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The First Manuals of English History: Two Late Thirteenth-Century Genealogical Rolls of the Kings of England in the Royal Collection

Olivier de Laborderie (notes)

Abstract

The reign of Edward I (1272-1307) witnessed the creation of numerous genealogical rolls of the kings of England from Egbert to the reigning king, initially in Latin (for instance BL, Add. MS. 30079), but then more often in Anglo-Norman. As Thomas Wright first intuited in 1872, these much innovative aide-mémoire represent the first ‘feudal manuals of English history’. Their overall design owes much to the various visual abstracts of English history designed in the 1250s by the great St Albans chronicler Matthew Paris (such as his famous ‘portrait gallery’ in BL, Royal MS. C. VII, ff. 8v-9 or his genealogy in BL, Cotton MS. Claudius D. VI, ff. 5v-9v). The two royal genealogies in the Royal Collection, Royal MSS. 14 B. V and Royal 14 B. VI, are particularly representative of this kind of historical abstract, all the more so as they can be counted among the most finely illuminated of them and the only ones offering original ‘marginal’ drawings and grotesques that enhance their attractivity.

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