William of Malmesbury

William of Malmesbury (Latin: Willelmus Malmesbiriensis; c. 1095 – c. 1143) was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. He has been ranked among the most talented English historians since Bede. Modern historian C. Warren Hollister described him as "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical, patristic and earlier medieval times as well as in the writings of his own contemporaries. Indeed William may well have been the most learned man in twelfth-century Western Europe."

William was born about 1095 or 1096 in Wiltshire. His father was Norman and his mother English. He spent his whole life in England and his adult life as a monk at Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, England.

Though the education William received at Malmesbury Abbey included a smattering of logic and physics, moral philosophy and history were the subjects to which he devoted the most attention. The evidence shows that Malmesbury had first-hand knowledge of at least four hundred works by two hundred-odd authors. During the course of his studies, he amassed a collection of medieval histories, which inspired in him the idea for a popular account of English history modelled on the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) of Bede. William's obvious respect for Bede is apparent even within the preface of his Gesta Regum Anglorum, where he professes his admiration for the man.

In fulfilment of this idea, William completed in 1125 his Gesta Regum Anglorum ("Deeds of the English Kings"), consciously patterned on Bede, which spanned from AD 449 to 1120. He later edited and expanded it up to the year 1127, releasing a revision dedicated to Robert, Earl of Gloucester. This "second edition" of the Gesta Regum, "disclosing in his second thoughts the mellowing of age", is now considered one of the great histories of England.

William wrote of William the Conqueror in Historia Anglorum:

He was of just stature, extraordinary corpulence, fierce countenance; his forehead was bare of hair; of such great strength of arm that it was often a matter of surprise, that no one was able to draw his bow, which himself could bend when his horse was in full gallop; he was majestic whether sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly deformed his royal person; of excellent health so that he was never confined with any dangerous disorder, except at the last; so given to the pleasures of the chase, that as I have before said, ejecting the inhabitants, he let a space of many miles grow desolate that, when at liberty from other avocations, he might there pursue his pleasures. His anxiety for money is the only thing on which he can deservedly be blamed. This he sought all opportunities of scraping together, he cared not how; he would say and do some things and indeed almost anything, unbecoming to such great majesty, where the hope of money allured him. I have here no excuse whatever to offer, unless it be, as one has said, that of necessity he must fear many, whom many fear.

This page was last edited on 5 May 2018, at 19:08.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_of_Malmesbury under CC BY-SA license.

Related Topics

Recently Viewed