Cambrensis Giraldus.

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REPHINTED ..... 1912


GERALD THE WELSHMAN Giraldus Cambrensis was
born, probably in 1 147, at Manor bier Castle in the
county of Pembroke. His father was a Norman noble,
William de Barri, who took his name from the little
island of Barry off the coast of Glamorgan. His
mother, Angharad, was the daughter of Gerald de
Windsor 1 by bis wife, the famous Princess Nesta, the
" Helen of Wales," and the daughter of Rhys ap
Tewdwr Mawr, the last independent Prince of South

Gerald was therefore born to romance and adventure.
He was reared in the traditions of the House of Dinevor.
He heard the brilliant and pitiful stories of Rhys ap
Tewdwr, who, after having lost and won South Wales,
died on the stricken field fighting against the Normans,
an old man of over fourscore years ; and of his gallant
son, Prince Rhys, who, after wrenching his patrimony
from the invaders, died of a broken heart a few months
after his wife, the Princess Gwenllian, had fallen in a
skirmish at Kidwelly. No doubt he heard, though he
makes but sparing allusion to them, of the loves and
adventures of his grandmother, the Princess Nesta, the
daughter and sister of a prince, the wife of an adven-
turer, the concubine of a king, and the paramour of
every daring lover a Welshwoman whose passions
embroiled all Wales, and England too, in war, and the
mother of heroes Fitz- Geralds, Fitz- Stephens, and
Fitz- Henries, and others who, regardless of their
mother's eccentricity in the choice of their fathers,

1 It is a somewhat curious coincidence that the island of Barry
is now owned by a descendant of Gerald de Windsor's elder
brother the Earl of Plymouth.


viii Introduction

united like brothers in the most adventurous under-
taking of that age, the Conquest of Ireland.

Though his mother was half Saxon and his father
probably fully Norman, Gerald, with a true instinct,
described himself as a " Welshman." His frank vanity,
so naive as to be void of offence, his easy accept-
ance of everything which Providence had bestowed
on him, his incorrigible belief that all the world took as
much interest in himself and all that appealed to him
as he did himself, the readiness with which he adapted
himself to all sorts of men and of circumstances, his
credulity in matters of faith and his shrewd common
sense in things of the world, his wit and lively fancy,
his eloquence of tongue and pen, his acute rather than
accurate observation, his scholarship elegant rather
than profound, are all characteristic of a certain lovable
type of South Walian. He was not blind to the defects
of his countrymen any more than to others of his con-
temporaries, but the Welsh he chastised as one who
loved them. His praise followed ever close upon the
heels of his criticism. There was none of the rancour
in his references to Wales which defaces his account
of contemporary Ireland. He was acquainted with
Welsh, though he does not seem to have preached it,
and another archdeacon acted as the interpreter of
Archbishop Baldwin's Crusade sermon in Anglesea.
But he could appreciate the charm of the Cynghanedd,
the alliterative assonance which is still the most dis-
tinctive feature of Welsh poetry. He cannot conceal
his sympathy with the imperishable determination of
his countrymen to keep alive the language which is
their differentia among the nations of the world. It
is manifest in the story which he relates at the end
of his " Description of Wales." Henry II. asked an
old Welshman of Pencader in Carmarthenshire if the
Welsh could resist his might. " This nation, O
King," was the reply, " may often be weakened and in
great part destroyed by the power of yourself and of

Introduction ix

others, but many a time, as it deserves, it will rise
triumphant. But never will it be destroyed by the
wrath of man, unless the wrath of God be added. Nor
do I think that any other nation than this of Wales, or
any other tongue, whatever may hereafter come to
pass, shall on the day of the great reckoning before the
Most High Judge, answer for this corner of the earth."
Prone to discuss with his " Britannic frankness " the
faults of his countrymen, he cannot bear that any one
else should do so. In the " Description of Wales " he
breaks off in the middle of a most unflattering passage
concerning the character of the Welsh people to lecture
Gildas for having abused his own countrymen. In
the preface to his " Instruction of Princes," he makes
a bitter reference to the prejudice of the English Court
against everything Welsh " Can any good thing come
from Wales ? " His fierce Welshmanship is perhaps
responsible for the unsympathetic treatment which he
has usually received at the hands of English historians.
Even to one of the writers of Dr. Traill's " Social Eng-
land," Gerald was little more than " a strong and
passionate Welshman."

Sometimes it was his pleasure to pose as a citizen
of the world. He loved Paris, the centre of learning,
where he studied as a youth, and where he lectured in
his early manhood. He paid four long visits to Rome.
He was Court chaplain to Henry II. He accompanied
the king on his expeditions to France, and Prince John
to Ireland. He retired, when old age grew upon him,
to the scholarly seclusion of Lincoln, far from his native
land. He was the friend and companion of princes
and kings, of scholars and prelates everywhere in Eng-
land, in France, and in Italy. And yet there was no
place in the world so dear to him as Manorbier. Who
can read his vivid description of the old castle by the
sea its ramparts blown upon by the winds that swept
over the Irish Sea, its fishponds, its garden, and its
lofty nut trees without feeling that here, after all,

x Introduction

was the home of Gerald de Barri ? "As Demetia," he
said in his " Itinerary," " with its seven cantreds is the
fairest of all the lands of Wales, as Pembroke is the
fairest part of Demetia, and this spot the fairest of Pem-
broke, it follows that Manorbier is the sweetest spot in
Wales." He has left us a charming account of his boy-
hood, playing with his brothers on the sands, they
building castles and he cathedrals, he earning the title
of " boy bishop " by preaching while they engaged in
boyish sport. On his last recorded visit to Wales, a
broken man, hunted like a criminal by the king, and
deserted by the ingrate canons of St. David's, he retired
for a brief respite from strife to the sweet peace of
Manorbier. It is not known where he died, but it is
permissible to hope that he breathed his last in the old
home which he never forgot or ceased to love.

He mentions that the Welsh loved high descent and
carried their pedigree about with them. In this re-
spect also Gerald was Welsh to the core. He is never
more pleased than when he alludes to his relationship
with the Princes of Wales, or the Geraldines, or Cad-
wallon ap Madoc of Powis. He hints, not obscurely,
that the real reason why he was passed over for the
Bishopric of St. David's in 1186 was that Henry II.
feared his natio et cognatio, his nation and his family.
He becomes almost dithyrambic in extolling the deeds
of his kinsmen in Ireland. " Who are they who
penetrated into the fastnesses of the enemy ? The
Geraldines. Who are they who hold the country in
submission ? The Geraldines. Who are they whom
the foemen dread ? The Geraldines. Who are they
whom envy would disparage ? The Geraldines. Yet
fight on, my gallant kinsmen,

" Felices facti si quid mea carmina possuit."

Gerald was satisfied, not only with his birthplace and
lineage, but with everything that was his. He makes
complacent references to his good looks, which he had

Introduction xi

inherited from Princess Nesta. " Is it possible so fair
a youth can die?" asked Bishop, afterwards Arch-
bishop, Baldwin, when he saw him in his student days. 1
Even in his letters to Pope Innocent he could not re-
frain from repeating a compliment paid to him on his
good looks by Matilda of St. Valery, the wife of his
neighbour at Brecon, William de Braose. He praises
his own unparalleled generosity in entertaining the
poor, the doctors, and the townsfolk of Oxford to ban-
quets on three successive days when he read his " Topo-
graphy of Ireland " before that university. As for his
learning he records that when his tutors at Paris wished
to point out a model scholar they mentioned Giraldus
Cambrensis. He is confident that though his works,
being all written in Latin, have not attained any great
contemporary popularity, they will make his name and
fame secure for ever. The most precious gift he could
give to Pope Innocent III., when he was anxious to win
his favour, was six volumes of his own works; and
when good old Archbishop Baldwin came to preach the
Crusade in Wales, Gerald could think of no better
present to help beguile the tedium of the journey than
his own " Topography of Ireland." He is equally
pleased with his own eloquence. When the arch-
bishop had preached, with no effect, for an hour, and
exclaimed what a hard-hearted people it was, Gerald
moved them almost instantly to tears. He records also
that John Spang, the Lord Rhys's fool, said to his
master at Cardigan, after Gerald had been preaching
the Crusade, " You owe a great debt, O Rhys, to your
kinsman, the archdeacon, who has taken a hundred or
so of your men to serve the Lord; for if he had only
spoken in Welsh, you would not have had a soul left."
His works are full of appreciations of Gerald's reforming
zeal, his administrative energy, his unostentatious and
scholarly life.

Professor Freeman in his " Norman Conquest " de-
1 " Mirror of the Church," ii. 33.

xii Introduction

scribed Gerald as " the father of comparative philo-
logy," and in the preface to his edition of the last
volume of Gerald's works in the Rolls Series, he calls
him " one of the most learned men of a learned age,"
" the universal scholar." His range of subjects is
indeed marvellous even for an age when to be a " uni-
versal scholar " was not so hopeless of attainment as
it has since become. Professor Brewer, his earliest
editor in the Rolls Series, is struck by the same
characteristic. " Geography, history, ethics, divinity,
canon law, biography, natural history, epistolary cor-
respondence, and poetry employed his pen by turns,
and in all these departments of literature he has left
memorials of his ability." Without being Ciceronian,
his Latin was far better than that of his contem-
poraries. He was steeped in the classics, and he had,
as Professor Freeman remarks, " mastered more lan-
guages than most men of his time, and had looked at
them with an approach to a scientific view which still
fewer men of his time shared with him." He quotes
Welsh, English, Irish, French, German, Hebrew, Latin,
and Greek, and with four or five of these languages at
least he had an intimate, scholarly acquaintance. His
judgment of men and things may not always have been
sound, but he was a shrewd observer of contemporary
events. " The cleverest critic of the life of his time "
is the verdict of Mr. Reginald Poole. 1 He changed his
opinions often: he was never ashamed of being incon-
sistent. In early life he was, perhaps naturally, an
admirer of the Angevin dynasty ; he lived to draw the
most terrible picture extant of their lives and char-
acters. During his lifetime he never ceased to inveigh
against Archbishop Hubert Walter; after his death he
repented and recanted. His invective was sometimes
coarse, and his abuse was always virulent. He was
not over-scrupulous in his methods of controversy;
but no one can rise from a reading of his works without
1 " Social England," vol. i. p. 342.

Introduction xiii

a feeling of liking for the vivacious, cultured, impul-
sive, humorous, irrepressible Welshman. Certainly no
Welshman can regard the man who wrote so lovingly
of his native land, and who championed her cause so
valiantly, except with real gratitude and affection.

But though it is as a writer of books that Gerald has
become famous, he was a man of action, who would
have left, had Fate been kinder, an enduring mark on
the history of his own time, and would certainly have
changed the whole current of Welsh religious life. As
a descendant of the Welsh princes, he took himself
seriously as a Welsh patriot. Destined almost from
his cradle, both by the bent of his mind and the inclina-
tion of his father, to don " the habit of religion," he
could not join Prince Rhys or Prince Llewelyn in then-
struggle for the political independence of Wales. His
ambition was to become Bishop of St. David's, and
then to restore the Welsh Church to her old position of
independence of the metropolitan authority of Canter-
bury. He detested the practice of promoting Normans
to Welsh sees, and of excluding Welshmen from high
positions in their own country. " Because I am a
Welshman, am I to be debarred from all preferment in
Wales ? " he indignantly writes to the Pope. Circum-
stances at first seemed to favour his ambition. His
uncle, David Fitz-Gerald, sat in the seat of St. David's.
When the young scholar returned from Paris in 1172,
he found the path of promotion easy. After the manner
of that age which Gerald lived to denounce he soon
became a pluralist. He held the livings of Llanwnda,
Tenby, and Angle, and afterwards the prebend of
Mathry, in Pembrokeshire, and the living of Chesterton
in Oxfordshire. He was also prebendary of Hereford,
canon of St. David's, and in 1175, when only twenty-
eight years of age, he became Archdeacon of Brecon.
In the following year Bishop David died, and Gerald,
together with the other archdeacons of the diocese,
was nominated by the chapter for the king's choice.

xiv Introduction

But the chapter had been premature, urged, no doubt,
by the impetuous young Archdeacon of Brecon. They
had not waited for the king's consent to the nomina-
tion. The king saw that his settled policy in Wales
would be overturned if Gerald became Bishop of St.
David's. Gerald's cousin, the Lord Rhys, had been
appointed the king's justiciar in South Wales. The
power of the Lord Marches was to be kept in check
by a quasi-alliance between the Welsh prince and his
over-lord. The election of Gerald to the greatest see
in Wales would upset the balance of power. David
Fitz-Gerald, good easy man (vir sua sorte contentus is
Gerald's description of him), the king could tolerate,
but he could not contemplate without uneasiness the
combination of spiritual and political power in South
Wales in the hands of two able, ambitious, and ener-
getic kinsmen, such as he knew Gerald and the Lord
Rhys to be. Gerald had made no secret of his admiration
for the martyred St. Thomas a Becket. He fashioned
himself upon him as Becket did on Anselm. The part
which Becket played in England he would like to play
in Wales. But the sovereign who had destroyed
Becket was not to be frightened by the canons of St.
David's and the Archdeacon of Brecon. He sum-
moned the chapter to Westminster, and compelled
them in his presence to elect Peter de Leia, the Prior
of Wenlock, who erected for himself an imperishable
monument in the noble cathedral which looks as if it
had sprung up from the rocks which guard the city of
Dewi Sant from the inrush of the western sea.

It is needless to recount the many activities in which
Gerald engaged during the next twenty-two years.
They have been recounted with humorous and affec-
tionate appreciation by Dr. Henry Owen in his mono-
graph on " Gerald the Welshman," a little masterpiece
of biography which deserves to be better known. 1 In

1 Published in the first instance in the "Transactions of the
Cymmrodaian Society," and subsequently amplified and brought
out in book form.

Introduction xv

1183 Gerald was employed by the astute king to settle
terms between him and the rebellious Lord Rhys.
Nominally as a reward for his successful diplomacy,
but probably in order to keep so dangerous a character
away from the turbulent land of Wales, Gerald was in
the following year made a Court chaplain. In 1 185 he
was commissioned by the king to accompany Prince
John, then a lad of eighteen, who had lately been
created " Lord of Ireland," to the city of Dublin.
There he abode for two years, collecting materials for his
two first books, the "Topography " and the " Conquest
of Ireland." In 1 1 88 he accompanied Archbishop Bald-
win through Wales to preach the Third Crusade not
the first or the last inconsistency of which the champion
of the independence of the Welsh Church was guilty.
His " Itinerary through Wales " is the record of the ex-
pedition. King Richard offered him the Bishopric of
Bangor, and John, in his brother's absence, offered him
that of Llandaff . But his heart was set on St. David's.
In 1198 his great chance came to him. At last, after
twenty-two years of misrule, Peter de Leia was dead,
and Gerald seemed certain of attaining his heart's
desire. Once again the chapter nominated Gerald;
once more the royal authority was exerted, this time
by Archbishop Hubert, the justiciar in the king's
absence, to defeat the ambitious Welshman. The
chapter decided to send a deputation to King Richard
in Normandy. The deputation arrived at Chinon to
find Coeur-de-Lion dead ; but John was anxious to make
friends everywhere, in order to secure himself on his un-
certain throne. He received the deputation graciously,
he spoke in praise of Gerald, and he agreed to accept
the nomination. But after his return to England
John changed his mind. He found that no danger
threatened him in his island kingdom, and he saw the
wisdom of the justiciar's policy. Gerald hurried to see
him, but John point blank refused publicly to ratify his
consent to the nomination which he had already given

xvi Introduction

in private. Then commenced the historic fight for
St. David's which, in view of the still active " Church
question " in Wales, is even now invested with a living
interest and significance. Gerald contended that the
Welsh Church was independent of Canterbury, and
that it was only recently, since the Norman Conquest,
that she had been deprived of her freedom. His oppo-
nents relied on political, rather than historical, consi-
derations to defeat this bold claim. King Henry, when
a deputation from the chapter in 1 1 75 appeared before
the great council in London and had urged the metro-
politan claims of St. David's upon the Cardinal' Legate,
exclaimed that he had no intention of giving this head
to rebellion in Wales. Archbishop Hubert, more of a
statesman than an ecclesiastic, based his opposition on
similar grounds. He explained his reasons bluntly to
the Pope. " Unless the barbarity of this fierce and
lawless people can be restrained by ecclesiastical cen-
sures through the see of Canterbury, to which province
they are subject by law, they will be for ever rising in
arms against the king, to the disquiet of the whole
realm of England." Gerald's answer to this was com-
plete, except from the point of view of political expedi-
ency. " What can be more unjust than that this
people of ancient faith, because they answer force by
force in defence of their lives, their lands, and their
liberties, should be forthwith separated from the body
corporate of Christendom, and delivered over to
Satan ? "

The story of the long fight between Gerald on the one
hand and the whole forces of secular and ecclesiastical
authority on the other cannot be told here. Three
times did he visit Rome to prosecute his appeal alone
against the world. He had to journey through dis-
tricts disturbed by wars, infested with the king's men
or the king's enemies, all of whom regarded Gerald
with hostility. He was taken and thrown into prison
as King John's subject in one town, he was detained by

Introduction xvii

importunate creditors in another, and at Rome he was
betrayed by a countryman whom he had befriended.
He himself has told us

Of the most disastrous chances
Of moving accidents by flood and field,

which made a journey from St. David's to Rome a more
perilous adventure in those unquiet days than an ex-
pedition " through darkest Africa " is in ours. At last
the very Chapter of St. David's, for whose ancient
rights he was contending, basely deserted him. " The
laity of Wales stood by me," so he wrote in later days,
" but of the clergy whose battle I was fighting scarce
one." Pope Innocent III. was far too wary a politician
to favour the claims of a small and distracted nation,
already half-subjugated, against the king of a rich and
powerful country. He flattered our poor Gerald, he
delighted in his company, he accepted, and perhaps
even read, his books. But in the end, after five years'
incessant fighting, the decision went against him, and
the English king's nominee has ever since sat on the
throne of St. David's. " Many and great wars," said
Gwenwynwyn, the Prince of Powis, " have we Welsh-
men waged with England, but none so great and fierce
as his who fought the king and the archbishop, and
withstood the might of the whole clergy and people of
England, for the honour of Wales."

Short was the memory and scant the gratitude of his
countrymen. When in 1214 another vacancy occurred
at a time when King John was at variance with his
barons and his prelates, the Chapter of St. David's
nominated, not Gerald, their old champion, but lor-
werth, the Abbot of Talley, from whose reforming zeal
they had nothing to fear. This last prick of Fortune's
sword pierced Gerald to the quick. He had for years
been gradually withdrawing from an active life. He
had resigned his archdeaconry and his prebend stall, he
had made a fourth pilgrimage, this time for his soul's

xviii Introduction

sake, to Rome, he had retired to a quiet pursuit of
letters probably at Lincoln, and henceforward, till his
death about the year 1223, he devoted himself to re-
vising and embellishing his old works, and completing
his literary labours. By his fight for St. David's he had
endeared himself to the laity of his country for all time.
The saying of Llewelyn the Great was prophetic. " So
long as Wales shall stand by the writings of the chroni-
clers and by the songs of the bards shall his noble deed
be praised throughout all time." The prophecy has
not yet been verified. Welsh chroniclers have made
but scanty references to Gerald ; no bard has ever yet
sung an Awdl or a Pryddest in honour of him who fought
for the " honour of Wales." His countrymen have for-
gotten Gerald the Welshman. It has been left to Sir
Richard Colt Hoare, Foster, Professor Brewer, Dim-
mock, and Professor Freeman to edit his works. Only
two of his countrymen have attempted to rescue one of
the greatest of Welshmen from an undeserved oblivion.
In 1585, when the Renaissance of Letters had begun to
rouse the dormant powers of the Cymry, Dr. David
Powel edited in Latin a garbled version of the ' 'Itinerary' '
and ' 'Description of Wales, ' ' and gave a short and inaccu-
rate account of Gerald's life. In 1889 Dr. Henry Owen
published, " at his own proper charges," the first ade-
quate account by a Welshman of the life and labours
of Giraldus Cambrensis. When his monument is

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