Godel, William (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 22
Godel, William

by Charles Lethbridge Kingsford ‎
Guillaume Godel in the ODNB.

GODEL, WILLIAM (fl. 1173), historian, is only known from the allusions in his chronicle, in which he never mentions himself by name. Under the year 1145 he says: ‘This year I, who compiled this work from various histories, entered a monastery; in age a youth, and by race an Englishman.’ But at the end of the manuscript (Bibliothèque Nationale, 4893, sec. xiii) there is a note in a hand of the fourteenth century, stating that the author was William Godel, a monk of St. Martial at Limoges. The writer, however, never mentions St. Martial, nor even the town of Limoges. Probably he was a Cistercian of some monastery in the diocese of Sens, or of Bourges; for at the date of the foundation of Citeaux he gives very exactly the succession of its abbots, and under the year 1145 he reports the death of Henri Sanglier, archbishop of Sens, who was succeeded by Hugues of Touci, from whom he received all the orders except the priesthood. He was ordained priest of Leuroux by Pierre de la Châtre, archbishop of Bourges, who died in 1171. Godel seems to have been fond of travel, and so perhaps often changed his monastery till, dying at St. Martial, he left his chronicle there. The chronicle is a history from the creation to 1173 a.d., with some additions by a later writer down to 1320. It must have been written before 1180, for under date 1137 he speaks of Louis VII as ‘qui nunc rex pius superest,’ and later he refers to Philip Augustus as ‘qui nunc regni coronam expectat.’ The chronicle is very brief till 1066, then rather fuller on English affairs, but contains little that is new or important, and has some gross errors. Godel used as his English authorities Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bede, William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon (from whose work to the accession of Henry I he had made extracts in a monastery in England), and Florence of Worcester. This chronicle closely resembles the anonymous continuation from 1124 to 1184 of the ‘Chronicle of S. Pierre de Sens’ by Clarius, with which it is in many places literally identical. The writers of the ‘Histoire Littéraire’ hold that it was the continuator who had borrowed, while the editors of the ‘Recueil’ incline to the belief that Godel was himself the continuator. This is additional reason for believing that Godel's original monastery was in the diocese of Sens. Almost all Godel's chronicle from the tenth century to 1173 is printed in the ‘Recueil des Historiens de la France,’ x. 259–63, xi. 282–285, and xiii. 671–7, where also extracts from the continuation of Clarius will be found, xii. 283–5.

[Histoire Littéraire de la France, xiii. 508; Hardy's Cat. of Brit. Hist. ii. 402–3; notes in Recueil as above, and pref. to vol. xiii. p. lxviii.

C. L. K.