Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wendover, Roger de
WENDOVER, ROGER de (d. 1236), chronicler and monk of St. Albans, was probably a native of Wendover, Buckinghamshire, for in one of the manuscripts of his chronicle he is styled ‘Rogerus Wendovre de Wendovre’ (Wats, preface to Matt. Paris). He was perhaps near of kin to Richard of Wendover [q. v.], physician to Gregory IX, who seems to have been connected with St. Albans, for at his death in 1252 he left the abbey a crucifix given him by the pope (Chronica Majora, v. 299). Other ecclesiastics bore the name of Wendover about that time, and among them Richard de Wendover, bishop of Rochester, who died in 1250. Roger received priest's orders, and is said to have been precentor of St. Albans. He was prior of Belvoir, Leicestershire, a cell of St. Albans, when William de Trumpington, abbot of St. Albans from 1214 to 1235, came to Belvoir in the course of a visitation of the cells of his house, made probably in or about 1220, and received a complaint against the prior that he had wasted the goods of his church. Wendover was rebuked, and promised amendment; but the prior, though appearing satisfied, was determined to remove him, and some time later did so, and Wendover must then have returned to St. Albans (Gesta Abbatum, i. 270–1, 274; the date of this visitation is conjectural; it was after the death of John and the close of the war for the charter, and took place in a time of civil war, which would suit 1220–1, and it must have been fairly early in Trumpington's abbacy, for the abbot is described as being then 'floridus ætate;' Madden in his Historia Anglorum, vol. i. pref. xiv, places it in 1219; but Hardy, laying too much stress on the order in which events are noted in the Gesta Abbatum, puts Wendover's removal as late as 'about 1231,' Cat. of Materials, iii. 79). It has been supposed that about 1231 he succeeded as historiographer of St. Albans (Hardy, u.s. pref. xxxvi, followed by Hewlett) a monk named Walter, who, according to Pits (De Angliæ Scriptoribus, p. 845), wrote a chronicle of England after 1180, but Walter's chronicle and position in the abbey cannot be accepted on such testimony, and all that can safely be asserted is that Wendover, after returning to St. Albans, devoted himself to historical work, and that he doubtless became the head of the scriptorium and historiographer of the convent. He died on 6 May 1236 (Chronica Majora, vol. vi. Addit. p. 274).
His work as a writer of history is commemorated by Walsingham, who says that the chroniclers of England owe nearly everything to him, and that his work extended to the reign of Henry II (Amundesham, ii. 303); 'secundi' in this passage has been explained as merely a slip for 'tertii' (Stevenson, Flores Hist. vol. i. pref. viii), but it seems probable that Walsingham was misled by the division of the 'Chronica Majora' into two volumes [see under Paris, Matthew], the second beginning at 1189 with a rubrical note referring to Paris (Chronica Majora, ii. 336 nn.). Wendover's book is entitled 'Flores Historiarum,' and the first part of it answers to the name, the contents being largely culled from other historians. It begins, after a prologue chiefly taken from Robert de Monte [q. v.], with the creation, and ends somewhat abruptly at 1135 with the genealogy of the Empress Isabella, sister of the Emperor Henry III, after which in both manuscripts of his book is inserted 'Huc usque scripsit dominus Rogerus de Wendovre' (ib. iii. 327 n.), followed by a rhyming hexameter couplet. It is extant in two manuscripts, Douce MS. 207 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, of the thirteenth century, and Cottonian MS. Otho, B. v, independent, of the fourteenth century, described in 1696 as beginning with the birth of Christ, but, though beginning there, it has as heading, 'Incipit liber secundus,' &c., with a second prologue (printed by Stevenson), as though an earlier part had been removed; it was much damaged by the fire at Ashburnham House in 1731, and has been wonderfully restored by Sir F. Madden. The 'Flores' has been printed from onwards in four volumes by the English Historical Society, 1841–2, under the editorship of Henry Octavius Coxe [q. v.], and from 1154 onwards in three volumes in the Rolls Series, 1886–9, under the editorship of H. S. Hewlett.
In the 'Flores' Wendover appears as an editor, a copyist, a compiler, and an original chronicler. He seems to have found an historical compilation written in the abbey extending from the creation to 1188, represented and revised by Paris, in C.C.C. MS. Cambr. 26, and to have written a revision of it to the year 231, from which date he copies from it down to 1012, making one long insertion under 621 from William of Tyre; he then omits and inserts passages until 1065, when he again copies (Luard, Chron. Majora, vol. i. pref. xiii). The C.C.C. MS. 26 ends with 1188, and at that point the Douce manuscript of the 'Flores' has a marginal note, 'Huc usque in lib. cronic. Johannis abbatis,' but the Cottonian manuscript of the 'Flores' goes on without a break. Luard accordingly points out the probability that the early St. Albans compilation ended at that date, and that Wendover took up the work of compilation at 1189 (ib. ii. 336). Sir T. D. Hardy (u. s.), writing at an earlier date, somewhat arbitrarily fixed 1154 as the point at which 'Wendover may be said to assume the character of an original writer,' though it is obvious that from 1154 to 1202 the 'Flores' is a compilation. Mr. Hewlett in his edition of the 'Flores' has simply copied and approved Hardy's remark, and, in spite of Luard's acute and scholarly criticism, has acted upon it by beginning his edition at 1154. From 1188 to 1202 Wendover's work is similar in character to the earlier St. Albans compilation, but from 1202, that is after the end of the chronicle of Roger of Hoveden [q. v.], he may be considered as a first-hand authority (ib. vol. ii. pref. xix), for thenceforward he does not appear to use the work of any earlier historian for English affairs, except in a few places the chronicle of Ralph of Coggeshall [q. v.], though for affairs in the Holy Land he copies under 1217–18 from Oliverius Scholasticus (ib. vol. iii. pref. viii). His work was revised, augmented, and carried on without a break by Paris in his ‘Chronica Majora.’
Wendover, while an outspoken and honest writer, is more moderate in his language than Paris, and therefore probably more trustworthy where personal character is concerned; but his chronicle, partly because it reveals less strong feeling, lacks the vigour and brightness that distinguish the work of Paris. A fairly complete picture of the younger historian can be gained from his writings, but the ‘Flores’ do not enable us to become acquainted with Wendover. Nor does Wendover systematically expound the causes of events; and for this reason may perhaps accurately be described as a chronicler, while Paris deserves to be called an historian. As a chronicler, however, he stands high; he was industrious in collecting information, and, though he sometimes makes mistakes—as in asserting that the second coronation of Henry in 1220 took place at Canterbury, in placing the consecration of Walter Mauclerk [q. v.] to Carlisle under 1223 instead of 1224, in describing the grant of 1224 as two marcs on the carucate instead of two shillings, and in calling the count of Brittany in 1229 Henry instead of Peter—is generally accurate, and shows some narrative power, though in this respect too he is eclipsed by Paris. He seems to have been specially interested in ecclesiastical matters, and relates many miracles and other wonders. He does not seem to have had a wide acquaintance with Latin classical authors, for in the part of his work which is original he scarcely ever quotes from them. His Latin, which exhibits some marked though unimportant characteristics, is clear and correct, though sometimes rather bald.[Luard's prefs. to Chron. Maj. vols. i. ii. iii., Hardy's Cat. of Materials, iii. 36, 79–83, Madden's pref. to Hist. Angl. vol. i., Hewlett's pref. to Wendover's Flores, vol. i. (all Rolls Ser.); Stevenson's pref. to Wendover, vol. i. (Engl. Hist. Soc.).]