Geoffrey of Monmouth
(Latin: Galfridus Monemutensis, Galfridus Arturus, Galfridus Artur, Welsh: Gruffudd ap Arthur, Sieffre o Fynwy)
(c. 1100 – c. 1155)
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur. He is best known for his chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain"), which was widely popular in its day and was credited, uncritically, well into the 16th century, being translated into various other languages from its original Latin.
Geoffrey was probably born sometime between 1100 and 1110 in Wales or the Welsh Marches. He must have reached the age of majority by 1129, when he is recorded as witnessing a charter.
In his Historia, Geoffrey refers to himself as Galfridus Monumetensis, "Geoffrey of Monmouth", which indicates a significant connection to Monmouth, Wales, and which may refer to his birthplace. Geoffrey's works attest to some acquaintance with the place-names of the region. To contemporaries, Geoffrey was known as Galfridus Artur(us) or variants thereof. The "Arthur" in these versions of his name may indicate the name of his father, or a nickname based on Geoffrey's scholarly interests.
Earlier scholars assumed that Geoffrey was Welsh or at least spoke Welsh. However, Geoffrey's knowledge of the Welsh language appears to have been slight, and it is now recognised that there is no real evidence that Geoffrey was of either Welsh or Cambro-Norman descent, unlike for instance, Gerald of Wales. He may have sprung from the same French-speaking elite of the Welsh border country as the writers Gerald of Wales and Walter Map, and Robert, Earl of Gloucester, to whom Geoffrey dedicated versions of his Historia Regum Britanniae. It has been argued, by Frank Stenton among others that Geoffrey's parents may have been among the many Bretons who took part in William I's Conquest and settled in the southeast of Wales. Monmouth had been in the hands of Breton lords since 1075 or 1086 and the names Galfridus and Arthur (if interpreted as a patronymic) were more common among the Bretons than the Welsh.
He may have served for a while in a Benedictine priory in Monmouth. However, most of his adult life appears to have been spent outside Wales. Between 1129 and 1151 his name appears on six charters in the Oxford area, sometimes styled magister ("teacher"). He was probably a secular canon of St. George's college. All the charters signed by Geoffrey are also signed by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, also a canon at that church. Another frequent co-signatory is Ralph of Monmouth, a canon of Lincoln.
On 21 February 1152 Archbishop Theobald consecrated Geoffrey as bishop of St Asaph, having ordained him a priest 10 days before. "There is no evidence that he ever visited his see," writes Lewis Thorpe, "and indeed the wars of Owain Gwynedd make this most unlikely." He appears to have died between 25 December 1154 and 24 December 1155, in 1155 according to Welsh chronicles, when his apparent successor, Richard, took office.