Open main menu

HOVEDEN or HOWDEN, ROGER of (d. 1201?), chronicler, was probably a native of Howden, a possession of the see of Durham, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and very possibly a brother of a William of Hoveden, who was chaplain of Hugh de Puiset, bishop of Durham. Roger was one of the clerks of Henry II. He may have been with the king at Gisors on 26 Sept. 1173, as he gives some details about the conference not found elsewhere, and was certainly with him in France in the autumn of 1174. Henry then sent him to England so that he and Robert de Vaux might go together as envoys to Uchtred and Gilbert, the two sons of Fergus, lately prince of Galloway (d. 1160), to persuade them to submit to the English rather than to the Scottish king. When the envoys met the chiefs of Galloway about 23 Nov. they found that Uchtred had been killed by Gilbert's son Malcolm. Gilbert offered terms, which the envoys referred to the king, and Henry, on hearing of the murder of Uchtred refused them (Gesta Henrici II, i. 79, 80). At Whitsuntide, 1 June 1175, Roger was with the king at Reading, and was ordered to go to each of the twelve abbeys there that was without an abbot, bidding the chapters send up deputations to the king at Oxford on the 24th, so that the vacancies might be filled. With Roger was sent a clerk from the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1189 he served as an itinerant justice for the forests in Northumberland, Cumberland, and Yorkshire. After the death of Henry he probably retired from public life, perhaps to Howden, where he may have been parson, and employed himself on the composition of his chronicle. He records the arrival of Bishop Hugh at Howden and the attempt to arrest him there in 1190, adding something to the narrative in the ‘Gesta;’ he copies the notice of how John spent Christmas in 1191 with the bishop there, and records how Bishop Hugh was brought thither in his sickness, and died there on 3 March 1195, how on 11 Oct. Bishop Philip gave the benediction there to two abbots, and how King John granted the bishop a fair at Howden in 1200. As his chronicle ends somewhat abruptly in 1201, it may be supposed that he did not live long after that date. The title of magister prefixed to his name in an early manuscript of his book may, Bishop Stubbs thinks, possibly denote that he was ‘a scholar of one of the rising universities;’ Bale describes him as an Oxford man, and says that besides his chronicle he was the author of ‘Divinity Lectures.’ Although he writes in a neutral spirit about politics, he seems to approve of the king's conduct during the earlier part of the struggle with Becket, but in recording later phases of it he is influenced by the character of the archbishop as a saint and martyr; he dwells on the edifying death of the younger Henry, and he evidently took the part of Bishop Hugh in his quarrel with Geoffrey, archbishop of York. He nowhere in his chronicle mentions his own name. He divides his work into pars prior and pars posterior. The latter begins with the accession of Henry II. After giving a genealogy of the Northumbrian kings from Ida to Ceolwulf, the chronicle opens with the year 732. Down to the year 1148 he copies, Bishop Stubbs remarks, a compilation still extant in manuscript called the ‘Historia Saxonum vel Anglorum post obitum Bedæ,’ making very few additions to it. From 1148 to 1169 his arrangement and composition must, according to the same authority, be his own, though he could find matter in the chronicle of Melrose. He had access to some collection of Becket's correspondence and inserts several letters; his narrative of the archbishop's life and death seems to have been taken from the early ‘Passio,’ from the author of the ‘Gesta Henrici,’ and from some source now lost (Stubbs). From 1162 to 1192 he relies on the ‘Gesta Henrici,’ sometimes abridging it and sometimes greatly expanding it. He inserts a large number of additions, several being important documents such as the ‘Liber de Legibus Angliæ,’ the ‘Assisa de Forestis,’ the acts of the Council of Lombers, and some concerning the sees of York and Durham, and the crusade, together with stories and miscellaneous matter. From 1192 to 1201 his work is undoubtedly original, and is of the highest value. In spite of carelessness in chronology, a defect more evident in the compiled than in the original part of his work, Roger is a sober and careful narrator. He gives much attention to legal and constitutional details, and supplies many accurate notices of foreign affairs. His readiness to accept miraculous stories has suggested to Bishop Stubbs an interesting discussion of the question how far such credulity in an author affects his credibility (Hoveden, iv. pref. xiv–xxiv). Several manuscripts of Hoveden's ‘Cronica’ are extant; the most important is that in the British Museum, MS. Reg. 14. C. 2, reaching to 1180; though not the author's draught it is a very fine manuscript of probably the end of the twelfth century, with annotations perhaps by the author himself. The companion volume, Bodleian MSS. Laud. 582, from 1181 to 1201, is ‘primarily a fair copy, but gradually running into the form of an original draught’ (Stubbs; cf. also Brit. Mus. Arundel MS. 69). The work was first printed by Sir Henry Savile in his ‘Scriptores post Bedam,’ 1596, reprinted at Frankfort in 1601, and has been edited with a new text, prefaces, and other apparatus by Bishop Stubbs in four vols. for the Rolls Series, 1868–71. Extracts were made from manuscript by Leland in his ‘Collectanea,’ and from Savile's edition by Leibnitz in his ‘Scriptores rerum Brunsvicensium.’ A large portion, also from Savile's edition, is in the ‘Recueil des Historiens.’

[Bishop Stubbs's prefaces to the four volumes of his edition of Hoveden in the Rolls Ser.]

W. H.