Post-classical history

Roger of Howden

English royal clerk and parson of Howden (Yorkshire), who wrote an eyewitness account of the Third Crusade (1189-1192). His first chronicle, the Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi et Ricardi Primi (formerly attributed to Benedict of Peterborough), covers the years from 1170 to 1192. It was revised and continued in the Chronica, a chronicle stretching from 732 to 1201.

English constitutional tradition led to a one-sided view of Howden, as a historian of administration and law, while ignoring other aspects of his career and interests. He was a religious man who was worried about heresy and interested in miracles, prophecies, and the coming end of the world. The most widely traveled of all English chroniclers, his many journeys in the service of both kings of England and bishops of Durham took him to Scotland, France, Rome, Sicily, and the Holy Land. During the Third Crusade, he joined the fleet of King Richard I at Marseilles in August 1190 and remained until after the capture of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel), leaving on 25 August 1191 to keep an eye on Richard’s rival, Philip II of France. His Gesta Regis is in effect a crusade diary of those thirteen months, which he revised, in the light of subsequent events, in the Chronica.

Howden’s crusading experience and enthusiasm informed his judgments. He became more critical of Henry II; although he regretted the heavy taxation of Richard’s later years, he praised his piety, generosity, prowess, and generalship. He probably died around the year 1202.

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