Historia regum Britanniae ‘History of the kings of Britain’

Geoffrey of Monmouth
  • Latin
  • Cambro-Latin texts, Pseudohistory
Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudohistorical narrative of the kings of Britain, from the foundation of Britain to the Anglo-Saxon conquest.
Historia regum Britanniae
‘History of the kings of Britain’
The work has been conventionally known as Historia regum Britanniae (‘The history of the kings of Britain’), which is the title adopted here. As Michael D. Reeve has shown, however, the title attested in the earliest manuscripts, and the one apparently favoured by Geoffrey himself, is De gestis Britonum (‘On the deeds of the Britons’).(1)n. 1 Neil Wright • Michael D. Reeve, Geoffrey of Monmouth. The history of the kings of Britain: an edition and translation of De gestis Britonum (2007): lix..
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
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Over 200 manuscripts are known. See Julia C. Crick, The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth: A summary catalogue of the manuscripts, vol. 3 (1989).

Bern, Burgerbibliothek, MS 568
  • Latin
c. 1136
Textual relationships
(Possible) sources: De excidio et conquestu BritanniaeDe excidio et conquestu Britanniae

A long Latin sermon by the British cleric Gildas (fl. first half of the 6th century) concerning the state of Britain.

Historia BrittonumHistoria BrittonumHistoria ecclesiastica gentis AnglorumHistoria ecclesiastica gentis AnglorumA history in five books on the churches and peoples of England.
Related: Chronicon BriocenseChronicon Briocense

Latin chronicle compiled between the late 14th and early 15th century, which though left incomplete, aimed at describing a full history of Brittany. It incorporates a wide range of sources, including historical, hagiographical and archival materials. The work is anonymous and may have been written and compiled by Hervé Le Grant, a Breton notary with access to ducal archives.

Historia Meriadoci regis CambrieHistoria Meriadoci regis Cambrie

A Latin Arthurian narrative, possibly of the 12th century but written after Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia.

Prophetiae Merlini SilvestrisProphetiae Merlini Silvestris

A collection of prophecies of English kings, which are much indebted to Book VII of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia. Not every manuscript witness contains the full set, but the complete version consists of three texts: (1) Arbor fertilis, about Edward the Confessor’s dream vision concerning the Norman invasion and the accession of Henry II; (2) Sicut rubeum draconem, a king-list running from William I to John; and (3) Mortuo leone, concerning Stephen and Henry II.

Regnum Scotorum fuit inter cetera regnaRegnum Scotorum fuit inter cetera regna

Medieval Latin poem, probably of the late 13th or early 14th century, which relates a prophecy about the political future of Britain. Like similar prophecies of the period, it is dependent on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of Merlin’s prophecy for Britain (Prophetiae Merlini) and other Galfridian narratives. Its central message is that through an alliance of the Scots and the Welsh, English rule will come to end and Britain will be unified under a new king-hero. The poem, or good parts of it, circulated widely in English manuscripts, both from the north and elsewhere, frequently as a minor text in the company of historical works (to which even further prophetic texts may have been added).


Cambro-Latin textsCambro-Latin texts




Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Reeve, Michael D. [ed.], and Neil Wright [tr.], Geoffrey of Monmouth. The history of the kings of Britain: an edition and translation of De gestis Britonum, Arthurian Studies, 69, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007.
[ed.] Wright, Neil [ed.], The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth, vol. 1: Bern, Burgerbibliothek, MS 568, Cambridge: Brewer, 1985.
[ed.] [tr.] Wright, Neil [ed.], The Historia regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth, vol. 2: The first variant version: a critical edition, Cambridge: Brewer, 1988.
[ed.] Griscom, Acton, and Robert Ellis Jones, The Historia regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, London, New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1929.

Secondary sources (select)

Dumville, David N., “An early text of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae and the circulation of some Latin histories in twelfth-century Normandy”, Arthurian Literature 4 (1985): 1–36.
Dumville, David N., “XIV: An early text of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae and the circulation of some Latin histories in twelfth-century Normandy”, in: David N. Dumville, Histories and pseudo-histories of the insular Middle Ages, 316, Aldershot: Variorum, 1990. 1–36. Reprint.
Edel, Doris, “Geoffrey's so-called animal symbolism and insular-Celtic tradition”, in: Doris Edel (ed.), The Celtic west and Europe: studies in Celtic literature and the early Irish church, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001. 264–279.
Jankulak, Karen, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Writers of Wales, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2010.
Roberts, Brynley F., “Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae and Brut y Brenhinedd”, in: Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman, and Brynley F. Roberts (eds), The Arthur of the Welsh. The Arthurian legend in medieval Welsh literature, 1, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991. 97–116.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
May 2012, last updated: January 2024