Richard of Devizes, Cronicon Richardi Divisensis De Tempore Regis Richardi Primi [The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes of the Time of King Richard I]
Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 339, f.38r
Completed some time between 1192 and 1198, the Cronicon of Richard of Devizes records contemporary events in England and Palestine from the coronation and subsequent departure of King Richard I from England for the Third Crusade until the king's decision to return from the Holy Land in 1192. Nearly everything known of Richard of Devizes' life comes from the small amount of autobiographical information supplied within the prologue of the Cronicon. Presumably from the town of Devizes thirty-five miles west of Winchester, Richard belonged to the Benedictine community of St. Swithun's connected to the Cathedral of Winchester. Richard states to have completed his chronicle at the request of his friend Robert, former prior of Swithun's and then Carthusian monk at Charterhouse. Only two manuscripts of Richard's Cronicon remain extant, and some scholars have postulated that these represent the only manuscripts of the work ever written.
Richard maintains an extremely ironic tone throughout the entirety of his chronicle. While the content of the narrative appears almost entirely independent from any other contemporary historical sources, Richard's style displays a significant dependence on the satires of Roman authors such as Juvenal and Horace. In a manner similar to the ancient satirists Richard consistently exhibits a clever humor throughout his work, often mocking the political actors of his age, resenting zealous religious sentiments, and ridiculing local legends and folk lore. Many of the anecdotes present throughout the chronicle end abruptly and anticlimactically in a manner that mockingly undermines their seriousness. Richard appears to consciously disregard the traditional norms of twelfth-century historical writing, and refuses to moralize or exegize history despite his monastic background. The primary concern of Richard revolves around power and the unfettered ambition of the English aristocracy in the absence of Richard I. In this context, Richard frequently paints the English barons as puerile politicians committing virtual treason against the absent king. Richard's loyalty to Richard I corresponds to his general worldly conservatism and attachment to institutions, aristocratic values, and high culture.
Importance for the Study of Angevin History:
Richard's Cronicon offers an interesting and independent perspective on the political climate of late twelfth-century England which often eschews modern historians' expectations of how medieval individuals thought and wrote. While Richard presents a general and mostly unreliable account of the Third Crusade in his Cronicon, his connection to the important city of Winchester and his proximity to powerful authorities such as Bishop Geoffrey make his commentary on contemporary English history extremely valuable. As the Cronicon appears wholly original to Richard, the views expressed within its pages represent his independent observations of a pivotal time in English history. Yet, much remains uncertain about the purpose of Richard's chronicle, its intended audience, and the impetus of Richard's satire.
Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 339.
British Library, MS Cotton Domitian A. XIII.
Stevenson, Joseph. Cronicon Ricardi Divisensis de rebus gestis Ricardi primi Regis Angliae. English Historical Society: 1838.
Howlett, Richard. Chronicles of the reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, vol.3. London: Longman, 1886.
Richard of Devizes. Chronicle. Translated by J. A. Giles. Cambridge, Ontario: In parentheses Publications: 2000.
Richard of Devizes. The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes of the Time of King Richard the First. Edited by John Appleby. New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1963.
Staunton, Michael. The Historians of Angevin England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Appleby, John. Introduction to The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes of the Time of King Richard the First. By Richard of Devizes, edited by John Appleby. New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1963.
Partner, Nancy. "Richard of Devizes: The Monk Who Forgot to be Medieval. In The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources. Edited by Jason Glenn. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.
Gillingham, John. "Richard Devizes and 'a Rising Tide of Nonsense': How Cerdic met Arthur. In The Long Twelfth-Century View of the Anglo-Saxon Past. Edited by Martin Brett and David A. Woodman. New York: Routledge, 2016.