Patrick C. DeBrosse
Avranches, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS. 159, f. 205r
From Pohl, "Date and Context," p. 11.
Avranches, Bibliothèque Municipale, Ms. 159. [Robert's working copy]
While Robert's working copy of the Chronicle survives, the subsequent manuscript tradition is complicated by the fact that some copies seem to have been made at intermediate stages during Robert's composition. An overview of the 18 surviving "core" manuscripts and their relationship to one another is in Delisle, "Préface," liii-lv. Howlett, "Preface," pp. xxxvii-lxv, offers somewhat different conclusions about these same 18 manuscripts. Benjamin Pohl reevaluated and revised some of Delisle and Howlett's conclusions in Pohl, "Date and Context," 1-18.
Modern Editions and Translations
Robert of Torigni. Roberti de Monte Cronica. In G. H. Pertz (ed.), Monumenta Germaniae
historica inde ab anno Christi quingentensimo usque ad annum millesimum et quingentesimum: Scriptorum; Tomus VI, edited by C. Berthmann, 475-535. Hanover: Impensis Bibliopolii, 1844.
_____. Chronique de Robert de Torigni, abbé du Mont-Saint-Michel. 2 volumes. Edited by
Léopold Delisle. Rouen: A. Le Brumentm 1872-3.
_____. Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II., and Richard I.: Vol. IV; The Chronicle of
Robert of Torigni, Abbot of the Monastery of St. Michael-in-Peril-of-the-Sea. Edited by Richard Howlett. London: HMSO, 1889.
_____. The Chronicles of Robert de Monte. In The Church Historians of England: vol. IV; Part
II. Translated by Joseph Stevenson. London: Seeleys, 1856. [partial English translation].
Robert of Torigni, monk of Bec and subsequently (from 1154) abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel, was a prolific writer, whose first major project was a continuation of the Gesta Normannorum Ducum. Robert's Chronicle, was his ambitious follow-up: a world history, which sought to narrate events from the time of Abraham to Robert's own lifetime, with a particular emphasis on events within Normandy and England. Robert copied the bulk of the pre-1100 portion of his Chronicle from Sigebert of Gembloux, but interpolated material from other authors freely. For the period between 1100 and 1147, Robert relied upon Henry of Huntingdon's Historia Anglorum, though Robert altered the text of the Historia substantially in places. From 1147 Robert's Chronicle becomes original. Robert seems to have created an initial draft that ended in 1150, but gradually expanded the Chronicle to cover events through 1186, the year of Robert's death. The Chronicle owes much to annalistic writing in terms of style, and tends to offer few authorial judgments of the events described. Robert does, however, offer occasional comments about events that he witnessed in person. Throughout the sections original to Robert, he pays particular attention to local Church affairs, such as the succession of Norman abbots and bishops.
Importance for the study of Angevin History
The Chronicle is distinct as a work begun at the very start of Henry II's reign, written in a style which had become old-fashioned by the end of Henry's reign (in contrast to the forms of history-writing pioneered by secular clerics at Henry's court). Robert's Chronicle, unlike many histories from the Angevin period, was completed before the death of Henry II, the events of the Third Crusade, and the Loss of Normandy, so it does not look forward to these events as later histories often do. Though the Chronicle has received less scholarly attention than other works of the Angevin period, Robert's status as a powerful abbot has led to scholarly discussion of his relationship with Henry II, and of how history-writing figured into that relationship. Scholars such as Elisabeth van Houts see in Robert an opportunistic author, who was able to use history-writing to gain promotion and concessions from Henry II by praising Matilda's faction in his passages on the Anarchy, extolling the genealogy of the dukes of the Normans, and sticking to a conventional, accessible, and inoffensive form of annalistic writing. Robert's pro-Henry II stance is evident from the fact that he seems to have presented a copy of the Chronicle to Henry. More generally, David Bates sees in Robert a devotee of "Normanitas" who suppressed material critical of the Norman people and who sought out books about Normans from far-away places such as Sicily. Equally important for Bates, Robert displays an intense interest in the history of England, suggesting that Robert felt a sense of unified cross-Channel identity. Finally, as the scholarly debates over the date at which Robert acquired Henry of Huntingdon's Historia and over Robert's scribal practices indicate, the Chronicle allows us to peak into the twelfth-century intellectual and social spheres that fostered history-writing. It is clear from Robert's incorporation of the Historia into his Chronicle and from the copies had had made of the Chronicle that there was an intense demand for history-writing during the Angevin period, and that there was a strong, self-conscious dialogue between monastic scholars of different parts of the Angevin Empire.
Bates, David. "Robert of Torigni and the Historia Anglorum." In The English and Their Legacy:
900-1200: Essays in Honour of Ann Williams, edited by David Roffe, 175-84. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2012.
Delisle, Léopold. "Préface," In Chronique de Robert de Torigni, abbé du Mont-Saint-Michel, 2
volumes, edited by Léopold Delisle, i-lxv. Rouen: A. Le Brumentm 1872-3.
Howlett, Richard. "Preface." Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II., and Richard I.: Vol.
IV; The Chronicle of Robert of Torigni, Abbot of the Monastery of St. Michael-in-Peril- of-the-Sea, edited by Richard Howlett, vii-lxix. London: HMSO, 1889.
Pohl, Benjamin. "Abbas qui et scriptor? The Handwriting of Robert of Torigni and His Scribal
Activity As Abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel (1154-1186)." Traditio 69 (2014): 45-86.
_____. "The Date and Context of Robert of Torigni’s Chronica in London, British Library,
Cotton MS. Domitian A. VIII, ff. 71r-94v." Electronic British Library Journal (2016): http://www.bl.uk/eblj/2016articles/article1.html.
Van Houts, Elisabeth. "Latin and French as Languages of the Past in Normandy during the Reign
of Henry II: Robert of Torigny, Stephen of Rouen, and Wace." In Writers of the Reign of Henry II: Twelve Essays, edited by Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones, 53-78. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
_____. "Robert of Torigni As Genealogist." In Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. Allen
Brown, edited by Christopher Harper-Bill, Christopher J. Holdsworth, and Janet L. Nelson, 215-34. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1989.
_____. "Le roi et son historien: Henri II Plantagenêt et Robert de Torigni, abbé du Saint-Michel."
Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale 37, no. 145-1 (1994): 115-8.