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Bibliographic information

Language: Latin

Covers years: 1190–1266

Manuscript: Exeter, Cathedral Library, 3514, pp. 507–19 (s. xiiiex).

Cronicon de Wallia

The Cronicon de Wallia occurs on pp. 507–19 of Exeter, Cathedral Library, 3514, a late thirteenth-century manuscript which contains a variety of historical, pseudo-historical and genealogical texts of both Welsh and universal interest. The provenance of this manuscript is probably Whitland Abbey, possibly Neath. It was in Exeter by the fourteenth century, at which time it received a contents list. Paleographically, it is very nearly indistinguishable from English manuscripts of the period, which is why it went unidentified as a Welsh manuscript (verifiable in its contents and marginalia) until the 1940s. The Cronicon de Wallia covers the years 1190–1266 (lacking 1217–27; 1249–53) and exhibits a mix of sources: entries from Welsh annals of St Davids and Strata Florida detailing the activities of Welsh princes and clergymen—mostly of Deheubarth and Gwynedd—are combined with abbreviated material from the Chronicle of Bury St Edmunds which accounts for the counter-activities of Marcher lords and English kings. This latter source is used from 1254–1266. The Strata Florida source drops off at 1248, indicating that the chronicle was not finished there. The provenance of the chronicle’s compilation is probably Whitland.

The chronicle is written in Hand 2 of the nine total scribal hands identified by Julia Crick, all writing in a Gothic liberari script. Jones and Flower suggested that it was copied into the Exeter manuscript c. 1280, possibly earlier; Crick has argued that the scribe was working in or after 1266, notably very near the date of Edwardian conquest and very nearly contemporary with the annal entries themselves. In this light she suggests that the manuscript’s contents represent an agenda on the part of compilers seeking to place Welsh history within a universal context, perhaps working against the threat of English dominance (Crick, p. 25).

The scholarly attention which this chronicle has received has been due, for the most part, to its close verbal similarities to Brut y Tywysogion, a Welsh vernacular chronicle translated from a lost Latin exemplar by the early fourteenth century. Though Cronicon de Wallia is not the Latin source for Brut y Tywysogion, they are thought to share a common Latin exemplar. In particular the years 1190–1216 have been called ‘the nearest we can come to the Latin original of the Brut y Tywysogyon in its earliest known version, before it became conflated with supplementary material’ (Hughes, p. 19). Cronicon de Wallia is also noteworthy for the very high quality of its Latin, with a wealth of Classical allusions, rhetorical flourishes and a remarkable complexity of syntax indicating a high level of Latin education in the writer, especially in those entries eulogizing the Lord Rhys ap Gruffudd (d. 1197). This high quality of Latinity is particularly interesting in a Welsh context, where little is known of medieval Latin-medium education. Cronicon de Wallia was edited by Thomas Jones in 1946 shortly after its discovery by Robin Flower, and a new edition is currently in the works.

Georgia Henley

Editions & Translation

  • Thomas Jones, “‘Cronica de Wallia” and Other Documents from Exeter Cathedral Library MS. 3514’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies,12 (1946), 27–44.

Secondary Scholarship

  • Julia Crick, ‘The Power and the Glory: Conquest and Cosmology in Edwardian Wales’, in Textual Cultures: Cultural Texts, ed. by Orietta Da Rold and Elaine Treharne (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2010), pp. 21–42.
  • Georgia Henley, ‘Rhetoric, Translation and Historiography: The Literary Qualities of Brut y Tywysogyon’, Quaestio Insularis: Selected Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic,13 (2012), 78–103.
  • Georgia Henley, ‘The Use of English Annalistic Sources in Medieval Welsh Chronicles’, Haskins Society Journal,26 (2015, forthcoming).
  • Kathleen Hughes, ‘The Welsh Latin Chronicles: Annales Cambriae and Related Texts’, Proceedings of the British Academy,59 (1973), 233–58; repr. in her Celtic Britain in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by David N. Dumville (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1980), pp. 67–85.
  • J. E. Lloyd, ‘The Welsh Chronicles’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 14 (1928), 369–91.
  • Paul Russell, ‘“Go and look in the Latin books”: Latin and the Vernacular in Medieval Wales’, in Latin in Medieval Britain, ed. by Richard Ashdowne and Carolinne White, Proceedings of the British Academy (2016, forthcoming).
  • J. Beverley Smith, ‘The “Cronica de Wallia” and the Dynasty of Dinefwr’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies,20 (1963–64), 261–82.

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