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History of the Kings of Britain







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Book 1

Geoffrey’s Prologue. To Robert of Glouchester. Praises of Britain. Of Duke Æneas. The birth of Brute.. Brute’s youthful prowess. Brute to Pandrasus. Brute’s first victory. The Greeks defeated. Pandrasus besiegeth Brute. Brute’s cunning device. A perilous stratagem. But a successful. A deadly signal. The King’s life spared. Mempricius speaketh. His counsel taken. Pandrasus yieldeth. Brute weddeth Ignoge. A deserted city. The response of Diana. A voyage of adventure. Corineus goeth a-hunting. Corineus: his prowess. Goffarius vanquished. A battle nigh Tours. Goffarius boasteth. Corineus: his stratagem. How Tours city was named. Brute landeth at Totnes. The giant Goemagot. New Troy founded. London and King Lud.

Book 2

Locrine and Ignoge. Locrine and Estrildis. Locrine weddeth Gwendolen. Gwendolen’s revenge. Maddan and his is sons. Mempricius and Ebraucus. Ebrauc’s children. Brute Greenshield. Bladud foundeth Bath.

King Lear and his daughters. Lear wroth with Cordelia. Cordelia married into France. Lear’s piteous plight. Lear seeketh Cordelia. Cordelia’s compassion. Lear’s honourable reception. Lear recovereth his kingdom.

Margan and Cunedag. Ferrex and Porrex. Dunwallo Molmutius. The Molmutine laws. Dunwallo buried.

Book 3

Belinus and Brennius. Brennius fareth into Norway. Brennius robbed of his bride. Belinus conquereth Brennius. Guichlac’s petition granted. Belinus maketh royal roads. Segin receiveth Brennius. Brennius weddeth a Gaulish wife. Conwenna reconcileth her sons. The kiss of peace. The brothers invade Gaul. They take Rome. Rome recovered. Brennius in Italy. Belinus returneth to Britain. Spaniards settle in Ireland. The Mercian law. Morvid: his cruelty. Gorbonian ruleth well. Arthgallo ruleth ill. Elidur’s piety. Elidur three times King. Succession of Kings. Lud the city-builder. Cassibelaunus king.

Book 4

Cæsar beholdeth Britain. A brave letter. Cæsar saileth to Britain. Nennius: his valour. Cæsar fleeth to his ships. Death of Nennius. Cæsar’s second attempt. A battle on the Thames. Cæsar again fleeth. A deadly quarrel. Cæsar invited to Britain. Androgeus’ letter. Cæsar’s third arrival. Cassibelaunus defeated. Britons a noble race. Androgeus pleadeth with Cæsar. Cæsar quitteth Britain. Cymbeline and his sons. Claudius and Hamo. Hamo killed at Southampton. Arviragus weddeth Genuissa. Gloucester builded. Vespasian at Exeter. Marius defeateth Rodric. Coill loveth the Romans. Of King Lucius. Flamens and Bishops.

Book 5

Lucius the Glorious dieth. Severus defeateth Fulgenius. Carausius the Pirate. Bassianus betrayed. Allectus is slain. Siege of London. Diocletian: his persecution. Coel slayeth Asclepiodotus. Queen Helena. Constantine succeedeth. Constantine Emperor Rome. Octavius retrieveth defeat. Conan thinketh to be King. Maurice inviteth Maximian. Maximian cometh to Britain. Octavius affrighted. Maurice: his crafty device. Caradoc his speech to Octavian. Maximian and Conan reconciled. Maximian invadeth Armorica. Maximian covenanteth with Conan. He peopleth the land with Britons. Conan sendeth for British women. Ursula and 11,000 virgins. The virgins shipwrecked. Gratian Municeps and Gratian the Emperor.

Book 6

Gratian Municeps slain. The Romans leave Britain. Archbishop Guethelin. Guanius and Melga again. The witless Briton. A fruitless petition. Guethelin and Aldroen. Constantine of Brittany. Constantine victorious. Constans the monk crowned. Constans a do-nought King. Vortigern hatcheth treason. Vortigern bribeth the Picts. Constans is murdered. Vortigern usurpeth the crown. Horsus and Hengist. Vortigern covenanteth with Hengist. Hengist’s subtle craft. Hengist’s crafty petition. Hengist’s daughter Rowen. Wacht heil and Drinc heil. Vortigern wedded Rowen. More Saxons arrive. Vortimer made King. Rowen poisoneth Vortimer. Hengist returns. Hengist: his treachery. Massacre of Britons. Eldol of Gloucester. Vortigern’s tower. Finding of Merlin. Merlin’s father. Merlin and the magicians. The magicians dumbfounded.

Book 7

Geoffrey’s address to Bishop Alexander. Merlin’s prophecies.

Book 8

Merlin foretelleth the king’s death. Aurelius made King. Eldol joineth Aurelius. Hengist alarmed. Aurelius marcheth north. Hengist meeteth Aurelius. Battle at Maesbeli. Battle at Knaresborough. Eldol taketh Hengist prisoner. Aurelius is victor. Eldad’s counsel. Aurelius at York. London, Winchester and Salisbury. Merlin summoned. The dance of Giants. Uther goeth to Ireland. Merlin’s engines. Stonehenge erected. Pascentius joineth Gilloman. Eopa’s treachery. Eopa poisoneth Aurelius. Merlin readeth the portent. Aurelius is dead. Uther Pendragon crowned. Siege of York. Gorlois giveth counsel. Uther cometh London. Gorlois goeth into Cornwall. Uther sendeth for Merlin. Merlin’s magic arts. Uther deceiveth Igerne. Uther weddeth Igerne. Of Octa and Eosa. Battle at Verulam. The Britons victorious. Saxons ever treacherous. Uther dieth of poison.

Book 9

Dubricius crowneth Arthur. Arthur’s first battles. Baldulf: his craft. Battle of Lincoln. Saxons ever treacherous. The siege of Bath. Arthur’s armour. Victory at Bath. Arthur at Alclud. Cador slayeth Cheldric. Arthur pardoneth the Scots. Marvels of Britain. Lot, Urian and Angusel. Arthur weddeth Guenevere. Of Arthur’s Court. Lot, King of Norway. Flollo challenges Arthur. Duel with Flollo. Bedevere and Kay. Arthur at Caerleon. The glories of Caerleon. Guests at Court. Arthur’s coronation. A State banquet. Tourneys and games. Lucius Hiberius: his letter. Cador jesteth. Let Rome pay tribute to us. not we to Rome. Hoel’s speech. Angusel’s speech. Numbers of the host.

Book 10

The Roman muster. Arthur’s vision. Arthur fighteth a giant. Bedevere and the old woman. Arthur and the giant. Of the giant Ritho. Arthur at Autun. Boso of Oxford. and Guerin of Chartres. Petreius Cotta. Boso’s enterprise. Duke Cador and Richer. Bedevere and Borel. Lucius thinketh to flee. Captains of the host. Arthur’s speech. They shall march to Rome. Lucius: his speech. The host marshalled. The battle begins. Bedevere slain. Hireglas avengeth Bedevere. Many Romans slain. Hoel and Gawain. Gawain fighteth Lucius. Arthur’s valour. The Romans defeated. The burials. Treason of Mordred.

Book 11

Arthur hasteneth to Britain. Gawain slain at Richborough. Mordred fleeth to Cornwall,. whither Arthur followeth. Arthur mortally wounded. Constantine succeedeth him. Succession of Kings. Careticus hated of all. Geoffrey: his sermon. Loegria occupied by Saxons. Civil wars. Pope Gregory and Augustine. Abbot Dinoot. Ethelfrid defeated.

Book 12

Ethelfrid and Cadvan. Cadwallo and Edwin. Brian’s speech. Cadwallo refuseth Edwin. The wizard Pellitus. Brian’s new art. Solomon of Brittany. succoureth Cadwallo. Cadwallo’s speech. Bretons and Britons. Brian cometh to York. and slayeth Pellitus. Cadwallo returneth to Britain. and defeateth all enemies. Peanda slayeth Oswald. Oswi hatcheth treason. Margadud: his speech. Peanda slain. Cadwallader made King. Cadwallader’s lament. The Saxons return. The Britons shall prevail hereafter. Cadwallader dieth. Of the Welsh. Geoffrey’s farewell.

The Translator’s Epilogue

Geoffrey Arthur. Henry of Huntingdon. Robert of Torigni. Henry’s abstract. The Cornish giants. Lucrine and Gondolovea. The Passing of Arthur. Arthur not dead. J. R. Sinner’s Bern MS.. Double dedication. to Stephen and Robert. Sir Frederick Madden. Date of Robert’s death. Three different dates. 1148 probably correct. Geoffrey’s position in 1148. Dedication to Robert, 1138. Geoffrey’s motives. Anarchy of the time. Geoffrey to Bishop. of St. Asaph. Geoffrey’s death. Merlin’s prophecies. Abbot Suger. Abbot Suger. Merlin’s prophecies. Suger’s praise of Merlin. Geoffrey’s Epic of. the Kings of Britain. The British Empire. of the Angevin Kings. Henry I.: his policy. Origin of the Epic. Text of the Histories. “Extra” Merlins. Prophecy and politics. Date of the prophecies. The Bern MS.. Previous translation. Translation of names. Milton and Geoffrey. Milton on ‘Brute Kings’.

Geoffrey of Monmouth
by David Nash Ford

Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth

Geoffrey is traditionally said to have been a Welshman, born somewhere in the region of Monmouth around 1100, though one or both of his parents may have come from Brittany. His father's name was apparently Arthur, a man who would perhaps have told his son stories of his Royal namesake from an early age.

Local tradition makes Geoffrey a Benedictine monk at Monmouth Priory, if not the actual prior. However, this seems to be due to a misidentification with his contemporary, Prior Geoffrey the Short of Monmouth. Certainly 'Geoffrey's Window' at which he is said to have sat and written his famous works and 'Geoffrey's Study' used as a schoolroom within the Priory Gatehouse are only of late 15th century date. At most it seems that Geoffrey might perhaps have been educated at Monmouth Priory. Some say, erroneously, that his tutor was an uncle named Uchtryd who made him Archdeacon of Llandeilo or Llandaff when he became Bishop of the latter in around 1140.

A variety of obscure medieval records give only glimpses of the man's real life. By his late twenties, Geoffrey certainly seems to have travelled eastwards to become a secular Austin canon at the Collegiate Church of St. George at the castle in Oxford. He was a member of the college community there, and a tutor of some kind, for at least the next twenty years - witnessing a number of charters during his residence - but he turned to writing not long after his arrival. The 'Prophecies of Merlin' appear to have been a series of ancient Celtic prophecies which, at the request of Alexander of Salisbury, Bishop of Lincoln, Geoffrey translated into Latin, perhaps with some additions of his own. Whether they had previously been attributed to the Northern British bard, Myrddin, is unknown. As with all his works, Geoffrey hoped the prophecies might bring him a lucrative preferment in the Church, and he used its dedication to ingratiate himself with Alexander who was Bishop of his local diocese. Geoffrey made a more appreciative acquaintance while at St. George's, in the person of Walter the Provost, who was also Archdeacon of the city. In his writings, Geoffrey tells us that Walter gave him "a certain very ancient book written in the British language" and, probably because he was unable to read Welsh (or Breton) himself, the Archdeacon encouraged Geoffrey to translate it into Latin.

So, in about 1136, the Welshman set about writing his 'History of the Kings of Britain' dedicated to Robert, Earl of Gloucester, and Waleran, Count of Mellent. Whether this was a straight translation of an Ôancient book' or contained considerable embellishments, if not worse, from Geoffrey himself has been the subject of heated debate for many generations. At the time, the work was taken at face value and accepted by most as a true history of the Welsh nation from around 1100 bc to around AD 689. Merlin appeared again, as an advisor to Kings Ambrosius and Uther, but the work was most notable for its extensive chapters covering the reign of the great King Arthur. Since the 17th century, however, its author has been largely vilified as an inexorable forger who made up his stories "from an inordinate love of lying". Modern historians tend to be slightly more sympathetic. Parts of Geoffrey's work certainly seem to have their origins in ancient Celtic mythology, others could have come from works by authors such as Gildas, Nennius, Bede and also the Mabinogion. But there are also hints that he had access to at least one other work unknown to us today. His 'King Tenvantius of Britain,' for example, was otherwise unknown to historians until archaeologists began to uncover Iron Age coins struck for a tribal leader in Hertfordshire named Tasciovantus. Some people consider the several copies of a Welsh version of Geoffrey known as the 'Brut y Brenhinedd' to be his original 'ancient book'. However, the 'Chronicle of Saint Brieuc' makes reference to several of Geoffrey's characters apparently from a source called the 'Ystoria Britannica'.

At the end of 1150, Geoffrey appears to have come into the possession of further source documents concerning the life-story of his original subject, the bard, Myrddin (alias Merlin). Unfortunately, these did not line up terribly well the information he had given about this man in his 'History of the Kings of Britain' - perhaps indicating that this part was either invented or, more probably, that Merlin's name had been rather over-eagerly attributed to an otherwise unknown Royal adviser. Keen to put across the true story, without loosing face, Geoffrey wrote the 'Life of Merlin,' correctly placing its events after the reign of Arthur, but thus giving his title role an impossibly long lifespan. It was dedicated to his former colleague at St. George's, Robert De Chesney, the new Bishop of Lincoln.

The following year, Geoffrey's sycophancy at last paid off. He was elected Bishop of St. Asaphs, for good service to his Norman masters; and was consecrated by Archbishop Theobald at Lambeth Palace in February 1152. As a Welsh-speaker, he was probably chosen in an attempt to make the diocesanal administration more acceptable in an age when Normans were not at all popular in the areas of Wales which they controlled. However, the strategy seems to have been unsuccessful. Owain Gwynedd's open rebellion was in full swing and Geoffrey appears to have never even visited his bishopric. He died four years later, probably in London.


Barber, R. (1961) King Arthur: Hero and Legend, London: St. Martin's Press.

Harrison, J. (2001) "Geoffrey of Monmouth" in Monmouth Priory, Monmouth: Vicar & Parochial Church Council of Monmouth.

Kissack, K. (1996) The Lordship, Parish & Borough of Monmouth, Hereford: Lapridge Publications.

Lacy, N.J. (ed.) (1996) The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, London: Garland Publishing Inc.

Roberts, B.F. (1991) "Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae and Brut y Brenhinedd" in R. Bromwich et al. (ed.s)'s The Arthur of the Welsh Cardiff: University of Wales Press

Thorpe, L. (1976) "Introduction" in Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain, London: Penguin Books Ltd.

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