Post-classical history

Henry of Valenciennes

A Chronicler at the court of Henry, Latin emperor of Constantinople (1206-1216).

Little is known about the life of Henry of Valenciennes, but he probably wrote in other genres (poetry and hagiography) before completing his chronicle, which describes events that occurred at the beginning of Emperor Henry’s reign (1208-1209), continuing the narrative of Geoffrey of Villehardouin, whose work he undoubtedly knew. There is a short break of eight months between the end of Villehardouin’s account and the start of Henry’s. The narrative covers two of Henry’s campaigns: one against the Bulgarians and another against the rebellious Lombards of Thessalonica, who had risen against Demetrius, the infant son of Boniface of Mont- ferrat and Margaret (Maria) of Hungary, the regent. Henry crushed the resistance of the Lombards after campaigning throughout northern and central Greece. The end of the chronicle is hurried, suggesting that the author did not have time to polish it before sending it to the West, probably with Peter of Douai, who returned home in the autumn of 1209.

Henry of Valenciennes is our only source for the first part of Emperor Henry’s reign and almost certainly was an eyewitness of some of the events, which he describes with color and panache. His admiration for the emperor is patent throughout. His style is slightly influenced by the hyperbole of epic poetry, but he gives an honest account by his lights of the events of 1208-1209.

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