Roger of Wendover

Roger of Wendover (he probably hailed from Wendover, Buckinghamshire) was a monk at St Albans Abbey, where he compiled a chronicle, the Flores Historiarum (Flowers of History), extending from the Creation to 1235. Roger concludes his preface to the work:

Finally, that which follows has been taken from the books of catholic writers worthy of credit, just as flowers of various colours are gathered from various fields, to the end that the very variety, noted in the diversity of the colours, may be grateful to the various minds of the readers, and by presenting some which each may relish, may suffice for the profit and entertainment of all.

Roger’s chronicle is divided into two books. The first is devoted to the period from the Creation to the Incarnation, and is of no interest.

The second book of this work treats of the New Testament, commencing with the incarnation of Christ and his nativity, and notices every year, without omitting one, down to our times … for the sake of fastidious readers, who are easily wearied, we think it good to aim at brevity in this our history …
Roger of Wendover Flores Historiarum Preface

The work’s real importance lies in its coverage of events from about 1200 – the events of Roger’s own times – however, during the Anglo-Saxon period Roger seems to have preserved nuggets from now lost sources.

Roger’s death is dated to 6th May 1236 by, his rather more illustrious successor as St Albans’ historiographer, Matthew Paris. Matthew revised Roger’s chronicle, and extended it to 1259 (in which year he apparently died) – producing a large work, appropriately called the Chronica Majora (Great Chronicle). Whether Roger had, similarly, assimilated the work of a previous St Albans historiographer whose name was not recorded, or whether he was the originator of the Flores Historiarum, is a question that has divided scholars’ opinions over the years. At any rate, the original manuscript of Matthew’s Chronica Majora still exists, and this is, in fact, the earliest surviving incarnation of Roger’s work.[*] Roger of Wendover’s Flores Historiarum itself exists in two later manuscripts: British Library MS Cotton Otho B v (c.1350), which was badly damaged by fire in 1731, and Bodleian Library MS Douce 207 (c.1300).

Roger of Wendover’s Flores Historiarum translation by J.A. Giles

The original manuscript of the Chronica Majora is in three parts: up to 1188 in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 26; 1189 to 1253 in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 16; 1254 to the end in British Library MS Royal 14 C vii.
In the Chronica Majora, Matthew Paris’ additional twenty-four years of history is about as large as the entire period covered by Roger of Wendover. Matthew Paris also produced a chronicle called the Flores Historiarum, which is essentially an abridged version of the Chronica Majora, but in which Matthew evidently also referred to the original material lying behind Roger of Wendover’s Flores Historiarum. By the early-14th century Matthew’s Flores Historiarum had been further developed by various writers, first at St Albans Abbey and then Westminster Abbey, which circumstances apparently resulted in a scribe at the beginning of the 15th century (British Library MS Cotton Claudius E viii) identifying the whole thing as the work of a single author: one Matthew of Westminster (an imaginary figure). In 1567 a printed edition of the Flores Historiarum attributed to Matthew of Westminster was published.