult sount au roi bien venuz,

Et tut sicome feust avenuz [f.9]

De ses filles lui ount conté.

Et le roi feust tut espounté

125De ceo qe sa fille li dist.

Brefs et lettres escrivre fist:

Ses filles maunda erraument

128Ke a lui veignent hastivement,

a) Et trestouz lur barouns

b) Par ses brefs fist somons.

c) Ke bien font soun comaundement,

d) A lui veignent hastivement129

Et qaunt touz furent assemblez,

130Le roi les ad aresonez

De la mortele treson

Ke chescun de son baron,

Par graunt malice, aveient purveu,

Dont dolour lour est acreu.


travelling until they reached him. The king welcomed them warmly, but as soon as they arrived they told him about his daughters. The king was horrified to hear what his daughter said. He had letters and documents written; he hastily summoned his daughters to come to him at once. And he sent for their husbands by letter as well; they obeyed his call and came immediately. When everybody was gathered, the king explained to them the deadly treason that each one had maliciously plotted against her husband, for which they would suffer.130


135Les dames sount touz espountez

De ceo qe sount si accoupez

De la treson dount sount arettez,

Dont ja ne serront acquitez;

Mes chescun, a soun poer,

140Se voet defendre par jurer.

Mes riens ne vaut le contredire,

Car les rois ount si graunt ire

Ke toutz les vount mettre a mort

Pur lur malice et lur tort.

145Lour piere, qe out ire graunt,

Taunt s’en ala aresonaunt

Et taunt les ad aresonee

Ke riens ne pout estre celee

De ceo que purveu aveient

150Kant a lour counseil esteient.

Par lour piere, qui fust queint,

La feust chescun atteint

De cele malice purpensee;

Fors soulement la puisnee,

155Ke tut conta a son seignur,

Ke puis la tent a graunt honour.


The ladies were dismayed to hear themselves accused of the treason for which they were being blamed, and for which they would never be forgiven. Each one tried to defend herself as best she could, by swearing, but denial was useless. The kings were so angry they wanted to put them all to death for their malice and wickedness. Their father, who was furious, began to argue so well, and set out the whole case131 so fully, that nothing could remain hidden of what they had decided to do at their meeting. By the father, who was a clever man, each one of them was proved to be guilty of planning malice;132 all except the youngest, who had told her husband everything — he treasured her for ever after.


Kaunt chescune fust atteinte

De cele dolourouse pleinte,

Totes furent a dolour pris

160Par lur pere et lour mariz.

166Doné lour feust par jugement

173Pur ceo qe a si haute gent

Furent totes mariez,

175Ne deivent estre dampnez,

176Ne aver nule vile mort.

186Mes menez furent a un port

188— Ou ceo fust ne sei counter —

187 Bien d’illoques a la meer,133

Mes qe totes furent pris

190Et puis en une nef mis,

Ke estoit fort et graunde, [f.9v]

Saunz governaile et viaunde.

Illoqes graunt doel y ount demené,

Mes nul n’aveit d’eux pité,

195Pur lour graunt iniquité

Ke feust entre eux purparlé.


When each one had been found guilty in this miserable case, they were all taken away by their father and husbands to suffer durance.134 It was judged that because they were all married to such high kings they could not be condemned, or suffer a mean death. But they were taken to a harbour of the sea nearby — I never heard tell where it was, but they were all taken there. Then they were put into a boat, a big strong boat, but without a rudder and without any provisions on board. Then they had a terrible time, and nobody was in the least bit sorry for them because of the wicked thing they had planned among themselves.


En la meer la neef botirent;

Les oundes la nef chacerent

En grant peril, ça et la;

200De la terre les esloigna.

En graunt dolour sount ore mis

Ke exillez sont de lour pais,

Dount furent riches reignes —

Ore sount povres begeines.

205Ne sevent queu part il devendrent,

Si mortz ou vifs eschaperount.

Cestes dames ount graunt peine:

Aventure la neef meine,

Les graunts ventz par meer les chacent,

210Et les undes les manacent;

Mes rien taunt de mal lour fait

Come la feime que lour crest,

Car riens n’aveient a manger;

Mes pur perils de la meer

215Pitousement weimenterent,

Et la feime oblierent.


The boat was shoved out to sea, and the waves hurled them back and forth from one peril to another, driving them far from the land. Now they are suffering dreadfully, and exiled from their homes, where they were all great queens — now they are nothing but poor fools.135 They have no idea where they will end up, nor whether they will escape with their lives. The ladies are in great distress, as Fortune drives their ship! The howling winds chase them, and the waves threaten them; but nothing is as bad as their growing hunger, because they have nothing to eat. Then the terrors of the sea make them cry out piteously and forget they are famished.


De totes partz sount turmentez,

Morir voleient de bon grez.

Chescune graunt dolour tent,

220Car en la meer leeve un vent

Ke la meer fist crestre et lever,

Et les grauntz undes reverser;

Tressailler fist la neef amont,

Et puis flater a pluis parfount;

225Qe tant la torna enviroun

Qe les dames en palmeson

Les fist cheir, et si giser

Par trois jours et nuytz entier,

Ke riens ne se moverent,

230Mes tut temps en trans sirent.

Endementers les apport

La tempeste qe fust fort,

Et les chace par graunt travaile

K’eles ne poeient trover rivaille.

Kaunt cessé feust la tempeste235

— Come nous trovoms en la geste —

Le temps devent serri et swef,


They were tormented on all sides, and wished only for death. Each of them suffered dreadfully, for a great wind sprang up across the sea, making the waters swell and rise up and the huge waves crash down. It made the boat shudder on the crests, and then dashed it down into the gulfs, and thrashed it around so that the ladies fell fainting; they lay as if lifeless for three whole days and nights, in a swoon for all that time. Then this great storm carried them along, sweeping them a great distance, far from any shore.136 When the storm was over — as it says in the book — the weather turned sweet and mild.


Et taunt par ert chacé la neef

Ke a la terre esteit hurté

240Ke Engleterre est ore nomé;

Mes en cel temps santz noun esteit,

Pur ceo qe nul home y maneit.

Kaunt la mere retrete feust,

La neef a secche terre just.

245Les dames tost esveillerent,

246Et lur testes susleverent.

248Ke de terre si pres furent [f.10]

247Graunt joie touz eurent.

Tauntost de la neef issirent,

250Ou treis semeines sojorn firent;

Mes cele soer qe feust eigné

Devant touz se est hasté

Tote primereine en saillant,

La terre prist tut en hastaunt.

255Cele que feust nomé Albine

De la terre prist seisine,


The boat had been driven so far that it had beached upon the shore of what is now called England! In those days it had no name, because nobody lived there.

When the tide had gone out, the boat lay on dry land! The ladies soon woke up and lifted their heads. They were all so happy to be near land! Soon they got out of the boat, where they had spent three weeks. But the sister who was the eldest hurried ahead of all the others; she jumped out first, and grabbed some earth quickly. She who was called Albina took possession of the land.137


Et les autres hors saillerent

De la neef, qe febles erent

Pur la dolour et le juner

260Q’il aveient en la meer.

Chescune a terre se gist;

Et lur grant feime les reprist,

Ke tut feust oblié devaunt

Pur la tempeste que feust graunt.

265Feime aveient a desmesure,

De autre riens n’aveient cure

Mes q’eles eussent a manger.

Ne le saveient ou trover,

Mes pur grant necessité

270Des bones herbes ount mangé,

Dont grant plenté y troverent,

Et des frutz qe as arbres erent.

Glans, chesteines et alies

Susteneient bien lour vies,

275Et des espines les bremeles,

Botons des haies et meles;


The others tumbled forth out of the boat, weak with the pain and fasting they had suffered on the voyage. Each one lay on the ground, and hunger attacked them anew, that they had forgotten about while the tempest was raging.

They were so mad with hunger they couldn’t think about anything else except finding something to eat! They had no idea where to look, but in their dire need they ate sweet herbs, and there were plenty of those; and there was fruit on the trees. Acorns, chestnuts, and sorb-apples138 kept them alive, and spiny bramble [fruit], berries on hedge-bushes,139 and medlars.


Peires, poumes y troverent,

Autre manger ne mangerent.

Totes sount en grant pensee,

280Ne saveient ou sount arivé,

Ne coment ad a noun la terre.

Ou seit de pees, ou de guere,

La covent sojourn faire,

N’estut aillours autre quere.

Kant revigorez estoient285

De la dolour q’il aveient,

Amont alerent en la terre

Pur espier et enquere

Quele gent i enhabitoient

290Et quele vie demenoient.

En la terre taunt alerent

Ke par mi tote la sercherent.

Rien ne troverent humaine

N’en boscage, n’en plaine,

295N’en valaie, ne sur mount,

Qe hautes et bas illoqes sount.


They found pears and apples, but there was nothing else for them to eat. They were all very puzzled, not knowing where they had fetched up, nor what the name of this land was. War or peace, they had to stay here because they couldn’t go looking for anywhere else.

When they had recovered somewhat from their ordeal, they went up into the countryside to have a look round and explore; they wanted to know what people were here and what sort of life they led. They went all over the place, hunting about everywhere, but found no trace of humans. Not in the woods or on the plains, not in the valleys, or in the hills both high and low.


Home ne femme ne troverent,

Dont grandement se esmerveillerent;

Ne nule rien ount aperceu

300Ke onques home i feust venuz.

Mes beles forestz et boscage

Et meintes bestes sauvage

Il troverent a graunt fuson,

Et graunt plenté de veneson [f.10v]

305Sur terre; et en rivers

Des pessons furent pleners.

Les champs furent et les prez

Delitablement florez,

E les oiseux, qe sunt sauvage,

310Chauntent haut en lour boscage,

Ke les ad mis en graunt confort.

Mes qaunt virent qe par nule sort

Ne purront ja aver poer

De lour pais recoverer,

315Mes biens saveient et certeins sount

Ke la terre qe trové ount

Onqes ne feust enhabité

Par nul home de mere nee


They found neither man nor woman, and they were immensely surprised at this. Nor did they see any sign that anybody had ever been here. But they found splendid forests and woods, full of all manner of wild beasts, including plenty of game.140 This was on land; the rivers, too, were full of fish.

The fields and meadows were deliciously flowery, and the wild birds sang loudly in their woodland, which gave them great pleasure. But when they realised there was absolutely no chance they would ever be able to get back to their own country, and they became certain without any doubt that the country they’d found had never been inhabited by any man born of woman,141


— Ceo ount trové tut apert

320Ke tutdis ad esté desert —

Adonqe dist la soer eigné,

K’estoit Albine nomé:

‘Trestouz sumes exillez

De la terre ou fumes nez;

325Touz savez la decert

Par ont nous vient la pert

Ke mes a nous n’ert restoré.

Tele est nostre destinee;

Mes fortune nous ad graunté

330Ceste terre. Nostre avowé

Estre doi cheveteine,

Car jeo fu la primereine

K’en la terre prist seisine,

Al issir de la marine.

335Si nule le voleit countredire

Rien qe touche la matire,

Maintenant le mostre a moi

Pur quoi estre nel doi.’


as it was now obvious the place had always been empty of people, then the eldest sister who was named Albina said:

‘Every one of us is an exile, from the land where we were born. You all realise the wrongful conduct which led to our loss, and it will never be restored to us. Such is our destiny! But Fortune has vouchsafed us this land! I ought to be the lord and mistress of it,142 since I was the first to take possession of the land as I got out of the boat. If any of you wants to argue about anything to do with this, tell me now why I ought not to be your leader.’


Communement le ount graunté

340K’ele seit lour avowé.

Donqes dist dame Albine:

‘La terre a nous toutz encline,

Dont ne savom le noun dire,

Ne si onqes i aveit sire.

345Pur ceo de moi, qe su feffé,

Deit la terre estre nomé.

Albine est mon propre noun,

Donc serra appellé Albioun;

Par ount de nous en cest pais

350Remembrance serra tutdis.

Ci nous covent tutdis manoir,

Ne avoms cure aliours aler,

La terre est plaine de touz biens,

Mes qe viaunde ne faut riens.’

355Mult desirent aver viaunde

Tele come lur queor demande.


They all agreed she should be their leader.

Then Lady Albina said: ‘This whole country is ours, whose name we don’t know; and we don’t know whether it ever had a lord before. And so it ought to be named for me, because it is mine. Albina is my right name, so it shall be called Albion! By this we shall be remembered for ever in this land. We might as well stay here permanently; we’ve no desire to go anywhere else. The land is full of all good things, except that we haven’t got any meat!’

They wanted so much to have meat; their souls craved it.


Bestes veient a graunt plenté,

Et oiseux, dount sount tempté;

Volenters i mangereient

360Si entre mains les aveient. [f.11]

Et totes furent en graunt pensé

Coment puissent a volenté

Aver bestes ou oiselon,

Dount la vient graunt fuson.

365Assez saveient de chacer

Qaunt aveient lige poer,

Et de bois et de rivere

Bien saveient la manere;

Mes lors n’aveient nule rien,

370Ark ne sete, faucon ne chien,

Dount preissent oisel ne beste

Ke manger puissent a lour feste.

Queintes et enginouses erent,

Et estreitement purpenserent,

375Dount, par graunt avisement,

Engins firent pluis de cent.


They saw there were plenty of beasts, and birds too — so tempting! They would have been very happy to eat them, if they could get their hands on them. They all thought hard about how they could get as much meat and fowl as they wanted, since the creatures were flocking to the place.143 They knew all about hunting, when they had the legal right to do so [at home], not only in the forest but also on the banks.144 They knew just how to do it, but now they had nothing to do it with! No bows or arrows, no falcons or dogs, to get birds and beasts to make a banquet. But they were clever and inventive, and put their minds to thinking of something; at last, with a lot of ingenuity they made a good number of devices.


Des verges firent hardilloun

Dount ils perneient veneisoun;

Trappes feseient des friseux

380Dont ils perneient les oiseux;

Divers engins sovent firent,

Et si cointement tindrent,

Dount les bestes deceurent

Et oiseux assez pristrent.

385Qaunt eurent pris a volenté,

La veneison ount escorché;

Des caillous ount feu alumé,

Tut avent a plenté;

En quirs de bestes quistrent,

390Et par breses rostirent

La veneson et les oiseux

Ke pris aveient, bons et beaux;

Dount mult leement se purent,

Eawe de fountaigne burent.

395Tele vie sustindrent

Ke lour forces tut revindrent,


Using branches, they made nooses to catch animals; they made traps out of wood to catch birds. They made lots of such things, and set them cunningly, to snare game and also to take fowl. When they had got as much as they wanted, they prepared the game and made a fire by striking pebbles together — there were plenty.145 They cooked the meat wrapped in its skin; they roasted the game and fowl they had caught over the coals — delicious! They stuffed themselves, and then drank water from the stream. They went on like this so that all their strength came back to them,


Et bien furent revigorez

Du mal qe einz aveient endurrez.

Kant char et saunc perneient,

400Gros et gras devenoient.

La chaline de nature

Les surmont a desmesure

Par desir de lecherie

De aver humaigne compaignie —

405De ceo sont sovent temptez.

406Ceo aperceurent li maufez

409Ke tel poer aveient:

410Humaine forme perneient,

Ovesqe ceo la nature;

Ove les femes firent mixture;

Kaunt en delit les troverent

En cel point les pargiserent,

415Sovent enfauntz engendrerent,

Et tost aprés se esvanirent.

A les dames veignent issi;

Kaunt lour deliz les assailli

Mult pres estoient lui maufez [f.11v]

420D’acomplir leur volentez

En la forme avandite.


and they were completely restored after all the ills they had suffered.

As they took on more flesh and blood, they grew large and fat! Then Nature’s heat warmed them into feeling lecherous desire,146 and they longed for male company. They were often tempted thus, and the evil spirits took note of it!147 These had the ability to take human form, together with human powers;148 they could mate with women if they found them in a state of desire. At that moment they could lie with them, often making children, and vanish immediately afterwards. So they came to these women when they were feeling lustful; they were very ready to do their will in the form just described.


Ne feust graunt ne petite

Ke enceint feust de un malfé;

En la furent engendrez

425Enfauntz qe grauntz devindrent,

Et aprés la terre tindrent.

Touz lur deliz acomplirent;

Mes les dames riens ne virent

Ceux qe parjeu les aveieint,

430Mes qe soulement senteient

Come feme deit home faire

Kant se entremettent de tiel affaire.

Et qaunt furent de greignure age,

Les enfauntz, par graunt outrage,

435En lur meres engendrerent

Fiz et feilles qe grauntz erent.

Soers des freres conceurent

Fiz et feilles que mult crurent;

Grauntz geantz de corps furent,

440Et graunt force en eux eurent.

Grauntz erent a desmesure

De corps et d’estature.149


Any woman large or small, who was pregnant by an evil spirit, in her were engendered children who would grow huge, and who afterwards would hold this land. They had all their desire, but the ladies saw nothing of those who had lain with them. They merely felt what a woman does with a man when they set about the business.150 It is shameful to relate that the children, once they were grown to maturity, coupled with their mothers to have enormous sons and daughters. And sisters conceived their brothers’ children,151 who grew to be huge! They were great giants in body, with strength to match; they were massively big, both in body and in size.152


457A regarder hidous erent,

Car malfez les engendrerent.

Des deables furent engendrez,

460Et les meres dont furent nez

Furent grantz et mult corsuz,

De forz genz furent venuz.

Par reson si deveient estre

Les enfauntz qui deivent nestre

465De tele gent come cil erent

Ke les geantz engendrerent.

Cele gent de faerie

Mult graundement se multiplie;

Par la terre se partirent

470Et caves en terre firent;

Grantz mures entour firent lever

Et des fossez environer;

Sur montaignes herbergeient

Ou mult estre sure quideient.

475En multz des lues uncore apperent

Les grauntz mures qe eux leverent,


They were hideous to look upon, for they were fathered by evil spirits and engendered by devils. The mothers, too, who bore them were big and very stout because of the huge race they came of. So it’s not surprising the children were likewise [big and stout], born to such a race as this was, which engendered the giants.

This superhuman153 race multiplied abundantly, and spread out all over the land. They made caves in the ground, and built great walls around them, encircling them with moats. And they made their homes on the mountains, where they believed themselves safe. In many places you can still see the great walls they made,


Mes mult sont ore abessé

Par tempeste et par orree.

Cele gent la terre tindrent

480Desqes les Brutons vindrent.

Ceo fust avaunt qe Dieu feust nee,

Come par acompte le ai trové,

Mil .c. aunz trent et sis,

De ceo seiez certein tutdis.

Du temps qe les dames vindrent485

Ke primes la terre tindrent,

Desqes les Brutons vindrent [f.12]

Et la terre a force conquirent,

Et le noun de Albion ousta,

490Et puis Bretaigne la noma,

Si come le cronicle count

Deux et .lx. aunz amount;

Taunt de temps, ceo fait a crere,

494Les geantz tindrent la terre.


although many have now been broken down by weather and storms. These people held the land until Brutus and his men came.154 This was before God was born, as I have found in the account of these things: one thousand and one hundred years, plus thirty-six. You can be sure of that. From the time when the ladies arrived, who had the land first, until the time of Brutus who conquered the land by force and took away the name Albion, calling it Britain afterwards, as the chronicle says it was two-and-sixty years all told.155 That is as long, believe me, as the giants held the land.156


Di vous ai la verité547

Come la geste nous ad counté,

Kaunt et coment cil vindrent

550Ke Engleterre primes tindrent,

Et de queu noun esteit nomé,

Et de qi l’ert doné,

Et combien la terre tindrent,

Atant qe les Bretouns vindrent,

555Et le primer noun ousterent,

Et Bretaigne la nomerent.

Tut est bon a remembrer,

Rien grevera de saver

Les estiles et les escriptures

560Des auncienes aventures.

De Jesu Crist seit beneit

Ke en escripture les mettreit.



I have told you the truth, just as the story tells us, about when and how they came, those people who first held England; and about what name it was given, and who gave it, and how long they held it before the Britons157 came and took away the first name, calling it Britain. It is all good to remember, and it never hurts to know about the manners and writings of old adventures. May Jesus Christ bless all who put them into books! Amen.158


1 There is an ancient misreading which gives him a ‘first’ name, as if Wace were a family name. But Wace is his given name (cf. Gace, and other forms; one of the MSS spells him Vaicce), and if anything he would be identified outside his own place as ‘Wace de Jersey’. See Wace, The Roman de Rou, ed. Holden, p xvi & note 11; Wace’s Brut, ed. and tr. Weiss, p. xi & note.

2 France (Île de France) was then a different country, distinct from Normandy; hence André de Coutances’ xenophobic fury at the French (in Roman des Franceis, below).

3 Wace also wrote saints’ lives and other kinds of narrative.

4 See, for example, Legge p. 30.

5 See Walters, ‘Wace and the Genesis of Vernacular Authority’, for the status of ‘romanz’ in Britain as closer to Latin and therefore preferable to Old English.

6 ‘gestes’ (gesta) originally meant the acts; it is also used for tales that recount them.

7 One of the other MSS has ‘estoire’ instead of ‘geste’ in v. 5297; we would suppose that one scribe’s preference was to emphasize the ‘doing’, another’s was for the ‘telling’ of events.

8 The Chanson de Roland is the best-known example (a good translation is The Song of Roland, tr. Sayers; details of editions are in Sayers’ introduction). A hundred years ago, in Arabia, ‘the tribal poets would sing us their war narratives: long traditional forms with stock epithets, stock sentiments, stock incidents grafted afresh on the efforts of each generation’ (Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, p. 128); this is a fair definition of the genre.

9 Romance heroes are less likely to be fighting Saracens than dragons; their adventures are more likely to involve ladies. ‘romanz’ first meant French, then story (the first romances were written in French). In v. 5311 above it refers to narrative.

10 Burgess, the modern translator of this version (details given below), prefers as I do not to collapse the two verbs in v. 5312 into one. Wace seems to distinguish between ‘escris’ and ‘fis’ (unless he is merely filling up a line).

11 If his father had been quite old at Wace’s birth (some time between 1090 and 1110), this is just possible. Alternatively, because the word for grandfather would take up more space in the line (it does not appear as a variant in any copy), he may be using a shorter word and stretching the truth. A modern ‘finale’ of the Bayeux Tapestry, made recently as an Alderney community project, has placed the figure of Wace writing at his desk in one of its borders because of this connection between the Channel Islands and the Battle of Hastings (the image is reproduced on the cover of this book, and see

12 Dean 2.1. I am grateful to Glyn Burgess for advice about the presentation of passages from this important text.

13 Le Roman de Rou de Wace (SATF, edition only); Wace, The Roman de Rou (Jersey, ed. & trans); Wace’s Roman de Rou (Woodbridge, trans. only). Volumes I & 2 of Pluquet’s 1827 edition are available at and

14 Wace, the hagiographical works, ed. Blacker et al., General Introduction; and Hans-Erich Keller in Medieval France, An Encyclopedia, pp. 969–70; and Wace: A Critical Biography, Blacker, may all be consulted for details and context of this important writer.

15 The text is from Holden’s, as reprinted in this Jersey edition (without folio numbers). I omit editorial emphasis indicating corrections, because Holden’s footnotes explaining them are not included in the Jersey reprinting (p. lii). I have added square brackets to words supplied by the editor, and conventional capital letters to the beginning of each line; I have made selected reference to variants printed in Holden’s original edition.

16 French in England did not begin in 1066: for one thing, because Edward the Confessor was brought up in Normandy, there were numerous French speakers at his court.

17 Her Storia contains the celebrated Taillefer episode. Wace’s Brut is well known and much anthologized, hence my choice of his other Roman.

18 The Nun was writing probably soon after 1163, the date of her source, Aelred of Rievaulx’ Vita. She and Wace are therefore roughly contemporary, although there is no evidence they knew each other’s writings. Neither of these Edward hagiographers is mentioned in the introduction among Wace’s sources for Rou. My extract from the life of Edward (below) gives further information on the Nun and her sources.

19 There are several chapters in the Lives of Edward that describe why he founded Westminster. Lives include La Vie d’Edouard, ed. Södergård, translated in my Edouard; also ‘Vita S. Edwardi Regis et Confessoris’, Aelred of Rievaulx (in PL); and Aelred of Rievaulx, The Historical Works, ed. Dutton. Other Lives (references are supplied in the foregoing) may be consulted for different versions of this story.

20 MS convertise.

21 There is frequent confusion in medieval French between ‘penitence’ and ‘penance’ (penitence is contrition for sins committed; penance, the satisfaction enjoined by the priest after confession); one of the MSS reads ‘Pentance’. The two may be distinguished by their context.

22 ‘travail’ in Anglo-Norman usually means ‘travel’ (cf. modern French ‘work’).

23 There is no suggestion in Edouard that he was old at the time of this incident (in ch. 10; his marriage happened not long before, in ch. 8). There, he wanted to fulfil his vow as soon as he possibly could.

24 Medieval storytellers are fond of supplying pointers to something that is still there to be seen, as proof of their narratives’ veracity.

25 It is interesting that Wace says ‘we call it …’ in the next lines, as if he felt himself to be English. There are difficulties with this name: the MS spelling is Zonee (corrected by Holden to Zornee throughout), and other copies call it Bornhee, Cornhee, Ahornie, and more. There may be underlying confusion with the English letter ‘thorn’ (th), or even with ‘yogh’ (gh, or sometimes z). Perhaps, if the word began with ‘thorn’ (Thonee, Thornee), scribes unfamiliar with English letters thought it was a yogh and transcribed it as zed (or one of the other letters in spellings given here). For a similar confusion, see Jeffrey, ‘Authors, Anthologies’, n. 33 on p. 270: Bozon’s name was properly Bohun or something like it, but scribes took the yogh for a zed.

26 ‘textes’ would have been Gospel books, perhaps richly bound.

27 Holden notes at this point, in his earlier edition, ‘obedience’ must have a special meaning of ‘authority’ or ‘control’ (of a religious house). I have followed his suggestion.

28 Other Lives describe Edward’s vow and the Pope’s absolution, and much is made of the founding of Westminster Abbey. But the Nun (for example) nowhere mentions St Edmund’s.

29 Dean 4.

30 ‘Anglo-Norman Description; and Johnson, ‘Description: An Introduction’. The Essays are published by ANTS (OPS 2).

31 ‘The Shires and Hundreds of England’ (pp. 145–6 in An Old English Miscellany, ed. Morris) is hardly comparable, but there are one or two spellings of note (below). The book’s title is misleading: the language of the pieces is Middle English (the one cited here is second half of thirteenth century), not Old English. Comparable descriptions are often found in books of ‘history’: there is a passage in La Vie seint Edmund le Rei, ed. Russell, vv. 317–432, in which Vortigern and other such figures are mentioned. In The Mirror of Justices, see ‘Of the Coming of the English’ (pp. 6–8, in which Lincoln is spelt Nichole in the Anglo-Norman way).

32 See also AB p. 31.

33 See Dean 6 for a description of this ‘circular diagram’.

34 AB pp. 35–6, & 36–7.

35 For shires, see The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England; and Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. Strayer (the entry is in vol. 11). According to the latter (s.v. Shire, pp. 253–4) their origins were diverse. Emerging during the ninth century, they were organized by Alfred and his successors; evidence for their existence before this time is conjectural. Thanks are due to Henrietta Leyser for advice on this matter, and for introducing me to the Description (her Beda gives further context).

36 Legends say Hengist and his people got hold of England by underhand means. ‘The brutal Saxon invaders drove the Britons westward into Wales and compelled them to become Welsh; it is now considered doubtful whether this was a Good Thing’ (1066 and All That, p. 13). Given the problem with Wales, below, the writer would seem to agree with Sellar and Yeatman.

37 In any list, the word ‘l’autre’ means ‘the second’ (a third or fourth is never called ‘l’autre’). See Ivanov and Kleyner, ‘The Friday Legend’, p. 192, for ‘nihsta/oþer’ meaning ‘second’ in early Middle English. The life of Audrey, below, contains an example of ‘secunde’ instead (in v. 157).

38 ‘riche’ can mean powerful, as well as rich in money.

39 ‘legistres’; there is a variant ‘registres’ in another manuscript, mentioned by Johnson (p. 21). She remarks that the author does not name specific authorities.

40 Lincoln is very commonly spelt ‘Nic(h)ole’ in Anglo-Norman texts (see Edouard, p. 129; and ‘The Anglo-Norman “Hugo de Lincolnia” ’, ed. Dahood). The IPN (AB, p. 46) shows that all copyists have used this spelling; neither LJ nor AB comments on it. The description cited above, in An Old English Miscellany, spells it ‘lyncholne’.

41 ‘onur’ here refers to property (feudal domains; see La Vie seint Edmund le Rei, ed. Russell, glossary ‘honur’).

42 ‘romanz’ meant French (sc. based on Roman), before it became used for ‘romance’ as story.

43 See IPN: Dorobelle, a supposed name for Canterbury, does not appear in the Middle English list. But in GL (Supp) the name Dorroburnence is glossed as Durovernum, Canterbury’s Latin name (p. 371, and note to line 105).

44 Sussex is a county, but the writer calls it ‘cuntree’; cf. ‘païs’ for the county of Dorset in v. 89.

45 The verb is sometimes plural ‘apelent’, meaning ‘they call it’; cf. ‘apele um’ (one calls it) in v. 105.

46 There is still a bishop of Bath and Wells.

47 The IPN notes confusion with a Roman road-name (Bath was called something like this at one time).

48 Legend has it that when Brutus arrived in Britain it was inhabited only by giants. The invaders cleared them all out; see Wace’s Brut (ed. and tr. Weiss), vv. 1063–168 (pp. 28–31). A separate legend was written as a prequel to the Brut, to explain how the giants got there in the first place (see Des Grantz Geantz, Dean 36–41; a version is presented below).

49 Not many now remember being taught that London is the capital or county town of Middlesex.

50 AB (pp. 32–3) notes this incorrect description of Lincolnshire. Many of the following names are written as if they were the towns and not the counties.

51 In the days before modern post-codes for addressing letters and so on, the proper abbreviation for the county of Shropshire was ‘Salop.’, another forgotten relic of old names for places. The Middle English list of shires and hundreds, cited above, spells it ‘Slobschire’.

52 ‘Norreis’ can mean either the Norse, or simply people of the North (see AND). Therefore it is not clear whether this is a city of Northerners or a city facing Norway. Likewise, ‘chief’ may mean it is the capital, or the top of it is near to Norway.

53 This gesture of praise may ‘imply that the status of the York archbishopric is superior to that of Canterbury’ (see LJ pp. 21–2, and note 22 for this twelfth-century rivalry).

54 Belin and his brother Brenne were kings of Britain; their story is found in Wace’s Brut, and they reappear in the Roman des Franceis (below). Belin’s name is immortalised in the place of his burial: Billingsgate (Wace’s Brut, ed. and tr. Weiss, pp. 82–3). The dimensions of Yorkshire are wrong: see LJ p. 22.

55 The old name is a form of ‘Snowdon’.

56 It was necessary to travel to Rome to receive this official (arch)bishop’s mantle.

57 Legend has it that King Arthur sleeps until he is needed by his people.

58 ‘la romaine gent’.

59 A league is a varying measure, usually about three miles. Late Latin leuga, leuca, of Gaulish origin (OED).

60 Nothing must stand in the way of exiled people finding their way out of the land as quickly as possible. In (for example) The Mirror of Justices, the passage on Sanctuary mentions how exiles and outlaws ought to be treated (pp. 33–5).

61 Dean 71.

62 ed. Aungier, and see Legge pp. 302–3. It is edited from BL, Cotton Cleopatra A vi; the handwriting of the MS indicates that it was compiled around the middle of the fourteenth century. The text is available online, but I copied the following extracts from the printed book. As well as being available online (see bibliography), a searchable version is available on the Anglo-Norman Hub, together with some of the ANTS publications.

63 A full translation of the Chronicle was made in 1863 (Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs, tr. Riley); it is less well known than the text itself, being mentioned in neither Legge nor Dean; I have consulted but not copied it. However, Riley’s volume also contains a translation of the Liber de Antiquis Legibus, one of the sources for our chronicle, which is very useful for comparison.

64 A comprehensive account of the Rosamond legend, including a reference to this Chronicle, may be found in Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine: see pp. 171, 175, 219, 225 (and index).

65 Cox, ‘The French Chronicle of London’, analyses this Brut source (dated c. 1333) in the Chronicle (esp. p. 206; the ‘Brut’ in question is here printed in plain type, not italic).

66 Chronicle p. 18 and note (Riley p. 240).

67 Riley, p. xii.

68 See, first, Prestwich, Plantagenet England 1225–1360, for the period covered by this chronicle. Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. Strayer, is very useful for specific items (entries are alphabetical, so any volume could be the one to consult). My thanks are due to Andy King for advice, especially on dating in the extracts below.

69 Riley’s translations of these passages are on his pp. 231–4, 260–2, & 272–5 respectively.

70 As mentioned earlier, I have tried to choose passages cross-generically: this tale, inserted into a city annal, resembles the martyrdom of a female saint (cf. the folk-tale in Protheselaus; the Chronicle’s editor considers the Rosamond story to be a folk-tale). The present version may be the earliest known (Riley’s Introduction, p. xi); it is evidence of readers’ appetite for such stories that they appear in such unlikely contexts. I make no attempt to examine the Chronicle as historiography.

71 In Edwards, Ebenezer Le Page: a bitter complaint against doctors and lawyers (this sentiment is widespread) is followed by references to the capture of Guernsey by the French (p. 54).

72 This year is, according to Cheney, A Handbook of Dates, ed. Jones, 28th October 1262 to 27th October 1263. There is an online calculator for regnal years ( The entry for this year is found on pp. 2–5 of the edition.

73 The arms of each mayor and sheriff are described in the footnotes.

74 These Provisions, extorted from Henry the Third by Simon de Montfort, led to a civil war (editor’s note).

75 Peter de Egeblaunch, or Egueblank, a Frenchman (the note remarks on the unpopularity of the French among the barons).

76 The note says a Latin account of this event is recorded for 7th February 1262 (see also Riley pp. 54–5). However, Andy King has judged that this note incorrectly inserts ‘1262’ into the Latin account: the fire was in February 1263.

77 ‘escriré’ corresponds to no entry in AND; the nearest being ‘escrire’ (to write). But its meanings do not include ‘libel’, and therefore I take the verb to be ‘escrier’, to cry out upon, accuse, or provoke (Larousse). Riley says ‘hoot’.

78 The note dates this occurrence as 14th June, and describes the unpleasant things that were thrown at the queen (named Eleanor, as Henry II’s queen was). She may have been unpopular only because of her ‘foreign’ relations (Brooke, From Alfred to Henry III, 871–1272, p. 227); Riley suggests their ‘avarice’ was to blame (note on his p. 232). Andy King tells me other sources date it as 13th July 1263 (see also Prestwich p. 112 for the attack).

79 The note remarks that this story, abridged from some romance or legend, was erroneously supposed by the writer to refer to Henry III instead of Henry II. See Cox, pp. 201–2.

80 ‘colour’ is a word also found in The Mirror of Justices, meaning excuse or pretence, covering or ‘colouring’ something to look better (the glossary to Sir Ferumbras, ed. Herrtage, gives evidence of its use in Middle English). In this sentence ‘her’ deeds are of course the queen’s.

81 Parallels with a saint’s life (and death) abound in this version of the story: a female saint is often stripped as well as beaten or tortured; the word ‘martyr’ makes the narrator’s opinion clear.

82 An example of a strong man fainting for grief, as happens in romance (it is a mark of strength, not of weakness).

83 The story illustrates the evil resulting from the sin of jealousy (as elsewhere in medieval narrative); we are not told what punishment, if any, is meted out to the wicked queen.

84 The writer mixes ‘tu’ and ‘vos’ forms as though a distinction were not important.

85 The familiar version of the story has the murder taking place at Woodstock, but in this version there is no mention of the maze into which Eleanor penetrates nor the choice of death she offers to the girl. However, to this day Rosamond is said to be buried at Godstow; the ruins of the nunnery stand near the river just outside modern Oxford (two leagues would have been measured from the city centre).

86 Cheney’s table (see heading of previous passage) gives this regnal year as 8th July 1325 to 7th July 1326. The passage is on pp. 49–51 of the edition.

87 ‘son’, her or his son. This difference between French and English grammar may be noted several times, below.

88 See Prestwich, pp. 213–14. Here, as elsewhere in this chronicle, the importance of popular opinion is stressed.

89 That is, the Sunday before 25th January (see ODS).

90 Notes in the edition and in Riley give more detail of this incident.

91 Erkenwald was the founder of Barking Abbey, whose Nun wrote a life of Edward the Confessor in the twelfth century, and was also the subject of a medieval poem (see, for example, St. Erkenwald, ed. Morse). The date of this translation, 1st Feb. 1326, is recorded in Erkenwald’s ODS entry; Riley says the ceremony took place at night so as not to attract crowds of people.

92 This man, whose name is variously spelt in the notes, had been highly regarded by Edward; he ‘privately assisted [Isabel] in her wicked contrivances against her husband’.

93 24th June.

94 The notes say the Croxton fire was caused by a careless plumber (on 11th June); it is possible all these fires were exacerbated by drought. The last of the words for fire in this sentence is ‘arsouns’, which looks like modern ‘arson’; it is unlikely in view of the weather that the fires were started deliberately, but Riley chooses the word ‘conflagration’ here.

95 The same day as the Croxton fire.

96 20th July.

97 ‘son fitz’; the boy, still in his teens, was of course the son of them both. He will be called ‘the young king’ throughout the next episode below.

98 ‘errour’ looks like ‘mistake’; but is an attested spelling for ‘irur’ (anger).

99 The note gives 24th September 1326 for this arrival, and that a large body of malcontents joined the queen in spite of the king’s proclamation that all should resist her landing. For dating the end of Edward II and beginning of Edward III, see Prestwich p. 217 and note (this chronicle is one of the sources). Edward II was probably murdered; but, like other figures of ambiguous reputation, he was rumoured to have survived and ended his days as a holy hermit somewhere abroad. A similar story circulated about Harold after the Battle of Hastings (see Edouard, p. 136; and Doherty, Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II). Czar Alexander is another such (a brief account is in Colegate, A Pelican in the Wilderness, pp. 35–6).

100 pp. 71–5 in the edition. Cheney’s table gives 25th January 1339 to 24th January 1340 for this regnal year.

101 Cadzand was taken in November 1337 (the note cites Froissart), the year before this entry begins. Riley says that as many prisoners as possible were taken (not killed). A sketch of Froissart’s account is in his Chronicles, ed. and tr. Brereton, pp. 57–61. Therefore ‘his men went ahead’ must mean ‘they had gone ahead’; the action precedes Edward’s arrival in Flanders. See Prestwich pp. 310–11 & 345–6 for Walter Mauny’s raid.

102 Allowing for hyperbole, this ought to mean some five hundred miles.

103 See note: this is when Edward first used the motto ‘Dieu et mon droit’. He continued to use the title King of France until the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360.

104 Notes in the edition (and in Riley) explain these personages.

105 ‘monsieur’; since these are titled nobles they cannot properly be called ‘mister’ in English. See note (and in Riley): it seems it was the Earl of Suffolk’s son, not the Earl himself, who was captured on this occasion.

106 This speech echoes not only the common epic formula that ‘pagans are wrong and christians are right’, but also the romance theme of single combat, body to body, for settling affairs of honour.

107 Probably Castle Cornet. The islands were held for some three years before being recaptured by the English (see note): they were ill provided to defend themselves against so formidable a force, but they (Guernsey and Jersey) resisted the French bravely. A Latin Memorandum (August 29, 1338) reads: … captum fuit Castrum Cornet cum Insula de Geners, Serk, et Aulneray, per Gallos. That is, also Sark, and Alderney.

108 Dean 37 (and her 36 & 38–41). The text is from Des Grantz Geanz, ed. Brereton (Medium Aevum Monographs).

109 Montesquieu, Lettre LXXXI (p. 139, in Lettres Persanes, ed. Roger).

110 Albina is supposed to have given Britain its old name, Albion. Brereton dates the work to the mid-thirteenth century (p. xxxii). A Latin version of it was used as a ‘prolegomenon’ to Geoffrey’s work (Carley, ‘A Glastonbury translator’).

111 See my footnote to ‘beguines’, below: this word can be problematic (it is unlikely the women are being presented as saintly in any sense). Les Beguines in Alderney patois translates ‘beacons’; although historians might surmise there was once a religious house there on the headland, it is more likely wreckers were responsible for the beacons.

112 Gog and Magog are separate giants in Alexander (v. 5613, and see note to this line for studies).

113 See also Des grantz geanz — a new text fragment’, ed. Tyson.

114 Marvin, ‘John and Henry III in the Anglo-Norman Prose Brut, esp. 169–71, gives an overview of the complexities of this work. It was written in Anglo-Norman and translated into other languages, and even retranslated from Latin back into Anglo-Norman.

115 Wace’s history of the British is entitled Roman; it is impossible to make sharp distinction between history and romance at this period (Carley and Crick, ‘Constructing Albion’s Past’, pp. 44–5). The narrator of this story calls it (mostly) a ‘geste’; the word often used for epic poems, and means the ‘doings’ of heroes (or heroines).

116 There is no double meaning in Latin that corresponds to ‘grantz’ meaning both large and also great or distinguished (cf. English ‘grand’), as Evans points out in her article cited below.

117 See The Romance of the Rose, tr. Horgan, note to p. 297 (on p. 349); and OCL.

118 History cannot be written without names (Bliss, Naming and Namelessness, p. 5 and note 11).

119 For more on such demons, see Curley, ‘Conjuring History’.

120 See also Bernau, ‘Beginning with Albina’ (I have been unable to access this volume of Exemplaria, but the article is summarized in the ICLS bulletin Encomia for 2015; I thank Linda Gowans for an abstract of it).

121 ed. Eckhardt, in vol. I (unfortunately a promised third volume, containing notes and glossary, has not appeared).

122 See my footnote, near the end of the text.

123 Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D. 329; text in Des Grantz Geanz.

124 See notes in the edition. The longer version (BL, Cotton Cleopatra D ix) has been translated, but the book (The Origin of the Giants, tr. Mackley) is self-published and not widely available.

125 The articles by Carley & Crick, and Evans, were republished in Carley, ed., Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian Tradition (Woodbridge, 2001).

126 Two extra lines in the other version give a brief account of this (unidentified) man’s learning. Henceforth I do not give details of the other version unless they are of interest for the sense of the story.

127 Some chronicles pause at such moments, to give a parallel date from Old Testament history; here there is none.

128 This is a narrator’s oblique way of saying s/he does not invent anything, not even names for the daughters.

129 These four lines are not in the other version.

130 ‘dolour’; the other version has ‘deshonur’.

131 ‘aresonee’; the other version has ‘examiné’.

132 ‘malice aforethought’; this passage abounds in legal or legal-sounding terms.

133 Two lines reversed, compared to the other version.

134 The other version makes it clear that they were thrown into prison, while it was decided what was best to do with them.

135 ‘begeines’; there are a number of spellings, and meanings, for ‘beguine’ (Larousse, s.v. begart). Evans considers that a lay community of women is being suggested (‘Gigantic Origins’, p. 206), perhaps to put the ladies in a better light, but it could be simply a rhyme-word. In GL (Supp), in a miracle of St Barbara, it seems the translators did not expect their readers to understand ‘beguine’, and so rendered quedam beghina as ‘a symple poore womman’ (p. 465, and note to line 3041 on p. 521).

136 ‘ne poeient trover rivaille’; the other version has ‘pres sunt venuz a un rivail’.

137 Taking seisin (Evans has stressed its importance); the action is reminiscent of Duke William’s action on landing at Hastings where, it is said, he stumbled. Jumping up with a handful of sand, he announced he had taken possession of England.

138 The word could mean garlic, or (since it is plural) garlic-bulbs. Larousse gives ‘worthless thing’ as a second meaning for ‘ail, aille’ (the first meaning is garlic); AND (and Evans, ‘Gigantic Origins’) gives ‘sorb-apple’, and ‘worthless thing’ for ‘alie’. Inversion from ail- to ali- is possible. The derivation is ‘sorbe’ from Latin sorbus, sorbum, whence a jump to ‘alie’ seems unlikely. Brereton’s glossary gives ‘beam-tree’ (whitebeam or pyrus aria, related to sorbus); ‘alis’ is also found as tree, not garlic, in Larousse’s Dictionnaire étymologique et historique. Garlic grows wild in Britain, so the women might have found some to eat.

139 ‘boutons’; buds, or berries (Brereton gives ‘hips’, wild-rose fruit).

140 ‘veneson’; the other version has ‘oyseloun’ (birds).

141 This may be a reference to the monstrous children, engendered by no man, that are to come.

142 ‘Nostre avowé’; it would make more sense to read ‘Vostre’ here.

143 However, ‘vient’ may be a mistake for ‘veient’ (they could see them in abundance).

144 ‘rivere’ is usually translated as river[bank], but falconry may be successfully practised away from water, at (for example) the eaves or ‘banks’ of a wood. The ladies used to have falcons, but have none now.

145 The alternative line makes equally good sense: ‘there was plenty of brushwood’.

146 It was believed that women, being cold and moist by nature, had to be ‘warmed up’ for sex. Evans notes the importance for this passage of the Hippocratic-Galenic theory, that women produced seed as men do. See also Weiss, ‘Swooning’, pp. 130–34.

147 Extra lines in the other version explain that these spirits are called ‘incubi’. See Merlin, Robert de Boron, ed. Micha, for the seduction of Merlin’s mother; Bliss, Naming and Namelessness, gives an account of that romance which includes explanation of the incubi (pp. 97–102 & 202–3).

148 Compare the Castleford version: the Devil saw that the women desired man’s company, and ‘toke body of the ayre’ (v. 209).

149 There is a gap in the text at this point.

150 It is unclear whether the second ‘they’ refers to the women or to the incubi (as Evans points out; this illustrates a typical difficulty of Anglo-Norman).

151 In Creation, below, there is no suggestion that coupling with close relatives is incest.

152 Omitted lines here describe the finding of these creatures’ monstrously large bones.

153 ‘de faerie’; modern English ‘fairy’ would be misleading. They are of supernatural and non-human origin (AND gives ‘accursed race’; Evans prefers the nuance, in the Anglo-Norman, by which the giants are products of enchantment).

154 ‘les Brutons’; the word keeps the idea of Brutus, before the place-name is developed.

155 The editor rejects the reading ‘cxx aunz’ in this MS because too different from other versions. But sixty-two years is not very long for the race to have become so widespread. Other MSS have 260.

156 Intervening lines, in the other version, tell how the giants divided up the land and fought one another so much that only twenty-four were left to fight Brutus. He destroyed them all except Gogmagog, whom he spared: to be wondered at (he was twenty feet long), and to be asked for the story which has just now been told … and how Brutus made sure the story would be remembered, by telling it at feasts. The arrival of Brutus and his conquest of the giants will be told in the Brut, so it is not necessary to relate it here.

157 Now spelt ‘Bretouns’, as in the other version.

158 The following thirteen lines of Latin prose, not in the other version, divide this from ‘the Brute Chronicle’. It recapitulates the story briefly, adding that the third name of the land was Engistlond, after the Saxon Hengist.