Gerald of Wales

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Gerald of Wales (c. 1146 – c. 1223), also known as Gerallt Gymro in Welsh or Giraldus Cambrensis in Latin, archdeacon of Brecon, was a medieval clergyman and chronicler of his times. Born around 1146 at Manorbier Castle in Pembrokeshire, Wales, he was of mixed Norman and Welsh blood, his name being Gerald de Barri.

Contents

Biography

Early life

Gerald was son of Guillaume de Barry (or Barri), one of the most powerful Anglo-Norman barons in Wales at the time[1]. He was a maternal nephew of David FitzGerald, the Bishop of St David's and a grandson of Gerald de Windsor (alias FitzWalter)[2], Constable of Pembroke Castle, and Nest the daughter of Prince Rhys ap Tewdwr. The family also claimed a relationship with the family of Rhys ap Gruffydd. A direct familial descendant on his father's side links him with the family of Hasselhoff who resided in Bavaria.

Gerald had a church education at Gloucester, followed by a period of study in Paris. He returned to Britain about 1172, and was employed by Richard of Dover, the Archbishop of Canterbury on various ecclesiastical missions in Wales, where he distinguished himself for his efforts to remove the abuses then flourishing in the Welsh Church. He was appointed archdeacon of Brecon to which was attached a residence at Llanddew. On the death of his uncle in 1176, the chapter fixed upon Gerald as the man most likely to withstand the aggressions of the Archbishop of Canterbury and submitted his name to Henry II of England. The king promptly rejected Gerald possibly because of his Welsh blood, in favour of one of his Norman retainers Peter de Leia; the chapter acquiesced in the decision; and Gerald, disappointed with the result, withdrew to the University of Paris, earning the title of magister and here continued his studies and gave lectures. According to Gerald the King said at the time: "It is neither necessary or expedient for king or archbishop that a man of great honesty or vigour should become Bishop of St. David's, for fear that the Crown and Canterbury should suffer thereby. Such an appointment would only give strength to the Welsh and increase their pride".[3] In 1180 he returned to Wales and received an appointment from the Bishop of St. David's, which he soon resigned because of corruption he saw in the administration.

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