Carmen Ambrosii

In the opinion of Dr. Stubbs, the Itinerarium was written originally in Latin and not in French, though this editor even in 1864 admitted that the hasty notes on which he supposed it to have been based might have been jotted down in the latter tongue. But the work, as it is now preserved, could not possibly, he contended, be a translation from the French or even a free rendering of a French history. On the other hand, as Dr. Stubbs himself pointed out, there was the distinct assertion of the author of the Chronicon Terrae Snnctae that the stoiy of Richard's expedition was to be found fully treated in the book which the prior of the Holy Trinity at London caused to be translated out of French (ex Gallica lingua) into English. Trivet also, as noticed above, declares the author of our Itinerarium, from which he quotes, to have written his work both in prose and verse. Hence the only way to reconcile the statements of Trivet and the author of the Chronicon is to assume that the Itinerarium was based on a French poem— a theory which a remarkable discovery of the last few years has rendered highly probable.

In 1873 an entirely new light was thrown upon the question by MM. Gustave Monod and Gaston Paris. These scholars drew attention to a late thirteenth century MS. the value of which, though it had long been known to exist in the National library at Paris, they were the first to appreciate.

This MS. written in seven-syllabled rhyming couplets of French verse turned out to be an account of Richard I.'s Crusade, and at a first glance was seen to correspond to Books II.-VI. of the Itinerarium. Its author more Jhan once discloses his name, Ambrose; and from his calling the Normans his ancestors it would seem that he was a Norman by birth, or at least by origin. He is probably to be identified with a certain Ambrose, one of the king John's Jrrlvswho in the English Rolls receives a payment for singing a hymn at king John's second coronation [Oct. 2, 1200].

There can be no doubt that Itinerarium is based upon the Carmen Ambrosii, or vice versa. The close resemblances of the two narratives can be explained on no other supposition. Of the two alternatives, even if we set aside Trivet's evidence, there need be no hesitation in embracing the first. The Itinerarium is plainly a rhetorical exercise, and is from this point of view distinctly a development of the simple rhymes of the Noiman poet. Again, where the two writers make any allusion to themselves the author of the Itinerarium uses the vague "we" a striking contrast to the direct use of the first person singular which we find in Ambrose.

From these remarks it will be seen that there are elements of truth in the statements made both by the author of the Chronicon Terra Sanctce and Nicholas Trivet. For, as we have just shewn, the Itinerarinm is closely related to a French poem.

There still however remains the problem as to how a writer who was so plainly amplifying and embellishing an earlier work could possibly speak of the Itinerarium as drawn up amid the din of camps. The full solution of the difficulty must be left till we have the edition of the whole poem promised us by MM. Monod and Paris. Till then it would seem either that Richard de Templo, if he be the author of the Itinerarium, was uttering a deliberate falsewood or, we must assign to Ambrose not only the French original but also the Latin translation. The latter alternative seems preferable, and indeed is in closer consonance with the words of the Chronicon Terroe Sanctce, which does not say that the Prior of the Holy Trinity translated his work but caused it to be translated (ex Gallica lingua in Latinum fecit transferri) . It is well however to notice that the writer of the Itinerarium appears to have reached the Holy Land along with Archbishop Baldwin in Sept. 1190; whereas Ambrose was still in Sicily at Christmas.

Dr. Stubbs has recorded his opinion that there is no difference of style between the earlier and later books of the Itinerarium. This is a very delicate topic on which to touch ; but, to the present editor, it seems indisputable that the later books (perhaps even including the second itself) are written with far more rhetorical display than the first. They may possibly be the work of the same author, but they are far more verbose than the earlier one. Now, as the preface, in one MS. at least, belongs to this first book only, there is nothing to prevent us from holding that the writer is there offering his apology for the somewhat blunt and, as he would think, inartistic style of these early chapters which he may actually have written, in their first form, during the siege of Acre. Later, when he completed his history and touched up the entire narrative, he may not have been unwilling to allow his original preface to stand for an introduction to the whole work, as a kind of apology for any short-comings and an assurance to his readers that they had not yet got the best he was capable of giving them. If this be so, the Itinerarium in its present form holds towards the original first book and the Song of Ambrose much the same position as Baldric of Dol holds to Tudebodc, or the author of the Gesta Francorum among the historians of the first Crusade.


1- Ambroise, The third crusade : an eyewitness account of the campaigns of Richard Coeur-de-Lion in Cyprus and the Holy Land,    Folio Society, 1958.

2- Edbury (E.), Third Crusade, Pearson Education, Limited.

3- Tyerman (Ch.), The Third Crusade: 1188-1192, Folio Society, 2004.