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Richard of Devizes Chronicle

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Chronicle of the deeds of Richard I

Richard of Devizes

Chronicon de rebus gestis Ricardi Primi


To the Venerable Father Robert, his very good Lord, formerly Prior of the Church of Winchester, health to persevere in the good work he has begun, his faithful servant, Richard, surnamed of Devizes, sends greeting: -

Sect. 1. After you had happily proceeded to the Charter House (1) from our church of Winchester, much and often did I desire to follow you who had thus departed, peradventure to remain with you, but certainly to behold what you were about, how you lived, and whether the Carthusian cell is more exalted and nearer heaven than the cloister of Winchester. It pleased God at length to satisfy my wish. I came, and oh that I had come alone! I went thither making the third, and those who went with me were the cause of my return. My desire displeased them, and they caused my fervour, I will not say error, to grow cold. I saw with you that which elsewhere I had not seen, which I could not have believed, and which I could not sufficiently admire. In each of your cells there is one door according to custom, which you are permitted to open at pleasure, but to go out by it is not permitted except so much as that one foot should always remain in the cell, within the threshold. The brethren may step out with one foot, whichever they please, but the other must remain in the cell. A great and solemn oath is to be taken that the door by which it is not permitted to enter or depart should be kept open. I am astonished also at another thing; abounding in all the good things of this world, as having nothing, yet possessing all things, more compassionate and humane than all men, having the most perfect love

(1) At Witham.

one to another, you divide the affection of charity to strangers, you bless without giving supplies to your guests. Nor do I less admire, in the third place, that living to yourselves apart out of society, and singly, you understand all the great things achieved in the world as they happen, and even sometimes you know them prior to their being accomplished. Do not, however, consider it want of respect in me to your more than Pythagorean taciturnity, if I shall dare presume to address men of so great gravity, and so arduous profession, rather with the trifles of the world than mere idle gossip.

Sect. 2. Nevertheless, although, as it is thought, the Omniscient God is with you and in you, and through Him you know all things, and not from man, nor yet by man, you were pleased, as you said, that my essay would be a solace to you, inasmuch as in the first place I should write to you a history of the fresh changes, which the world has produced, turning squares into circles (more especially since your transmigration to the celled heaven, by means of which the world may appear more worthless to you, having its fickleness before your eyes), and, secondly, that a well-known hand might recall to you the memory of one beloved. Oh! ( what delight if that holy spirit, if the angel of the Lord, if the deified man who is become already of the number of the gods, should deign to remember me before the great God, me, who am scarcely worthy to be accounted a man. I have done that which you desired, do that which you have promised. And that the little book may have a commencement of some importance, I have begun a little higher than was stipulated, making our Royal house troubled like that of Œdipus, the bounds of my work, commencing at the latter part, not daring to hope to unravel the whole. Why, and how, and when, the father may have crowned his son, how great things and of what importance thence ensued; who and how often and what regions they embroiled; with what success they all ended I have left to those who produce greater works: my narrative serves only for the living.

In the Year of the Lord MCLXXXIX.

Sect. 3. Now in the year of our Lord's incarnation 1189, Richard, the son of king Henry II. by Eleanor, brother of Henry III.,(2) was consecrated king of the English by Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, at Westminster, on the third of the nones of September (3 Sept.). On the very day of the coronation, about that solemn hour, in which the Son was immolated to the Father, a sacrifice of the Jews to their father the devil was commenced in the city of London, and so long was the duration of this famous mystery, that the holocaust could scarcely be accomplished the ensuing day. The other cities and towns of the kingdom emulated the faith of the Londoners, and with a like devotion despatched their bloodsuckers with blood to hell. In this commotion there was prepared, although unequally, some evil against the wicked, everywhere throughout the realm, only Winchester alone, the people being prudent and circumspect, and the city always acting mildly spared its vermin. It never did any thing over-speedily; fearing nothing more than to repent, it considers the result of every thing before the commencement. It was unwilling, unprepared, to cast up violently through the parts the indigestion by which it was oppressed to its bodily peril, and it was careful for its bowels, in the mean time temperately concealing its uneasiness, until it should be possible for it, at a convenient time for cure, to cast out the whole cause of the disease at once and once for all.

Sect. 4. Not without the anxious solicitude and amazement of many, a bat was seen, in the middle and bright part of the day, to flutter through the monastery, inconveniently recircling in the same tracks, and especially around the king's throne.

Sect. 5. William de Longchamp, who had been the chancellor of the earl of Poitiers before his accession, when, the earl was crowned king, considered his office to have profited as much for the better, as a kingdom is superior to an earldom.


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