Matthew Paris: The History of St. Edward the King

Translated by Thelma S. Fenster and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne

FRETS vol. 1 (MRTS vol. 341) ACMRS Press, 2008

Matthew Paris (d. 1259), monk of the English Benedictine abbey of St Albans and a knowledgeable reporter of life at the court of Henry III and of thirteenth-century Europe in general, is famous for his illustrated Latin chronicles.  His French texts of the lives of British saints have been undervalued and, apart from some excellent art history scholarship on their illustrations, largely neglected.


Edward the Confessor (1003-66) was the last Anglo-Saxon king and, until the late fourteenth-century rise in the prestige of St. George, patron saint of England.  He was greatly culted by Norman and Angevin kings, by none so intensely as Henry III.  Continuity with the regnal line of pre-Conquest England began as a legitimating strategy for the Normans and continued as a matter of dynastic identity and prestige.  Paris’s French illustrated life is dedicated to “Alianor . . . reine/D’Engletere” (vv.52-3) and was probably designed for presentation to Eleanor of Provence on her marriage to Henry III in 1236, perhaps as an introduction to her husband’s dynastic traditions.

This volume includes a translation of the History and the rhymed rubrics Paris composed to accompany his text and images; an introduction on the historical, cultural, literary and stylistic contexts in which Paris wrote about Edward the Confessor; an appendix of passages from the original text; a generous selection of suggested further reading; and an index of proper names. The volume has been designed so that its translations of text and rubrics from the extant manuscript can be used in conjunction with the presentation of the manuscript at