Henry of Huntingdon

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Heinrich von Huntingdon ( Latin Henricus Huntindoniensis ; * around 1088 - † around 1157) was an English historian of the 12th century. He is the author of a history of England, the Historia Anglorum , and "the most important Anglo-Norman historian to emerge from the secular clergy ." He served as Archdeacon of Huntingdon . The few known details of Heinrich's life come from his own works and from a number of official records. He was raised in the wealthy court of Robert Blouet , Bishop of Lincoln, who became his patron. At the request of Alexander Bloet's successor, Henry began writing his Historia Anglorum , first published around 1129, and containing an account of the history of England from its beginnings to 1154.


Heinrich was born around 1088 and died around 1157. He followed his father Nicholas in 1110 as Archdeacon of the Diocese of Lincoln. No personal correspondence or anecdotes survived him and it seems that no one thought he was important enough to write a memorial. Knowing about his life depends on a few notes scattered throughout his own work and in some places where he left his name as part of his official duties. His mother's identity is unknown. His father Nicholas, the first archdeacon of Huntingdon, had enough influence over the Bishop of Lincoln to secure the successor to his title for his son, an essential legacy for a man under 30. Nicholas himself had been a canon at Lincoln for over thirty years until his death in 1110.

Heinrich was taken into the household of Robert Bloet as a young boy and grew up in luxury. He lived in the wealth and splendor of England's richest episcopal court. His upbringing gave him a positive outlook on the world, but in later years a distrust of it grew in him, the contemptus mundi , the contempt for the world, a feeling that encompasses much of his later works. Bishop Bloet's successor, Alexander, became aware of Henry's abilities and kept him busy on important matters, although it remains clear that Henry owed his rise to the patronage of Bishop Bloet. At the request of Bishop Alexander, Heinrich began to write his "Historia Anglorum" ("The History of the English"). The formal prologue of his Historia , addressed to Bishop Alexander, was written in a flourishing, dense, high style that allowed him to show himself off before retreating behind the chroniclers he had used. It was written as an elaborate defense of historiography and to demonstrate its level of education.

Over the years, Heinrich's contempt for the world grew and became the defining spirit of his literary work and his spiritual life. During his travels, he noticed that people were more concerned with looking after their belongings than with themselves. This prompted him to write a long poem De contemptu visibilum ("On the Contempt for the Visible").

Overall, the little known information about Heinrich is concrete and suggestive and indicates a life that was lived in a time of personal restraint just below the first ranks of property and talent. He mentions Lanfrank von Bec as "famous in our time", which puts Heinrich's date of birth a few years before 1089, the year Lanfrank died. His Historia Anglorum broke off in 1154 with the promise of another book for the new reign; however, since this book was never written, it can be assumed that Heinrich died shortly afterwards.



Heinrich's most notable work is the Historia Anglorum . He was asked by Bishop Alexander of Lincoln to write a history of England from the earliest period and bring it into modern times, and finished it with the accession of Henry II of England in 1154. The first edition was believed to end 1129 and the second in 1135, at the end of the reign of Henry I of England . He published new editions over the years, the final fifth edition coming out in 1154, ostensibly to end the story with the death of King Stephen , leaving his Historia in eight books. There is evidence that Heinrich did not intend to stop there and wanted to add another book to his series dealing with the events of the first five years of Henry II's reign. This book was never written because Heinrich von Huntingdon must have been at least seventy years old at the time of the king's accession to the throne and died shortly afterwards.

Heinrich's talent for reporting details is responsible for creating entertaining moments that stem from the circulating legend and his own fertile imagination. Charles Warren Hollister specifically mentioned the anecdote of King Canute's failure to attempt to stem the tide by command, and to follow Henry I. refusal of the arrangement of his doctor, eating lampreys set. Such passages made his Historia popular - there are 25 surviving manuscripts - and tied his anecdotes firmly into popular history.

The Historia Anglorum was first printed in 1596 by Henry Savile as part of the anthology Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores post Bedam praecipui .

Heinrich's sources were:

Other works

As an author, Heinrich distinguished himself in his youth by writing poetry, including eight books with epigrams, eight books about love and the so-called Anglicanus ortus , eight books about herbs, spices and gemstones connected by a medical topic. Of these, two epigram books and the eight medical books have survived, the latter only being identified in modern times.

The Anglicanus ortus was published as by Winston Black

  • Anglicanus ortus: a Verse Herbal of the Twelfth Century (Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, c2012, on herbs and spices, books 1-6) or as
  • Henry of Huntingdon's lapidary rediscovered and his 'Anglicanus ortus' reassembled ( Mediaeval Studies , Volume 68, 2006, pp. 43-87),

Henry wrote a letter to Henry I of England on the succession of foreign kings and emperors up to their time and another to a man named Warin containing an account of the ancient British kings from Brutus of Troy to Cadwallader . Heinrich got the information he needed from a monk at Bec Abbey , where writings by Geoffrey of Monmouth were kept.

Henry's most notable letter was a funeral exercise addressed to his recently deceased friend and fellow archdeacon of the Diocese of Lincoln, Walter of Leicester, entitled "De contemptu mundi" ("Of the Contempt for the World") and the dates contained therein the year 1135.

Contribution to history

The contribution that Heinrich von Huntingdon made to history can not only be based on his Historia Anglorum , but must also include his letters. All of these writings offer a glimpse into the mindsets of those who lived in the 12th century and how the historians of the time recorded history and corresponded with their peers. Henry's legacy consisted of his own contribution to the history of England and his recorded thoughts and ideas, which provided a valuable perspective on the mindset of his time.


  1. Hollister, p. 9
  2. a b c d e f g h i Oxford Dictionary of National Biography : Henry
  3. Partner, pp. 11–12
  4. ^ Partner, pp. 12-13
  5. Historia Anglorum , Forester, p. X
  6. Partner, p. 19
  7. Partner, p. 40
  8. Partner, p. 11
  9. ^ Huntingdon, pp. Ix-xvi
  10. Hollister, p. 10
  11. ^ A b Henry of Huntingdon. Anglicanus ortus: a Verse Herbal of the Twelfth Century , ed. and translated by Winston Black, Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, c2012, p. 7.
  12. Ibid , p. 9
  13. Ibid , pp. 8-13, 496.
  14. Forester, s.XI-xii


  • Heinrich von Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum
    • Diana E. Greenway (Eds. And transl.), Henry Archdeacon of Huntingdon. Historia Anglorum. The History of the English People . Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford, 1996.
    • Diana E. Greenway (transl.), Henry of Huntingdon. The History of the English People, 1000-1154 . Oxford World's Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-284075-4 .
  • Diana E. Greenway (2004). Henry [Henry of Huntingdon] (c.1088 – c.1157) . Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Oxford University Press. Retrieved April 18, 2011.
  • Diana E. Greenway, Authority, Convention and Observation in Henry of Huntingdon's Historia Anglorum. Anglo-Norman Studies 18 (1995): pp. 105-121.
  • Diana E. Greenway, Henry of Huntingdon and the manuscripts of his' Historia Anglorum , Anglo-Norman Studies 9 (1986): pp. 103-126.
  • Charles Warren Hollister, Henry I , Yale English Monarchs. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-300-08858-2 .
  • Nancy F. Partner, Serious Entertainments: The writing of History in Twelfth-Century England , Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Web links

Historia Anglorum

  • Thomas Arnold (Ed.), "Historia Anglorum", The History of the English (1879, Latin) ( Internet Archive online )
  • Thomas Forester (eds. And transl.), The chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon. Comprising the history of England, from the invasion of Julius Cæsar to the accession of Henry II. Also, The acts of Stephen, king of England and duke of Normandy (1853) ( Internet Archive online )