Geoffrey of Monmouth

Historian and Bishop of St Asaph, Wales (c.1095–1155)

Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gaufridus Monemutensis, or Galfridus Arthurus (c. 1095[1]– c. 1155) was a British chronicler, poet and bishop, possibly of Breton descent. His hugely influential but for the most part fictional History of the Kings of Britain popularised the legends of King Arthur, Merlin, Cymbeline and Brutus of Troy, and originated the story of King Lear.



Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain)


English versions are by Aaron Thompson (adapted by John Allen Giles), and are taken from John Allen Giles (ed.) Six Old English Chronicles (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1848), to which page-numbers also refer.

  • Diva potens nemorum terror silvestribus ac spes!
    Cui licet anfractus ire per ethereos,
    Infernasque domos terrestria iura resolve.
    Et dic quas terras nos habitare velis.
    Dic certam sedem qua te venerabor in euum.
    Qua tibi virgineis templa dicabo choris.
    • Goddess of woods, tremendous in the chase
      To mountain boars, and all the savage race!
      Wide o'er the ethereal walks extends thy sway,
      And o'er the infernal mansions void of day!
      Look upon us on earth! unfold our fate,
      And say what region is our destined seat?
      Where shall we next thy lasting temples raise?
      And choirs of virgins celebrate thy praise?
    • Bk. 1, ch. 11; pp. 100-101.
  • Brute sub occasu solis trans Gallica regna
    Insula in occeano est habitata gigantibus olim.
    Nunc deserta quidem gentibus apta tuis.
    Illa tibi fietque tuis locus aptus in aevum;
    Hec erit et natis altera Troia tuis,
    Hic de prole tua reges nascentur et ipsis
    Totius terrae subditus orbis erit.
    • Brutus! there lies beyond the Gallic bounds
      An island which the western sea surrounds,
      By giants once possessed; now few remain
      To bar thy entrance, or obstruct thy reign.
      To reach that happy shore thy sails employ;
      There fate decrees to raise a second Troy,
      And found an empire in thy royal line,
      Which time shall ne'er destroy, nor bounds confine.
    • Bk. 1, ch. 11; p. 101.
  • "Est uspiam pater mi filia quae patrem suum plus quam patrem presumat diligere? Non reor equidem ullam esse quae hoc fateri audeat nisi iocosis veritatem celare nitatur. Nempe ego dilexi te semper ut patrem, et adhuc a proposito meo non divertor. Et si ex me magis extorquere insistis, audi cercudinem amoris quae adversum te habeo et interrogationibus tuis finem impone: et enim quantum habes tantum vales tantumque te diligo."
    • "My father," said she, "is there any daughter that can love her father more than duty requires? In my opinion, whoever pretends to it, must disguise her real sentiments under the veil of flattery. I have always loved you as a father, nor do I yet depart from my purposed duty; and if you insist to have something more extorted from me, hear now the greatness of my affection, which I always bear you, and take this for a short answer to all your questions; look how much you have, so much is your value, and so much do I love you."
    • Bk. 2, ch. 11; p. 115.
  • In hec verba cum fletu et singultu prupit. "O irrevocabilia seria fatorum quae solito cursu fixum iter tenditis cur unquam me ad instabilem felicitatem promovere volvistis cum maior pena sit ipsam amissam recolere quam sequentis infelicitatis presentia urgeri."
    • With deep sighs and tears, he burst forth into the following complaint: – "O irreversible decrees of the Fates, that never swerve from your stated course! why did you ever advance me to an unstable felicity, since the punishment of lost happiness is greater than the sense of present misery?"
    • Bk. 2, ch. 12; p. 117.
  • Accedens deinde proprius rege flexis genibus dixit. "Lauerd King, wassheil." At ille visa facie puelle admiratus est tantum eius decorum et incalvit. Denique interrorogavit interpretem suum quid dixerat puella, et quid ei respondere deberet. Cui interpres dixit, "Vocavit te dominum regem et vocabulo salutacionis honoravit. Quid autem respondere debes est 'drincheil.'"
    • She approached the king, and making a low courtesy, said to him, "Lauerd king wacht heil!" The king, at the sight of the lady's face, was on a sudden both surprised and inflamed with her beauty; and calling on his interpreter, asked him what she said, and what answer he should make her. "She called you, 'Lord king,'" said the interpreter, "and offered to drink your health. Your answer to her must be, Drinc heil!"
    • Bk. 6, ch. 12; p. 186.
  • Tunc invitatis probissimis quibusque ex longe positis regnis, cepit familiam suam augmentare, tantamque facetiam in domo sua habere ita et emulationem longe manentibus populis ingereret. Unde nobilissimus quisque incitatus nichili pendebat se nisi sese sive in induendo sive in arma ferendo ad modo militum Arturi haberet.
    • After this, having invited over to him all persons whatsoever that were famous for valour in foreign nations, he began to augment the number of his domestics, and introduced such politeness into his court, as people of the remotest countries thought worthy of their imitation. So that there was not a nobleman who thought himself of any consideration, unless his clothes and arms were made in the same fashion as those of Arthur's knights.
    • Bk. 9, ch. 11; p. 239.
  • Quicumque vero famosus probitate miles in eadem erat unius coloris vestibus atque armis utebatur facete etiam mulieres consimilia indumenta habentes. Nullius amorem habere dignabantur nisi tercio in milicia probates esset. Efficiebantur ergo caste et meliores et milites pro amore illarum probiores.
    • The knights in [Britain] that were famous for feats of chivalry, wore their clothes and arms all of the same colour and fashion: and the women also no less celebrated for their wit, wore all the same kind of apparel; and esteemed none worthy of their love, but such as had given a proof of their valour in three several battles. Thus was the valour of the men an encouragement for the women's chastity, and the love of the women a spur to the soldier's bravery.
    • Bk. 9, ch. 13; pp. 244-5.
    • Sometimes said to be the earliest reference to love as an ennobling influence.
  • Set et inclitus ille rex Arturus letaliter vulneratus est qui illuc ad sananda vulnera sua in insulam Avallonis evectus, Constantino cognato suo, et filio Cadoris ducis Cornubie diadema Britannie concessit.
    • And even the renowned king Arthur himself was mortally wounded; and being carried thence to the isle of Avallon to be cured of his wounds, he gave up the crown of Britain to his kinsman Constantine, the son of Cador, duke of Cornwall.
    • Bk. 11, ch. 2; p. 271.
  1. "Geoffrey of Monmouth (floruit 1112-1139/ lifespan circa 1095-1155)"