Lessons from History: Historia Regum Britanniae and Twelfth Century Turmoil
CHIVALRY AND HISTORY IN THE MIDDLE AGES (UNDERGRADUATE PAPER), University of Guelph (Online paper 2010)
History often repeats itself as so popularly said. In the twelfth century, Britain witnessed a chaotic time not unlike it had before in the past. King Stephen of Blois was caught in a battle of succession with his cousin Matilda. Under his reign many problems in Britain’s social and political sphere emerged and erupted into a mess of civil war, instability, and poor government. It was in this time that a WelshNorman scribe, Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote his magnum opus, “Historia Regum Britanniae.” In his work, Geoffrey detailed the accounts of the British kings of the past, and although modern historiography deems his work to be highly inaccurate and even fictional, its significance remains important. As a chronicle of history widely accepted well until the sixteenth century, Geoffrey’s “Historia Regum Britanniae” provided the people of medieval Britain insight and reflection to events surrounding their lives. This paper argues that Geoffrey’s writing displays a warning for Britain meant to remind peasant and lord alike that history can indeed repeat itself, and in many cases will not always be pleasant. It is essential that changes be made in order to avoid catastrophic events from occurring again.