Geoffrey Gaimar

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Geoffrey Gaimar (flourished 1136-37[1]) was an Anglo-Norman chronicler. Gaimar's lasting contribution to medieval literature and history was as translator from Old English to Anglo-Norman. His L'Estoire des Engleis, or "History of the English People", written between 1136-40,[2] was a chronicle in octosyllabic rhymed couplets running 6,526 lines long.[2]

Overview of his work

The L'Estoire des Engleis opens with a brief mention of King Arthur, whose actions affect the plot of the interpolated tale of Havelok the Dane. That aside, most of the first 3,500 lines are translations out of a variant text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and subsequent portions from other (Latin and French) sources that remain unidentified.[2]

Gaimar claims to have also written a version of the Brut story, a translation of the chronicle of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae into Anglo-Norman verse, which was commissioned ca. 1136 by Constance, wife of Ralph FitzGilbert, a Lincolnshire landowner.[2] Constance appears to have been implicated in the writing process.[3] Gaimar's translation, if it existed, antedated Wace's Norman Roman de Brut (ca. 1155), but no copy of Gaimar's Brut (aka L'Estoire des Bretuns) has survived, being completely superseded by the latecomer.[2][4][lower-alpha 1] Ian Short argues that Gaimar's Estoire des Bretuns was no more than a short epitome of the pre-Arthurian section of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, which might explain why Wace's later full translation of the text became more popular and ultimately superseded Gaimer's version.[5]

To be clear, Gaimar did not create two separate and distinct chronicles, and the two estoires were merely the former and latter sections of a long running history starting from the Argonauts' quest of the golden fleece to the reign of William II "Rufus" (d. 1100) that Gaimar set out to write.[2] Gaimar's scheme was greatly expanded in scope from the translation work on Geoffrey of Monmouth, the former part, that the patron requested.[2] Ironically, it was solely the latter part covering the Anglo-Saxon period that was transmitted by later copyists, as a continuation to Wace. The scribe of one such copy, in a late 13th-century manuscript (B.L. Royal 13 A xx i), dubbed the portion with the title Estoire des Engles.[2]

The so-called "lost L'Estoire des Bretuns" ("History of the Britons") was an expedient term coined by 19th-century commentators.[6]

A version of Havelok the Dane occurs at the beginning of L'Estoire des Engles, which must have originally been interpolated in-between the history of the Britons and the history of the English,[6] serving as a bridge. Unlike the Middle-English version of the legend, Gaimar's version connects Havelok to King Arthur (making Arthur responsible for destroying the Danish kingdom that Havelok was to inherit[7]).[lower-alpha 2] Add to this the mention of the sword Caliburc[8] (Excalibur), demonstrating Gaimar's knowledge of Galfridian legendary history that predated the advent of Wace's Brut.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. Ritson notes: "poet anterior to Wace, etc."
  2. There is also an Anglo-Norman lai version, but that is considered to be later and derived from Gaimar. Cf. Fahnestock (1915). A study of the sources and composition of the old French Lai d'Haveloc. Jamaica, New York: The Marion Press. p. 121.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Ian Short, "Gaimar, Geffrei", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Keller, Hans-Erich (1995). "Geffrei Gaimar". In Kibler, William W. (ed.). Medieval France: An Encyclopedia. Manchester: Psychology Press. p. 741. ISBN 0824044444.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Berat, Emma (2010). "The Patron and her Clerk: Multilingualism and Cultural Transition". New Medieval literatures. 12: 33.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Ritson, Joseph (1802). Ancient Engleish Metrical Romanceës. 1. Nicol. p. lxxxviii.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Short, Ian R. "What was Gaimar's Estoire des Bretuns?", in: Cultura Neolatina 71, 2011, pp. 143-145
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Lestorie des Bretons" as spelt in: Israel (1898). Hamlet in Iceland. London: David Nutt. p. lx.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. vv.409-422, Hardy, Martin & 1888-89 p.13
  8. v.46, Hardy, Martin & 1888-89 p.2


Texts and translations
  • Bell, Alexander, ed. (1960). L’Estoire des Engleis by Geffrei Gaimar. Anglo-Norman Texts. 14–16. Oxford: B. Blackwell.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Bell, Alexander, ed. (1925). Le lai d'Haveloc and Gaimar's Haveloc episode. Manchester: University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hardy, Thomas Duffus; Martin, Charles Trice, d. 1914., trs., eds. (1888–89). Le lai d'Haveloc and Gaimar's Haveloc episode. Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores. Vol. II Translation. London: Printed by H.M. Stationery Off., by Eyre and Spottiswoode.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>. Archived from the original Vol. I Text Vol. II Translation on 2007-08-07.
  • Short, Ian, tr., ed. (2009). Geffrei Gaimar Estoire Des Engleis History of the English. Oxford University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wright, Thomas, ed. (1850). The Anglo-Norman metrical chronicle of Geoffrey Gaimar. London: Printed for the members of the Caxton Society.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bratu, Cristian, “Translatio, autorité et affirmation de soi chez Gaimar, Wace et Benoît de Sainte-Maure.” The Medieval Chronicle 8 (2013): 135-164.
  • Harper-Bill, Christopher & van Houts, Elisabeth (eds.), A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World, Boydell, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84383-341-3.
  • Legge, Mary D., Anglo-Norman Literature and its Background, Oxford University Press, 1963.
  • Short, Ian R., "What was Gaimar's Estoire des Bretuns?", in: Cultura Neolatina 71 , 2011, pp. 143–145.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). "Gaimar, Geoffrey". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource