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Medieval Sourcebook:
Roger of Hoveden:
The Revolt and Death of the Young King, 1183, from The Chronicle

Roger of Hoveden was a royal clerk who compiled a History of England in the early years of the thirteenth century.  As a royal clerk he was well-placed to gather information from members of the royal court, and he also included many documents, especially letters, into his history.  This is the bulk of the entry for 1183.


In the year of grace 1183, being the twenty-ninth year of the reign of king Henry, son of the empress Matilda, the said king of England was at Caen, in Normandy, on the day of the Nativity of our Lord; the [young] king also, and Richard and Geoffrey, his sons, and Henry, duke of Saxony, and his wife, together with their sons and daughters, and a large retinue, together with Richard, archbishop of Canterbury, and John Cumin, archbishop of Dublin, and many bishops, earls, and barons were there with him. After the Nativity of our Lord, the king ordered the king, his son, to receive homage from Richard, earl of Poitou, and from Geoffrey, earl of Brittany, his brothers; on which, in obedience to his father, he received the homage of his brother Geoffrey, and was willing to receive it from his brother Richard, but Richard refused to do homage to him; and afterwards, when Richard offered to do homage to him, the king, the son, refused to receive it. Richard, feeling greatly indignant at this, withdrew from the court of the king, his father, and going to Poitou, his own territory, built there some new castles and fortified the old ones.

At the request of such of the earls and barons of Poitou as adhered to him, and who inflicted many losses on earl Richard the king, his brother, pursued him. Geoffrey, earl of Brittany, also came to Poitou, with a large force, to assist the king, his brother. On Richard perceiving that he could not make head against his brothers, he sent for assistance to the king, his father, who, raising a great army, came in all haste, and laid siege to the castle of Limoges, which had been a short time before surrendered to the king, his son.  

The cause of the dissensions between the king and his sons.  

In order, however, that the cause may be known of these shocking dissensions that took place between the father and his sons, it ought to be stated that, on the holy day of the Circumcision of our Lord, king Henry, son of our lord the king of England, of his own accord, and no one forcing him thereto, touching the Holy Gospels, and in presence of a large body of the clergy and laity, made oath that he would from that day forward all the days of his life maintain his fealty unblemished to Henry, king of England, as being his father and his liege lord, and would show him all due honor and obedience. And because, as he asserted, the king wished to retain no rancor and malice in his mind, by reason of which his father might possibly be afterwards offended, he declared to him that he had entered into a compact with the barons of Aquitaine against his brother Richard, being influenced by the fact hat his said brother had fortified the castle of Clairvaux, which was part of his own inheritance after his father’s death, contrary to his own wishes. Wherefore he earnestly entreated his father to take the said castle from Richard, and keep it in his own charge.

Richard, being admonished by our lord the king relative thereto, at first refused to do so, but afterwards freely delivered it to be disposed of at his father’s pleasure. Accordingly, the three sons of our lord the king, namely, the [young] king, Richard, and Geoffrey, came to Anjou, with the king, their father, for the purpose of entering into a final treaty of peace between them, and each of the three made oath that they would observe their fealty at all times towards the king, their father, against all men, and would pay him all honor and lasting obedience. They also made oath, in accordance with the directions of their father, that they would observe lasting peace between themselves. On a given day, therefore, for ratifying the peace mace between them, at a place called Mirabel, under the direction of their father, because the barons of Aquitaine, to whom the king, the son, had engaged himself by oath, were not present, the king, the father, sent his son Geoffrey to them that they might come to the said conference for the establishment of peace and reconciliation, and in the meantime cease from all hostilities.

But the said Geoffrey, utterly forgetful of God and of respect for his father, and unmindful of his commands, did not bring peace, but the sword, and, slighting his oath, his homage, and the fealty which he had so often sworn to his father, entered into a compact with the enemies of his father, for the purpose of harassing him, and induced a sacrilegious race, and one detested by the Church of Rome, to ravage the territories of his father. The king, the son, on hearing of this, entreated his father to establish peace between his brother Richard and the barons of Aquitaine. In answer to the entreaties of his son, our lord the king promised that he would preserve peace, and that, for this purpose, in the manner that had been agreed upon in the preceding summer, reparation should be made for all excesses committed by either party, or else, if that should not please the barons, he would judge them in conformity with the opinions pronounced by his court. This offer was quite to the satisfaction of the king, the son; on condition, however, that the castle of Clairvaux should remain safe in the hands of the king, his father.

Upon this, the king, the son, having gained of his father all that he had requested, with his father’s permission set out for Limoges, for the purpose of inviting both his brother Geoffrey and the barons of Aquitaine to come to terms, and in the meantime sent his wife to France, to her brother, the king of that country, for the purpose of being in safety. The king, the father, also, at the request and by the advice of the king, the son, came with a few followers by another road to Limoges, in safety from his sons and in safety from his subjects; but when he had come to this territory that was his own, his own subjects received him most shamefully, for they aimed their arrows against him, so much so that they even wantonly pierced his coat armor, wounded one of his knights before his eyes, and violently prevented the king from entering either the city or the castle; in consequence of which, he and his son Richard were obliged to depart.

After this, our lord the king effected an entrance into the city of Limoges; but when he was departing therefrom, for the purpose of conversing with his sons in a fatherly manner, in presence of his sons, the garrison of the castle before-mentioned aimed their deadly arrows; in consequence of which, they wounded the horse which bore the king, the father, in the head, and if the horse had not lifted its head just at the approach of the arrow, it would have pierced the king’s breast to a considerable depth. This his sons Henry and Geoffrey thinking lightly of, took no pains to punish the offender; and, notwithstanding, returned to the deadly foes of their lord and father.

Shortly after, the king, the son, came to his father, and promised him, that, if the barons of Aquitaine would not come to his feet to sue for peace, he would utterly abandon them, and return to obedience to him under all circumstances. On this, the king the father, being moved at the entreaties of his son, again made promise of the peace which he had previously promised to the barons. Wherefore, the king the son, as he said, went to his brother Geoffrey and the barons of Aquitaine, and, returning from them to his father, asserted that they were utterly disobedient and rebellious, for which reason, he had returned to his duty and obedience to his father’s will. This, however, as appeared in the sequel, was done fraudulently, in order that in the meantime the perfidious race of the Brabanters, and Geoffrey, that son of perdition, might with lawless violence the more easily ravage his father’s territories, and nefariously lay them waste, carrying off the ornaments of the churches, burning towns and villages to the ground, emptying the fields and the sheepfolds by their ravages, so as to cause utter destruction in every quarter; sparing neither age, nor sex, nor rank, nor the religious profession; on the contrary, as it appeared, aiming at the perpetration of homicide, sacrilege, and rapine alone.

Shortly after these things had taken place, the king, the son, on hearing what had been done by his brother Geoffrey, told his father, that whatever he had done in this matter had been done by the counsel of his brother Geoffrey, and giving his arms and his horse in his father’s charge, remained with him some days. But after he had eaten at the same table with his father, and had dipped his hands into the same dish, he withdrew from him, and again leagued himself by oath with his father’s enemies, and then returning to his father, declared that he could in no way see how he was to inflict upon the men of the castle the punishment they had deserved; after which, leaving his father, he set out for Dorat.

But his father, thinking him peaceably inclined, recalled him; on which, returning and entering the castle, and not being able to bring the wickedness which he contemplated to the wished-for result, he swore by the body of Saint Martial, that he would assume the cross. His father, however, thinking that he had done this more through indignation than religious feeling, in an affectionate manner used all his endeavors to recall him from this rash vow, asking of him on his knees, and weeping, whether that vow had proceeded from rancor, indignation, poverty, or religious feelings. To this the son made answer, with all kinds of oaths, that he had made the vow solely for the remission of the sins which he had been guilty of towards his father; and added, when he saw his father opposing it and shedding tears, that he would slay himself with his own hands, unless his father should cease to dissuade him from his purpose of assuming the cross, inasmuch as the body of the Lord which he had that day beheld, consecrated before his eyes, testified that he ought a long time before that to have assumed the cross, but it had not till then been disclosed to him; hoping and trusting that he should be in the more full enjoyment of his father’s favor, as he was unwilling to go on the pilgrimage without his favor. On this, his father learning his holy and fixed determination, replied: "The will of God and your own be done. I will be your supporter and assistant in acquiring the earldom, and will provide you, by the help of God, with such plentiful supplies, that no one, of whom I have heard going to the land of Jerusalem, could at any time have done his service to God on a more bounteous scale."

On this, the king the son returned many thanks to his father, and entreated him to deal mercifully with the men in the castle and the barons of Aquitaine; to which his father, in tears, made answer, and promised that he would act in every one of those matters quite according to his pleasure. The king the son, again returning thanks, sent for the men of the castle, and, though against his father’s will, throw himself with the burgesses at his father’s feet, and asked for peace in their behalves, which request was granted, hostages however being required to ensure the peace being kept. The king the father sent some of his followers to receive the hostages, but they were nearly slain by those who were to give them. This was in nowise punished by the king the son, but, disregarding his oath to assume the cross, he became, together with them, the enemy and persecutor of his own father.

Shortly after, the king the son, pretending that he wished for peace, requested his father to send to him Maurice de Crony with a truce, and some other barons; and while some of their followers were conversing with him, they were slain in the presence of the king the son, by the enemies of our lord the king. Some days after this, Geoffrey, that son of iniquity, with evil intent, entreated that he would send to him Oliver Fitz-Ernest and Jerome de Mustervol with a truce; on which one of them, Jerome namely, was pierced with a sword through his head-piece, his coat-armor, and his shirt, not without a considerable loss of blood; while Oliver, the other, was thrown from a bridge into the water, in the presence of Geoffrey himself, who took no pains to punish this misdeed. After this, the same son, being again desirous to hold a conference with his father, came in perfect security to his father, and, deceitfully treating about making peace, requested of his father leave to enter the castle in order that he might prevail upon the king his brother, and the other enemies of our lord the king, to comply with the wishes of the king. Permission was accordingly given him, on which he entered the castle, spoiled the shrine of Saint Martial, and carried off the other vessels of that monastery, both gold and silver, and then, returning with the booty, requested his father to prolong the truce till the next day. The truce was accordingly granted him, and, passing over the bridge, he the same day renounced the truce wi th his father as being at an end, and out of the proceeds of the sacrilege and robbery, of which he had been guilty towards Saint Martial, paid their wages to his Brabanters. The amount of this theft was, according to the estimate made by worthy men, fifty-two marks of gold and twenty-seven marks of silver.

In the meantime, Richard, archbishop of Canterbury, Henry, bishop of Bayeux, John, bishop of Evreux, Ralph, bishop of Lisieux, Froger, bishop of Seez, and Waleran, bishop of Rochester, together with the abbots and clergy of Normandy, and a great number of people, came to Caen, and there, in the monastery of Saint Stephen, solemnly, in the universal hearing of all the people, pronounced sentence of excommunication against all who should prevent peace and reconciliation being made between our lord the king and his sons, the person of the king, the son, alone excepted.

Money now failing him, the king, the son, proceeded to Saint Mary de Roche Andemar, stripped the tomb of Saint Andemar, and carried away the treasures of the church. In the course of a few days after this, the king, the son, seeing that he could not do any material injury to the king, his father, in consequence of indignation and rancor of mind, was attacked by a severe malady at a village called Martel, not far from the city of Limoges. He was first attacked with a fever, and then by a flux of the bowels, which reduced him to the point of death. On seeing that his death was impending, he sent for our lord the king, his father, who refused to come to him, as he dreaded his treachery. The king, the son, having, therefore, summoned the bishops and religious men who were there, into his presence, having first secretly, and afterwards before them all, made confession of his sins, received absolution and remission of his sins, and gave to William Marshal, one of his household, his cross to bear to Jerusalem [in his stead]. After this, laying aside his fine garments, he placed upon him haircloth, and fastening a cord around his neck, said to the bishops and other religious men who stood around him: "By this cord do I deliver myself, an unworthy, culpable, and guilty sinner, unto you, the ministers of God, beseeching that our Lord Jesus Christ, who remitted his sins to the thief when confessing upon the cross, will, through your prayers and His ineffable mercy, have compassion upon my most wretched soul." To which all made answer, "Amen." He then said to them: "Drag me out of this bed by this cord, and place me on that bed strewed with ashes," which he had caused to be prepared for himself; on which they did as he commanded them, and placed under his head and feet two large square stones; and, all things being thus duly performed, he commanded his body to be taken to Rouen, in Normandy, and there buried. After saying this, being fortified with the viaticum of the holy body and blood of our Lord, in the fear of the Lord, he breathed forth his spirit.

When news was brought of his death to our lord the king, his father, bursting into tears, he threw himself upon the ground, and greatly bewailed his son. O how dreadful a thing it is for sons to persecute a father! for it is not the sword of the man who fights, not the hand of the foeman that avenges the injury of the father; but it is fever that deals its retribution, flux of the bowels, with ulceration of the intestines, that exercises vengeance. The son laid prostrate, all return to the father. All are overjoyed, all rejoice, the father alone bewails his son. Why, glorious father, cost thou bewail him ? He was no son of shine, who could commit such violence upon thy fatherly affection. This defense of thee has wrought security for fathers, and has checked the audacity of parricides. For it was his due to perish by a severe retribution, who wished to introduce parricide into the world; because the Judge of all minds, in the same way that He avenges the tribulations of the righteous, so does he sometimes punish the persecutions of the wicked.

The king’s servants, after having extracted the brain and the entrails, and buried them at Martel, sprinkled the body of the dead king with large quantities of salt, and then wrapped it in bulls’ hides and lead, that they might take it to Rouen for burial there, and accordingly set out on their way with the royal body; but when they had come to the city of Le Mans, and had passed the night in the church of Saint Julian the Confessor and Pontiff, singing hymns and psalms in its vicinity, and wished in the morning to depart thence with the body, the bishop of the city and the clergy, together with the common people, would not allow them to carry it away, but buried it in an honorable manner in the church of Saint Julian.

On this being told to the people of Rouen, they were indignant thereat, and resolutely demanded his body, swearing that they would take it by force, unless it was instantly given up to them; upon which the king, the father, ordered that the body should be given up to the people of Rouen, as the king, his son, had, while living, commanded; which was accordingly done; and they dug up the king’s body from the spot where it had been buried, and, carrying it to Rouen, buried it in the church there of Saint Mary.

The king, the father, after the death of the king, his son, every day made more violent assaults upon the castle of Limoges, to which he had laid siege, and at length both the castle and the city of Limoges were surrendered to him, besides all the castles of his enemies in that neighborhood; some of which he retained in his own hands, and some he leveled with the ground, not leaving one stone upon another. After the death of the king, the son, Philip, king of the Franks, demanded of our lord the king of England, the dowry which his son, the king, had given to his sister, and the whole of the land of the Vexin, together with the castles and fortresses which Louis, king of France, his father, had given them on their marriage. Whereupon, a conference being held between them, between Gisors and Trie, an arrangement was made in the following manner: That Margaret, the sister of the king of France, who had been the wife of the king, the son, should receive, for quitting claim of all the above demands, one thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds of money Angevin, each year at Paris from our lord the king of England and his heirs, so long as she should live.

In the same year, our lord the king commanded Richard, his son and heir, to receive the homage of his brother John for Poitou, but he declined receiving it.

In the same year, Henry, king of England, a conference being held on the day of Saint Nicholas, between him and Philip, king of France, between Gisors and Trie, did homage to Philip, king of France, for all his lands beyond sea, whereas before this he had never been willing to do homage to him.


Roger wrote originally in Latin.  This translation was made by Henry T. Riley and was published as The Annals of Roger de Hoveden.  2 vols. London:  Bohn, 1853.  I believe this translation is now in the public domain.  The electronic form of this presentation is ©1998 by Scott McLetchie and may not be reproduced for any commercial purposes whatsoever.  It may be reproduced for non-profit educational purposes.

Etext file created for a class by Scott Mcletchie [], and used by permission here.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, October 1998


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