A Benedictine monk at the abbey of Malmesbury in England and author of the Gesta Regum Anglorum, completed in early 1126. This substantial work in five books covers the history of England to 1125, but also includes much continental material, including a history of the First Crusade (10961099) and its aftermath to 1102; that history occupies most of book 4 (chapters 343-384), making it as long as some independent crusading chronicles.
Although substantially a summary of the chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres, with occasional reference to the anonymous Gesta Francorum, William’s work offers much independent and unique information: a detailed report of Pope Urban II’s speech at Clermont, summaries of lost descriptions of seventh-century Rome and of relics at Constantinople, biographical information about Godfrey of Bouillon, Bohemund I of Antioch, Robert Curthose, and Raymond of Saint-Gilles, and a variety of snippets probably gained from returned soldiers. William, who was impressed and worried by the expansion of Islam, interprets the crusade as a pan- European defensive war and as a great knightly exercise, rather than as a penitential pilgrimage. His account is characterized by the skillful use of rhetoric to heighten drama and clarify motivation, often using parallels and reminiscences from Greco-Roman antiquity.