SESSION IV: Thinking About the Past in the Middle Ages
The Genesis and Argument of Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum
Paul Hayward (Lancaster University)
Henry of Huntingdon was educated at Lincoln, then under Master Anselm, and succeeded his father as Arch deacon of Huntingdon. Henry was one of the wealthiest individuals in this region. He had a wife and son and was a defender of the dignity of clerical marriage. He covered the 1102 Council of London that he regarded the measures against clerical marriage was a dangerous development. He felt it would expose the Church to disaster.
It is assumed he wrote the Historia Anglorum for the same reasons as William of Malmesbury.
Henry recounts the evils of Rufus and how Arch Bishop Anselm withdrew because of him. Henry is often read as being sympathetic to the English plight and that England had been a, ‘dwelling ground for foreigners and a playground for lords of alien blood’.
The patron of the Historia Anglorum – Alexander ‘the Magnificent’, Bishop of Lincoln (1123-48), nephew of Bishop Roger of Salisbury (1102-39).
This text represents and attempt to defend Bishop Rogers’ regime. Was Henry pro-English, or Pro-Norman? This is the underlying question of this paper. One certain fact is that Henry had Norman, not English ancestors. It has been suggested that his mother was English but there is no solid evidence for this but his Norman roots can be proven.
Considered as a whole, the Historia Anglorum is a pro-Norman text although there are passages that can be read as pro-English. Some criticism of the Normans was compatible with supporting their regime in the sense of pushing them towards the right path.
There are passages where Henry delights in celebrating Norman feats of arms and there are no references to the arms and achievements of the English. He never credits the English with a positive role, and he singles out the Norman military achievements. He presents the English as having to struggle to bring battles to their ultimate conclusion. There are some exceptions to this pattern but they are related to the Viking incursions and the victories over the Vikings.