Roger of Wendover

Biography

Roger of Wendover was a monk based at St Albans Abbey, Buckinghamshire, the county of his birth. He became known as one of the most notable thirteenth century chroniclers, and was based from  1217 as the prior to the daughter house in Belvoir. He died in 1236 and his work was immediately taken over by Matthew Paris, another famous chronicler. 

Education and Life Events

With no specific sources relating to his education we can infer from his position as a prior that he received the standard ecclesiastical education. However, he clearly had an original mind, as his flores historiarum uses sources to corroborate his argument in a manner uncommon at the time.

Noted Works

  • Flores Historiarum
  • Chronica Majora (By Matthew Paris but this book was a continuation of his work; until 1259 when Paris died)

Reputation and Impact

Wendover is famous because of his unfinished chronicle titled The Flowers of History’(Flores Historiarum)., which covered the history of the world from Creation up until his death in 1236. It was divided into two books but the most important sections are from his own time. He covers the Magna Carta, however there is some controversy surrounding this subject matter; he is responsible for the negative image of King John from his works. These ideas were further perpetuated by Paris, which can be extrapolated from his work ‘Chronica Majora’. It has been speculated, however, that because he didn’t have primary access to the Magna Carta, he has made up his own version of it. This can be seen as a type of forgery as we, as historians, have no access to the real truth and our discipline tells us not to trust the information given to us considering the nature of Wendover’s claims. This has tainted some of his work with falsities. Also within his work are some lost sources that we do to have available to us today. He covers the Anglo Saxon period with these. The structure is rather canonical.

That his work on his death was taken over by Matthew Paris is an indication of his strong reputation; as indeed was his position at St Albans, which at the time was one of England’s leading religious houses. His work benefited from his location, as both he and Paris had access to first hand events from people very high up the hierarchy as well as access to many documents in its archives.

He was a major inspiration for the fifteenth century historian Thomas Walsingham. 

 

Image: (source: Illustration: Matthew Paris - drawn by Matthew Paris (British Library, Royal 14 CVII f.6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography/Reading List

Giles, J.A, Roger of Wendover: From Dot of Domesday, 2016 URL: http://www.dot-domesday.me.uk/matwest.htm (accessed 10/02/2016)

M Pages, The Image of the Assassins in Medieval European Texts, (Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 2007)

Luard, Matthew, Reading, R de, Flores Historiarum, (America: Harvard University, 1890)

The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, Chroniclers of St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire, 2012 URL: https://www.stalbanscathedral.org/history/the-road-to-magna-carta/chroniclers-of-st-albans-abbey (accessed 10/02/2016)

Further Reading:

Richard Vaughan, Matthew Paris (Cambridge, 1958)

Richard Vaughan, Chronicles of Matthew Paris; Monastic Life in the 13th Century (Gloucester, 1984)

Nicholas Vincent, Magna Carta, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012)