When famous chroniclers lose it

Now have a look at what Matthew Paris, the famous 13th century St-Albans chronicler has to say under the heading of the year 1155 as he attempts to report the birth of young Henry, Henry II and Alienor of Aquitaine’s son. I am afraid I don’t have an English translation for this, but I’m sure most of you will find the Latin fairly uncomplicated:

“Anno Domini MCLV natus est Londoniis pridie kalendas Martii, Henrico, novo Anglorum regi, ex Alienora, regina sua, filius legitimus et vocatum est nomen eius Henricus. Fuit autem magnificus rex Henricus II filius Mathildis, quae prius fuerat Romanorum imperatrix, et postea comitissa Andegaviae. Quae, ut predictum est, clam concepit ab Stephano, qui eam duxerat ad comitem Andegaviae Gaufridum maritandam…”(Historia Minor, I, 301)

Wow, that is something new. To make matters worse, the editor writes in the margin, quite embarrassingly, “Henry II was the son of Matilda by Stephen”. See, there are worse errors than getting a year wrong or mentioning people who had nothing to do with the story. Most of the passage draws on another famous St-Abans chronicler and Paris’ antecessor, Roger Wendover. The latter, however, has nothing to say about this. Young Henry is born and then follows a rather orthodox genealogy of the reigning king, Henry II. It seems as if Paris had eaten or drunk too much before going to the scriptorium. We should hold him responsible for this crass error. It is, moreover, not the first or last time Paris’ credibility is challenged. Aloof or simply foolish?

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