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For Earl Henry, father of two Scottish kings, see Henry of Scotland, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon


Henry of Huntingdon (c. 1080–1160) was an English historian of the 12th century and archdeacon of Huntingdon.

Life

Not much is known about Henry, the Archdeacon in the Diocese of Lincolnmarker (c. 1110-1154). There are no personal correspondences or anecdotes that survived his life and it seemed that no one considered him important enough to have written a memorial. His biography depends upon a few notices scattered through his own work and in a few places where he left his name in the course of his official duties. He never does mention his mother, though his father, Nicholas, who was the first Archdeacon of Huntingdon was a clerk in holy orders, though not necessarily a priest. He had enough influence with his superior, the Bishop of Lincoln, to secure the succession of his title for Henry, which was a substantial inheritance for a man who had not yet reached thirty.

He was received as a little boy into the family of Robert Bloet of Lincoln and grew up in luxury. From that moment until he was a young man, he lived in the wealth and splendour of England's richest Episcopal court which would attach him in gratitude to the interest of powerful ecclesiastical statesmen. The way in which he was raised gave him a positive outlook towards the world, however in later years he learned to feel a certain recoil distrust of which he called contemptus mundi, a feeling which encompasses much of his mature literary work. Bishop Bloet's successor, the Bishop Alexander of Lincoln became sensible of Henry's aptitude for business and employed him frequently for important affairs, though it remains clear that Henry owed his promotion thanks to the patronage of Bishop Bloet. It was due to Bishop Alexander's request that Henry began to write the Historia Anglorum (The History of The English). The formal prologue of his History was addressed to Bishop Alexander, written in a floridly dense high style that allowed him to parade himself before retreating into dutiful obscurity behind the chroniclers he had used. His prologue was written as an elaborate defence of the writing of history and to show off his degree of education.

Over the years, his contempt for the world grew, which was the informing spirit of his literary work and spiritual life. During his travels, he began to notice that people were more worried about taking care of their belongings rather than themselves, leading him to write a long poem on De contemptu visibilum

Overall, the small quantity of information about him is concrete and suggestive, hinting at a life lived just below the first ranks of property and talent in an age of personal reticence. He mentions Lanfranc as having been "famous in our own time", which places Henry's birthdate a few years before 1109, when Lanfranc died. His Historia Anglorum leaves off in 1154 with the promise of another book for the new reign; however since that book was never written it may be assumed that Henry died shortly after 1154.

Writings

Historia

Henry's most notable work bears the title of Historia Anglorum which was first printed by Sir Henry Savile in 1596 in the volume entitled, Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores post Bedam praecipui. He was bidden by Bishop Alexander of Blois to write a History of England, from the earliest period and bringing it to modern times, ending it upon the accession of Henry II. (c.1154) It was assumed that the first edition, though there exists no surviving copy today, was published at the end of 1129, the second in 1135, at the end of the reign of Henry I. He kept publishing new editions as the years went on, the final fifth copy coming down in 1154, supposedly to terminate the History with the death of Stephen of England, leaving his History organized into eight books. There is some evidence that Henry did not intend to stop there, intending to add another book to his series that would cover the events of the first five years of the reign of Henry II. It was never carried out as Henry of Huntingdon must have been at least seventy years old by the time of the king's accession and he died shortly afterwards.

The sources from which Henry drew his information included:



Other Works

As an author, Henry distinguished himself in his youth by writing epigrams and poetry of various kinds. He wrote an Epistle to Henry I on the Succession of foreign kings and emperors up to their own time, another to a man named Warin containing an account of the ancient British kings, from Brute to Cadwaller, the information of which he received from a monk while he was at the Abbey of Bec which held the British History of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

His most notable Epistle was to his friend Walter on "Contempt on the world, or on the Bishops and other Illustrious Men of his Age" which from direct evidence written within it would link the date of its creation to 1135.

Contribution

The contribution that Henry of Huntingdon brought to history cannot solely rest with his Historia Anglorum but must also include his Epistles. All of these writings offer insight into the minds of those living in the Twelfth Century and illuminate how historians of the time went about recording history and corresponding with their peers. Henry's legacy consists of his own contribution to England's history and his recorded thoughts and ideas, thereby opening a valuable perspective on his era's mindset.

Notes

  1. Partner, pp.11-12
  2. Partner, p.12-13
  3. Historia Anglorum
  4. Forester,p.x
  5. Partner, p.19
  6. Partner, p. 40
  7. Partner, p.11
  8. Huntingdon, pp.ix-xvi
  9. Forester, pp.xi-xii


Bibliography

  • Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum
    • ed. and tr. Diana E. Greenway, Henry Archdeacon of Huntingdon. Historia Anglorum. The History of the English People. OMT. Oxford, 1996.
    • ed. Thomas Arnold, Henrici archidiaconi Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum. The History of the English by Henry Archdeacon of Huntingdon. From AD 55 to AD 1154. Rolls series 74. London, 1879. Reprinted by Kraus in 1965.
    • tr. D.E. Greenway, Henry of Huntingdon. The History of the English People, 1000-1154. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. ISBN 0192840754
    • tr. Thomas Forester, The Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853. George Bell and Sons, 1876. Reprinted by AMS Press in New York, 1968.


  • Greenway, D.E. "Authority, convention and observation in Henry of Huntingdon's Historia Anglorum." Anglo-Norman Studies 18 (1995): 105–21.
  • Greenway, D.E. "Henry of Huntingdon and the manuscripts of his Historia Anglorum." Anglo-Norman Studies 9 (1986): 103–26.
  • Partner, Nancy F. Serious Entertainments: The writing of History in Twelfth-Century England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.



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