Open main menu

Robert de Monte (DNB00)

ROBERT de Monte (1110?–1186), chronicler, called by his contemporaries Robertus de Torineio, from his birthplace of Torigni-sur-Vire, is now generally called de Monte because he was abbot of Mont St. Michel. The names of his parents, Teduin and Agnes, are recorded by Huynes, but without contemporary evidence; there is reason to believe that they were people of good position. The date of Robert's birth is not known; 1110 has been ingeniously suggested by Mr. Howlett. At an early age he was devoted to religion, and took the monastic habit at Bec in 1128. In 1139 Henry of Huntingdon [q. v.] visited Bec and records Robert's zeal in correcting secular and religious books; from him Henry first heard of the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth. By that time Robert must have already finished his additions to the chronicle of William of Jumièges, in which he speaks of Henry I as lately dead. It is probable that in 1151 Robert became prior of Bec, and about that time he wrote to urge another prior to undertake the history of the Counts of Anjou and Maine. In 1154 he was abbot of Mont St. Michel, a house which had suffered from a period of anarchy. The election was confirmed by the Empress Matilda and her son Henry.

The scattered property of the abbey necessitated travelling, and in 1156 Robert visited Jersey and Guernsey (Howlett, p. 335). Next year he was in England visiting the abbey's possessions in the diocese of Exeter and the house at Mount St. Michael (ib. pp. 336–7), which by the bull of Adrian, 1155, had become the property of his abbey. Robert complained that the immunities of his house were not respected at Southampton, where he was made to pay portage, but in the same year Robert obtained redress from Henry II, and the portage money was refunded. In 1158 Henry II visited Mont St. Michel twice, once in the company of Louis VII, and in 1161 Robert was sponsor to Henry's daughter Eleanor. In 1162 he was made castellan of Pontorson. He had had negotiations with Becket, and about 1160 he granted the church of Basing in Hampshire, at Becket's request, to Gervase of Chichester, his clerk. Robert was a thorough man of business, and kept an account of the events of the first five years of his abbacy, part of which is in his own hand. He enlarged the monastic buildings, increased the number of monks, restored the library, filled it with books, and recovered much property for his monastery. He died 23–4 June 1186.

The list of his works is long. Two are of the first importance: 1. The additions to William of Jumièges, including the whole of the eighth book, many chapters in the seventh, and other alterations. The best edition at present is in Migne's ‘Patrologia,’ but a new one distinguishing Robert's contributions is needed. Robert's contributions are chiefly valuable for the reign of Henry I. 2. His additions, entitled ‘Roberti Accessiones ad Sigebertum,’ to Sigebert of Gemblours's ‘Chronicle,’ which ceased at the end of 1112, have been edited in the Rolls Series by Mr. Richard Howlett. Robert worked at it till his death, producing numerous editions, and presenting one to Henry II in 1184: the Avranches MS. is the best, at least for the years before 1156. Robert's chronicle is invaluable for the reign of Henry II, containing much that is not to be obtained from English historians. Its success is shown by the number of extant manuscripts of it, and by the many extracts made from it by later chroniclers.

He seems to have had a share in the ‘Chronicon Beccense,’ ed. Porée, Soc. Hist. Nor., and his ‘Continuatio Beccensis’ is printed in the Rolls Series with the ‘Accessiones ad Sigebertum,’ as well as in the ‘Annals of Mont St. Michel, 1135–1173,’ ed. Delisle; the ‘Rubrica Abbreviata’ of the abbots of that house, ed. Labbe; and the compilation of the St. Michel cartulary, now at Avranches (Delisle has printed the passages which concern Robert). In 1154 he wrote a treatise on the monastic orders and Norman abbeys, printed in Delisle's edition of his works (ii. 184). At the beginning and end of his copy of ‘Henry of Huntingdon,’ probably written about 1180 for the house of St. Michel, he made thirty-three lists of the bishops and abbots of France and England; twenty-five remain (Bibl. Nat. Latin. 6042), and these should be edited, as no fuller collection is known (Delisle, Anc. Cat. Evêques des Eglises de France, p. 7). Robert took a share in the transcription or composition of other works, and wrote prologues to a collection of extracts from St. Augustine which he thought were wrongly attributed to Bede, and to a copy of Pliny's ‘Natural History,’ the text of which he edited, although only the prologue is extant. Two of his letters are printed in Delisle. Before the chief copy of his chronicle he inserted a catalogue of Bec Library (ed. Ravaison, ‘Rapports sur les Bibliothèques de l'Ouest,’ pp. 375–95). A reference made by J. Bellaise, 1687, in a Savigny MS. implies that he also wrote a catalogue of Mont St. Michel library, but this seems to be lost.

[L. Delisle's edition of the supplement to Sigebert and of Robert's Opuscula for the Societé de l'Histoire de Normandie, 1872, is the most useful. Mr. Howlett's edition for the Rolls Series, 1889, has valuable notes on Robert's sources and on his mistakes in chronology, as well as a careful analysis of the English manuscripts. These two volumes have superseded Dr. Bethmann's edition in Mon. Germ. Hist. vol. vi. In the Church Historians of England, vol. iv. pt. ii., ed. Stevenson, is a translation of the continuation of Sigebert.]

M. B.