Geoffrey of Monmouth

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Geoffrey of Monmouth (Latin: Galfridus Monemutensis, Galfridus Arturus, Galfridus Artur, Welsh: Gruffudd ap Arthur, Sieffre o Fynwy) (c. 1100 – c. 1155) was a Welsh cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British history and the popularity of tales of King Arthur. He is best known for his chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain"), widely popular in its day, credited uncritically well into the 16th century[1] and translated to various other languages from its original Latin.

Contents

Biography

Geoffrey was probably born some time between 1100 and 1110[2] in Wales or the Welsh Marches. He must have reached the age of majority by 1129, when he is recorded as witnessing a charter. In his Historia, Geoffrey refers to himself as Galfridus Monumetensis, "Geoffrey of Monmouth", which indicates a significant connection to Monmouth, Wales, and which may refer to his birthplace.[3] Geoffrey's works attest to some acquaintance with the place-names of the region.[3] To contemporaries, Geoffrey was known as Galfridus Artur(us) or variants thereof.[2][3] The "Arthur" in these versions of his name may indicate the name of his father, or a nickname based on Geoffrey's scholarly interests.[2] Earlier scholars assumed that Geoffrey was Welsh or at least spoke Welsh,[2] However, it is now recognised that there is no real evidence that Geoffrey was of either Welsh or Cambro-Norman descent, unlike for instance, Gerald of Wales.[3] Geoffrey's knowledge of the Welsh language appears to have been slight.[2] He is likely to have sprung from the same French-speaking elite of the Welsh border country as the writers Gerald of Wales and Walter Map, and Robert, Earl of Gloucester, to whom Geoffrey dedicated versions of his Historia Regum Britanniae.[2] It has been argued, by Frank Stenton among others, that Geoffrey's parents may have been among the many Bretons who took part in William I's Conquest and settled in the southeast of Wales.[3] Monmouth had been in the hands of Breton lords since 1075[3] or 1086[2] and the names Galfridus and Arthur (if interpreted as a patronymic) were more common among the Bretons than the Welsh.[3] The Bretons and the Welsh spoke a very similar language and even to this day have little difficulty understanding each other.

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