Godfrey of Malmesbury (DNB00)

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GODFREY of Malmesbury (fl. 1081) is supposed author of a chronicle in the British Museum (MS. Cott. Vesp. D. iv. 73). Bishop Tanner erroneously identified this writer with Godfrey, abbot of Malmesbury in the eleventh century. Godfrey the abbot was a native of Jumièges, who accompanied his townsman, Theodewin, when he was made abbot of Ely in 1071. Two years and a half later Theodewin died, and Godfrey became procurator, a position which he filled with ability for seven years. He is said to have obtained from William I an inquiry into the property of his abbey, and a confirmation of its customs (Anglia Sacra, i. 610, and Monasticon, v. 460, 476, where the documents are given). In 1081 William appointed him abbot of Malmesbury, where he adorned the church, and laid the foundations of a library; in the latter work he was assisted by William of Malmesbury, who describes him as a man of courteous manner and temperate life, whose abbacy was sullied only by his stripping the treasures of the monastery to pay the tax imposed by William II on the occasion of the mortgage of Normandy by Duke Robert. Godfrey must have died about 1107, in which year Edulf became abbot. Despite his literary tastes, he cannot have been the author of the chronicle, which, according to Sir T. Hardy, is almost entirely based on Geoffrey of Monmouth. Tanner says that it is nothing else than part of the annals of Alfred of Beverley (fl. 1143), and conjectures that the name ‘Godfridus De Malvesbury’ on the manuscript is that of an owner, not of the writer. Perhaps this is correct; in any case the chronicler is a different person from the abbot. Baptista Fulgosus, an Italian writer of the fifteenth century, cites among his authorities Gotfredus Anglus Historicus, who is perhaps our chronicler. The chronicle, which extends from the coming of the Saxons to 1129, is merely a compilation and without historical value. It is quoted by Selden, ‘Titles of Honour,’ pt. ii. chap. v.

[William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum, v. sects. 271–4; Mabillon, Annales Benedictini, vol. v.; Tanner, p. 329; Hardy's Cat. of Brit. Hist. i. 667.]

C. L. K.