The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Monmouth tells the history of the Britons, coming as refugees from Troy until their defeat by the Saxons in the 7th century. This is a history of conquest and rule, with a recurring theme of wanting to be free of bondage or tribute-paying. Rome plays a minor role when Julius Caesar sought to subjugate them. Geoffrey proudly recounts the Britons’ rebuff of Rome.
He gives us Arthur and Merlin’s prophecies. Merlin is more legendary than Arthur in Monmouth – the Arthur legends get bigger later. Arthur was known as a great and courtly king, though. Monmouth doesn’t cover up the faults of these kings, especially Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon. Could this be a David-Bathsheba-Solomon parallel?
By ending the story with the Saxons’ overwhelming of the Britons, Monmouth rebukes his own people’s civil strife, brutality and questing greed, using Cadwallader’s words,
“Woe unto us sinners for our monstrous crimes with which we never stopped offending God, as long as we had the time for repentance. The vengeance of His might lies heavily upon us, even to the point of uprooting us from our native soil.”
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