1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ambrose (Poet)
|←Ambros, August Wilhelm||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1
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AMBROSE (fl. 1190), Norman poet, and chronicler of the Third Crusade, author of a work called L'Estoire de la guerre sainte, which describes in rhyming French verse the adventures of Richard Cœur de Lion as a crusader. The poem is known to us only through one Vatican MS., and long escaped the notice of historians. The credit for detecting its value belongs to the late Gaston Paris, although his edition (1897) was partially anticipated by the editors of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, who published some selections in the twenty-seventh volume of their Scriptores (1885). Ambrose followed Richard I. as a noncombatant, and not improbably as a court-minstrel. He speaks as an eye-witness of the king's doings at Messina, in Cyprus, at the siege of Acre, and in the abortive campaign which followed the capture of that city. Ambrose is surprisingly accurate in his chronology; though he did not complete his work before 1195, it is evidently founded upon notes which he had taken in the course of his pilgrimage. He shows no greater political insight than we should expect from his position; but relates what he had seen and heard with a naive vivacity which compels attention. He is prejudiced against the Saracens, against the French, and against all the rivals or enemies of his master; but he is never guilty of deliberate misrepresentation. He is rather to be treated as a biographer than as a historian of the Crusade in its broader aspects. None the less he is the chief authority for the events of the years 1190–1192, so far as these are connected with the Holy Land. The Itinerarium Regis Ricardi (formerly attributed to Geoffrey Vinsauf, but in reality the work of Richard, a canon of Holy Trinity, London) is little more than a free paraphrase of Ambrose. The first book of the Itinerarium contains some additional facts; and the whole of the Latin version is adorned with dowers of rhetoric which are foreign to the style of Ambrose. But it is no longer possible to regard the Itinerarium as a first-hand narrative. Stubbs's edition of the Itinerarium (Rolls Series, 1864), in which the contrary hypothesis is maintained, appeared before Gaston Paris published his discovery.
See the edition of L'Estoire de la guerre sainte by Gaston Paris in the Collection des documents inedits sur l'histoire de France (1897); the editor discusses in his introduction the biography of Ambrose, the value of the poem as a historical source, and its relation to the Itinerarium. R. Pauli's remarks (in Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores, xxvii.) also deserve attention. (H. W. C. D.)