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Benedict of Peteiborough (1177-1193)

The chronicle which goes under the name of this writer extends from the Christmas of 1169 to Easter, 1 192. According to Dr. Stubbs' theory it is a strictly-Speaking contemporaneous document for the years 1172 to 1177 - the period at which the first issue of the original work seems to have ended - and also, in all probability, more or less contemporaneous from 1180 to the end. It is assigned to Benedict, abbot of Peterborough, on the insufficient authority of a MS. which is headed " Gesta Henrici II. Benedicti Abbatis" (Cotton MS. Julius A. xi). This superscription is however probably more than half a century later than the MS. itself, and is to be explained by the words of a thirteenth century writer, Robert of Swaflham, who tells us that Benedict of Peteiborough or abbot of Peteiborough (1177-1193) " caused many books to be copied out ' ' for the monastic library. Amongst these was the " Gesta Regis Henrici Secimdi."

Thus Benedict seems merely to have had a copy made of a MS. that already existed and of which there is no reason to suppose that he was the author. On the whole Dr. Stubbs is inclined to see in the first section of this work an adaptation of the Tri-Columnis " a treatise in which Richard Fitz-Neal, the king's treasurer from 1159-1198, drew up an annual account of the most important occurrences in English ecclesiastical, regal, and legal affairs. The passages relating to the first Crusade, more especially the journal of Richard's progress from Lyons to Messina, probably embody the information contained in some Crusader's journal, or news brought home to England before the return of the expedition.

Of the principal MSS. one ending in 1177 seems to represent the earliest form of the work; while others represent it as continued down to 1 192. The latter MS. has been seriously damaged by fire, though fortunately not before it had been most carefully copied out by Wanley. It was of course on a copy of the later edition of the Gesta Henrici that Roger of Howden based that part of his chronicle which extends from 1170-1192. Dr. Stubbs' edition of Benedict has superseded all others.


Bibliography:

GILES, Life and Miracles of St. Thomas of Canterbury, by Benedict, etc. (Caxton Society, 1850).

Mullinger, Introduction to the Study of English History, London, 1894.

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