The Influence of Anglo-Saxon Political Thoughts on Carolingian Kingship

Master's Thesis, 2001

62 Pages, Grade: 70



List of Abbreviations


Bede on Kingship
Transmission of Texts to the Continent
The HE and Kingship
Bede’s Letter to Egbert

Boniface and the Missionaries on the Continent

Alcuin of York




List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


The geographical area we now call England produced four great political thinkers in the eighth century, the Venerable Bede (ob.735), Boniface (born Wynfrith; ob.754), Cathwulf (fl.770s) and Alcuin of York (ob.804). The first of these was a monk who lived in the monastery at Jarrow in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, while the latter three were clerics who were more at home in the palaces and at the courts of Continental monarchs. All lived in a society that was governed by kings and united under Roman Christianity. Their careers as churchmen gave them the opportunity to write down ideas on monarchical government: the rule of kings. Each had a different background in the church, yet all had an impact upon the kingship of the Frankish dynasty, the Carolingians, by engaging with the contemporary political issues of their day.

The surviving works to be focused upon here are Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, hereinafter HE) and his Letter to Egbert; Boniface’s correspondence (Bonifatii Epistolae); Cathwulf’s letter to Charlemagne, king of the Franks (ob.814, see plate 1); Alcuin’s Versus de Patribus Regibus et Sanctis Euboricensis Ecclesiae (Poem on the Bishops, Kings and Saints of the Church of York, hereinafter York Poem) and his correspondence. Within these extant works can be found a fairly sophisticated theory of kingship that was in essence Anglo-Saxon but which had evolved in the works of each writer to meet the needs of their own situation.[1] The ideology they articulated in their writings needs to be explored in detail, as does the evidence of the transmission of the HE across the English Channel, for as a book the HE would have had a markedly wider audience than the epistolary evidence and with the exception of the Letter to Egbert it is the only text that was definitely not written on the Continent. Moreover, how these ideas affected the practical and theoretical basis of Carolingian kingship in the eighth and the ninth centuries needs to be examined; ideas that were inherently Insular (i.e. from the British Isles) because of their biblical tone.

The HE was written in 731 and Bede used as his chief model the Ecclesiastical History (323) of Eusebius (ob.c.340).[2] The HE is a history of a people as well as a theology of a people, intended for the ‘thoughtful listener’ to read and learn from.[3] It was meant to produce a response from the Christian reader, for it contained praise for what Bede saw as good and invective against what he saw as bad, designed to advise, encourage, inform and warn, and ultimately to save the soul of the reader and keep him/her on the straight and narrow.[4] Bede has left for us an important cultural heritage in the HE; not only was it an example of the art of eighth-century history writing but it was also a manual for ecclesiastics and kings of the period, for it acted as a handbook on how to evangelise a pagan race and how to successfully rule a Christian kingdom; Bede is England’s very own pater historiae. The importance of the HE as a text of kingly advice, political theory and exhortation is often overlooked, as is its impact on the other side of the Channel, in the land of the Franks. The epistles of Boniface stand in a similar position when taken as evidence of Anglo-Saxon political thought, while the letter of Cathwulf has had much written about its place in Early Medieval political thought and the works of Alcuin have also been looked at as political texts. Rarely are they analysed together as works by Anglo-Saxon scholars that had a marked impact upon Carolingian kingship.

Traders, clergymen, missionaries, refugees and envoys all played their part in establishing a conduit by which cultural texts, such as the HE, could be transferred to the Continent.[5] In a letter from Charlemagne to Offa, of 796, we read of Offa’s concerns about English merchants on the Continent.[6] Merchants such as these would have facilitated the movement of books to and from England. An example of the transport of books is found in Altfrid’s Life of St Liudger (Vita Sancti Liudgeri, composed before 849) in which Liudger after visiting Alcuin in York returned with some merchants to his native Frisia with ‘a supply of books’.[7] Later, Charlemagne presented Alcuin with the monastic house at Saint-Iosse-sur-Mer near the trading port of Quentovic for the hospitality of pilgrims, no doubt a place of exchange and gift giving.[8] Exiles, fugitives and political asylum seekers were another means by which cultural artefacts could have travelled to the court of Charlemagne, for example King Egbert of Wessex was exiled in Francia from 789 to 792.[9] Because clerics were literate they would have been the main carriers of books and manuscripts to the Continent. One such ecclesiastic was Alcuin’s Northumbrian friend Willehad (ob.789), a missionary to the Frisians and Old Saxons who became the first bishop of Bremen in 787.[10]

On the arrival on the Continent of Latin works written in England, the Anglo-Latin texts, the ideas they contained were incorporated into the writings of Carolingian scholars as part of the great Renaissance of learning, ‘a new enthusiasm for all human knowledge’, initiated by Charlemagne.[11] Men from several nations contributed to this Carolingian Renaissance, yet the Anglo-Saxon contribution was of vital significance, for it was Anglo-Saxon missionaries like Boniface who laid the foundations of this revival in learning, building upon the Merovingian cultural legacy already found in many Frankish monasteries.[12] Their activity was not only in the Frankish heartlands of Austrasia but also further west in Neustria, from the eighth century onwards.[13] This was a period of enthusiastic missionary endeavour; however, disruptions, such as the trade embargo between King Offa of Mercia (ob.796) and Charlemagne in 789, would have interrupted the traffic of goods from one country to another throughout the century.[14] The traffic of books would have been affected too but Charlemagne still ‘sent to Britain a synodal book’ in 792 according to the Historia Regum (History of the Kings, completed 1129), an annalistic source attributed to the twelfth-century monk-historian Symeon of Durham.[15] With Alcuin and his students already on the Continent possibly as early as 781/2 the cultural contact across the Channel was sustained, directly and indirectly.[16] Bede’s HE fitted into the Continental context well, for he recorded the rise and fall of kings and the struggle for power in England, themes that were very relevant to the situation of the parvenu dynasty of the Carolingians. Charlemagne was interested in having such writing studied by his scholars, this is indicative of a king who wished to form the bedrock of knowledge on which to advance his kingship.

Bede on Kingship

Transmission of Texts to the Continent

The transmission of the HE needs to be examined in order to have some idea of the reception it received on the Continent and, by extension, its popularity. There are two aspects to this, firstly how and what manuscripts got to the Continent in this period, and secondly where were they copied, used and distributed once there. At Wearmouth and Jarrow, the monasteries associated with Bede, copying of his work started quickly and went on until the end of the eighth century and beginning of the ninth century.[17] Palaeography, the way a book was written, and codicology, the way a book was put together, certify that the oldest extant text of the HE, the so-called Moore MS of 737, is of Northumbrian origin; possibly even from Bede’s home scriptorium.[18] This manuscript gave rise to what is known as the m-type recension of the HE, which went to the Continent early, probably as early as the ninth century, leaving the c-type recension in England. Another very important extant Continental manuscript of the m-type is the St Petersburg (Leningrad) MS, completed not later than 747.[19] It is close to the Moore MS yet it retains some individual characteristics. On the basis of the language used in Cædmon’s Hymn on folio 107 that parallels other Northumbrian texts, the dialect of Anglo-Saxon proper names used and the presence of capitular uncial script its origin in Wearmouth-Jarrow can be established.[20] Both the St Petersburg and the Moore MSS were written in Anglo-Saxon minuscule, rather than the older, more traditional half-uncial (a majuscule script); it is a characteristic flowing, pointed script and so was quicker to write (see plates 2 and 3). This is significant, for the Moore MS needed such speed in order to be completed in the 2 years between the death of Bede and its completion, indicating the demand for copies. Furthermore, the manuscript lacks illumination; it was an utilitarian rather than a de luxe production, most likely intended for regular use as opposed to simply being decorative.

It is known from Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne (Vita Karoli Magni; written between 817 and 830) that Charlemagne had a love of the arts.[21] In this biography Einhard talked of ‘his intellectual qualities’ that drove Charlemagne to pursue learning and education; ‘he was determined to give his children, his daughters just as much as his sons, a proper training in the liberal arts which had formed the subject of his own studies’ and ‘he was not content with his native tongue, but took the trouble to learn foreign languages’.[22] This account of Charlemagne’s educational endeavours is thought by scholars to be based upon Suetonius’ biography of the Roman Emperor Titus and as such may not be wholly reliable.[23] Nevertheless, it has been suggested by Bischoff that the Moore MS is the only surviving manuscript whose provenance from Charlemagne’s court library is certain.[24] Certainly the court library served as an archive for works that migrated to the court at the order of Charlemagne. Using palaeography and textual history the Moore MS can be demonstrated to have been in this library; that is, the Caroline hand that entered the additions into the Moore MS connects it to court of Charlemagne.[25] However, what must be remembered is that Charlemagne’s family library is shrouded in darkness, but what Einhard does tell us is that there was all probability that Charlemagne was familiar with the HE, for he was well used to ‘a public reading’. ‘Stories were recited to him, or the doings of the ancients told again. He took great pleasure in the books of Saint Augustine [ob.430] and especially those which are called The City of God [De Civitate Dei]’.[26] Therefore, it is likely that the HE was of interest to Charlemagne, not because it contained stories about Northumbrian history but because of what it had to tell him about evangelising pagans and kingship.

Various letters were sent from the Continent that show why Bede’s works were both known and in demand. For example, in 746-747 the Anglo-Saxon missionary to the Continent and then archbishop of Mainz, Boniface, in a letter to archbishop Egbert of York (735-766), requested ‘some treatises from the work of the teacher, Bede’.[27] Then in a letter of 746-747 to Hwætberht, abbot of Wearmouth, he asked that ‘certain works of that skilful investigator of the Scriptures, the monk Bede’, be sent to him ‘in exile’.[28] Also, sometime between 767 and 778 Boniface’s successor on the Continent, Lull (ob.786), quoted from the HE when he requested the works of Bede (as listed in the last chapter of the HE) in a letter to Ælberht, archbishop of York, which indicated that a copy of the HE (or book v chapter 24 at least) had reached Mainz by that date.[29] Further, Alcuin’s letters give evidence of the fact that Bede’s works were being copied and were in supply on the Continent.[30]

In terms of the survival of manuscripts on the Continent, the Moore MS spawned numerous progeny. It was in the scriptoria of the monasteries founded by the Anglo-Saxon missionaries that scribes copied the HE and Bede’s other works. There are four extant manuscripts dating to the ninth century, three dating to the tenth century and one that could be either ninth or tenth century in date. They are copies of the Moore MS, or more likely are copies of a copy of the Moore MS, possibly made at Charlemagne’s Palace School. From palaeographic analysis one can determine that all, except one, are Frankish and they have the same errors as the Moore MS, indicating that they are all m-type manuscripts.[31] From library catalogues that still exist one can see whereabouts these manuscripts may have been kept. For example, according to library catalogues, in c.800 the monastery at Würzburg had a copy of the HE, while Saint-Gall and Murbach also had copies in the ninth century; Reichenau and Saint-Gall were important centres for the transmission of Bede’s theological works.[32] Not all of these manuscripts are extant; they exist only in name in extant library catalogues. Overall the HE is extant in as many as twenty-seven Continental manuscripts between 800 and 1100, taking into consideration the descendents from the St Petersburg and the Moore MSS, compared to five from England.[33]

Other works of Bede, such as the De Temporum Ratione (On the Reckoning of Time, 725, hereinafter DTR), a computistic work, were very popular on the Continent, for the genre helped increase the power of the Frankish monarchs by giving them control over time, which meant control over the daily lives of all Christians in their domain.[34] This and Bede’s other exegetical and scientific works, written prior to the HE, were foundational and inspirational to his writing of history, therefore they deserve mentioning. The HE was the culmination of Bede’s life’s work and he saw it as a fitting end to a life of studying the Bible, hagiography, church history, martyrs, poetry, and astronomy; it is no coincidence that he left it until after the other works, for these earlier works helped him to obtain the background knowledge needed for such an undertaking. It was in the Carolingian period that the numbers of manuscripts of the DTR reached a peak in production, thus it can be seen that Bede’s HE and other writings were in ‘great vogue’ in this period.[35] There is an addendum added to the Moore MS that is known as the Continuations to the HE, found only in Continental manuscripts. The Continuations are a series of annalistic entries in the form of the recapitulation of events in the last chapter of the HE.[36] They were written after the death of Bede in 731 and end with an entry for 766. They bear a marked resemblance to the entries in the Northumbrian recension of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (hereinafter, ASC), for example in the 757 entry the compiler got the date of King Cynewulf of Wessex’s (ob.786) death wrong, just as the ASC did; both were out by two years.[37] The corollary of this is that a manuscript of the HE containing the Continuations, made in Northumbria but no longer extant, crossed the Channel not long after the last event the Continuations records (766). This goes further to emphasis that the works of Bede had a Continental market.

There remains the indirect evidence of the transmission of Bede’s work on the Continent, which are the extracts and thoughts of the HE found in other works, whether copied verbatim or imbibed into another author’s writing/writings. The former are widespread, instanced in the Reichenau catalogue compiled in the first half of the ninth century.[38] The latter are more difficult to identify, but probably the most obvious and influential was Alcuin’s York Poem, probably composed somewhere between 780 and 782, before Alcuin left for Francia.[39] This is important because being brought up in the community at York he was very familiar with the heritage of Bede and it was here that he had easy access to Bede’s work. The York Poem parallels Bede’s ideas on kingship, but we will return to this later.[40] In terms of the transmission of the text and thus the transmission of the Bedan ideas it contained, the poem was, since at least the tenth century, transcribed in the Rheims area and further disseminated throughout Francia, proving that it had a Continent audience.[41] Its circulation on the Continent was certainly greater than in England and Carolingian poetry of the early ninth century reflected this, such as the Paderborn Epic, entitled Karolus Magnus et Leo Papa (Charles the Great and Pope Leo).[42] Therefore, in written works Bede can be seen to have been very popular in the Carolingian period and this was an important factor in the impact of Anglo-Saxon political thought on the Franks. The nature of the HE as a political text meant its ideas on kingship could not have failed to influence the Carolingians, especially as it was a book in the library of Charlemagne.

The HE and Kingship

The HE as a treatise on kingship now needs assessing. Bede upheld a kingship that was inextricably linked to Christianity, one where a king was both bound to his people and to his Church. His kings, such as Edwin (ob.633), Oswald (ob.642), Oswine (ob.651), Oswiu (ob.670) and Aldfrith (ob.705), all kings of his native Northumbria, were held up as exemplars of what it was to be a king and how a king was meant to conduct himself. Included in the HE is a list of kings who were overlords, which included the kings, Ælle of Sussex (la. 5th c.), Ceawlin of Wessex (ob.593), Æthelberht of Kent (ob.616), Rædwald of East Anglia (ob.616/27), Edwin, Oswald and Oswiu.[43] They are known as Bretwaldas (‘Britain or wide rulers’), a term taken from the 827 entry of the ASC. Bede upheld them as being kings of great power, with wide influence and an impressive hegemony. This has encouraged historians to see in Bede’s work the idea of an imperial overlordship; Bede saw a hierarchy of kings and that these kings, especially, need to be strong rulers.[44] Bede referred to an imperium, or ‘rule’, over many peoples (i.e. wide empire), a standard sense in the middle ages, later to be used by Alcuin and in the Royal Frankish Annals (Annales Regni Francorum, hereinafter, ARF).[45] This idea of empire appeared again in 746-747 in the letter of Boniface to King Æthelbald of Mercia (ob.757); although this is reminiscent of Bede’s Bretwaldas, this letter was written at the same time as Boniface’s requests for Bede’s works, in which he implied that he had only ‘lately’ heard of Bede, due to his having left England permanently in 718, therefore it is doubtful whether there is any direct influence from Bede when he refers to Æthelbald’s ‘imperial rule’.[46]

Confronted with the dilemma of exalting a warrior king, while himself living a life of peaceful solitude as God’s servant, Bede attempted as best he could to promote a kingship that was both strong in the eyes of the world and divinely commissioned by God. From the outset he emphasised to the reader that this was a book intended for kings and those in positions of power, for the preface informs us that the book itself was dedicated to King Ceolwulf of Northumbria (ob.764), who had perused the work before Bede published it, and obviously found it acceptable.[47] In the context of Ceolwulf, such a book on the behaviour of a king and a guide for kingship was very appropriate for a reign that was filled with many ‘serious commotions and setbacks’, for in 731 he was eventually forcibly tonsured and lost his throne, only to regain it again within a short while.[48]

Bede’s kings exhibited certain characteristics; they were to be humble, pious and religious, as well as munificent, just and equitable, just as was Bede’s favourite king, Oswine.[49] Bede was portraying examples of what he regarded as the right order in the secular and religious affairs of the kingdom.[50] Oswald, too, showed piety when, ‘in the ardour of his faith’, he made his men pray to God before the battle of Heavenfield.[51] To be militarily victorious was a sign of a successful king in Bede’s eyes; Oswiu was such a king, for through devotion to God he was awarded a victory over King Penda of Mercia (ob.655) and his pagan army at the battle of Winwæd.[52] As long as they were devout and gave the glory to God, expansionist, hegemonical kings who exhibited valour on the battlefield were greatly admired by Bede because it increased their prestige at home and abroad and instilled a level of fear into their subjects and enemies.[53] A case in point was Edwin whose people obeyed his commands because ‘they feared the king greatly’, yet they did so because they ‘loved him dearly’,[54] an ideal type of respect for a king capable of leading.

Having the support of the people and the nobles was valued highly in Anglo-Saxon society; for instance, Oswine had ‘noblemen from almost every kingdom flock to serve him as retainers’.[55] This sort of loyalty was important in creating a unity among his people, especially at times of war. The inhabitants of a kingdom mattered to Bede’s kings; they were to be paternal protectors of the Church’s flock. Oswald, on one occasion, exemplified the generosity, kindness and Christian caritas that a king was to bestow on impecunious subjects and strangers when he had a silver dish broken up and distributed among the poor.[56] Oswald, also, evidences a kingship that was not complete at death, for even after death Bede assured his kingly readers that they would be remembered, if they act in accordance with God’s will, posterity will remember them just as Bede remembered Oswald: as ‘the most Christian king’ (rex Christianissimus).[57] This saintly quality of a ruler, a notion expressed in Augustine’s City of God, meant that despite defeat on the battlefield, Oswald was triumphant and went on to gain his heavenly reward in the after-life.[58] This passage, describing a king’s saintliness implies that Bede believed in divinely ordained kingship. The preface of the HE clearly states that it was written ‘for the instruction of yourself [Ceolwulf] and those over whom divine authority (diuina auctoritas) has appointed you to rule’.[59] Wallace-Hadrill pointed out that the concept of the divine nature of kingship could be an instance of the writings of Gregory the Great affecting Bede’s idea of earthly rule.[60]

There are four other themes that can be identified in the HE that are important to Early Medieval kingship. Firstly, the insular idea of a king’s actions pleasing or displeasing God, a result of which was either prosperity for a kingdom or downfall for a king. Bede used King Ecgfrith of Northumbria (ob.685) as an example of this when he went against the advice of an archbishop and displeased God by attacking the Irish (Scotti), which led to his downfall.[61] Thus, Bede’s kings were not to be tyrannical. The opposite was that the health of a kingdom was directly linked to the good deeds of a king and can be seen in Oswald’s reign, where Bede painted the idyllic picture of a prosperous Christian kingdom where: ‘churches were built in various places and people flocked together with joy to hear the Word; lands and property of other kinds were given by royal bounty to establish monasteries’.[62] In the HE the idea was taken from the fifth-century historian Gildas’ De Excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain), where the prosperity of a kingdom was directly related to its spiritual well being that was the responsibility of the king.[63] This was a theme that was repeated many years later in the Insular thought of Sedulius Scottus (fl.850-860), a ninth-century Irish scholar resident in Francia; he said that ‘a prudent ruler should strive to accomplish those things which are pleasing to God, if he desires that God may bring about those things which are prosperous and glorious to him’, that is, a king was to be a protector of the Church in order to be made prosperous by God. Also, Jonas of Orléans (ob.843/4), another Carolingian scholar, stated, more negatively than Sedulius, that the ‘injustice of the king not only brings darkness to the present government, but also casts a shadow over that of his sons and grandsons if they inherit the kingdom after him’.[64] Both emphasised the idea of a good king being prospered by God.

Secondly, a king was to defend the faith. This meant they had to help protect it, endow it, obey it and extend its reach by warfare.[65] That is, protection against external military or heretical threats and internal schismatic threats, for example, Oswiu who was defender of orthodoxy when he sponsored the Synod of Whitby, 664.

Thirdly, Bede’s kings needed to be thoughtful and sapient, especially when it came to picking advisors. This was seen when Edwin consulted with his chief men about receiving the faith of Christ.[66] Furthermore, King Aldfrith of Northumbria (ob.705) was described as a wise king ‘most learned in the scriptures’.[67] Again, a later Carolingian parallel to this can be found in the writings of Hincmar of Rheims, who reminded Carloman (ob.884), Louis III’s younger brother, that he should listen carefully to Holy Scripture; so it was of great consequence where a king obtained his advice.[68]

Fourthly, a legitimate king was very important to Bede. He highlighted the kings of the Angles’ descent from Woden, pointing out the present king’s right to rule and stressing the sacral character of Christian kingship.[69] Another example of Bede focusing on a legitimate ruler was Ecgfrith, son of Oswiu.[70] Altogether, Bede espoused a successful kingship that depended on a dignified, merciful, prudent, fortitudinous and moral king. His king could be both a warrior and a saint, as long as he did not depart from the ways of the Roman Church. His position in heaven would not be compromised if he chose to be a ruler who instilled fear into his enemies, yet Bede gave kings the option of retirement if they entered into a life of devotion for Christ. This was a custom of the Celtic Church known as clericatus but was not confined to the Celtic Church in the period Bede spoke of.[71] Bede mentioned several kings that did such a thing, an example of which was King Cædwalla of the West Saxons (ob.689) who ‘gave up his throne for the sake of the Lord and to win an everlasting kingdom, and went to Rome’ on a pilgrimage.[72] Bede’s very own, beloved, King Ceolwulf was one such king who gave up his throne in 737, although this may have been to forestall deposition or assassination.[73]

Many of the ideas about kingship advanced by Bede are to be found in his Biblical commentaries, listed in the last chapter of the HE, on the Old Testament (hereinafter OT) books of Genesis, 1 Samuel, Kings, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, the books of the prophets, and on many of the New Testament books.[74] These, too, were disseminated widely on the Continent, evinced by the commentary on the Book of Revelation, which is extant in 11 Continental manuscripts copied before c.900.[75] Bede took his ideas from the Bible, and his thoughts were always intertwined with millenarian thoughts about the place of the Anglo-Saxons in the Sixth Age of the world.[76] As a Christian historian, he saw only one history for all people, a universal history; the Sixth and final age, after the Incarnation, was a preparation for the coming of Christ, thus all that the Anglo-Saxon kings did was done in order to prepare for ‘the death of the whole world’.[77] It was through his OT exegesis that he came to equate the Anglo-Saxons with the Israelites, a chosen people of God, seen especially in the commentary on 1 Samuel.[78] Resultantly, he based much of his thought on kingship on that of the Israelites, such as Saul, a king who, in Bede’s opinion, failed his people because he did not fear God enough, which resulted in his own death and the defeat of his people.[79] Bede’s biblical model of kingship can be found in the HE when he compares King Æthelfrith of Northumbria (ob.616) with Saul, differing only in that he ‘was ignorant of the divine religion’.[80] That is, he had the good qualities of a king like Saul, such as bravery, and was excusable for any failings that Saul had because he did not know the God that Saul knew. In his letter to Egbert, in 734, he equated the Anglo-Saxon bishops with the OT ‘priests of the people of God’, again pointing out the similarities between the Hebrews and the Saxons.[81] Another parallel between the HE and the OT is the fact that like the books of Samuel the HE is set within a loosely chronological framework based around the reigns of kings.[82] Finally, one of the important Insular contributions to the Carolingian Renaissance was a reliance on the Bible and the application of the OT to current affairs and Bede’s works through their popularity would have unmistakably demonstrated this to any Continental audience.[83]

Bede’s Letter to Egbert

Further ideas of Bedan kingship are found in Bede’s Letter to Egbert of 734, which went further in his use of biblical models. It contains notions about the ‘Lord’s anointed’, the people of God, the bishops responsibility for the spiritual health of the laity, how unjust rulers could have been dealt with, the responsibility of the king on the day of judgement and the king’s moral state. Only three manuscripts of this document survive, compared to the 133 of the HE and the 240 of the DTR that survive.[84] This is a result of it being a private letter, thus it lacked a circulation on the Continent, yet it is of consequence in any investigation of Bedan theories, especially those on kingship. Also, Egbert was archbishop of York and teacher at the School of York, where Alcuin was taught and where he became schoolmaster (magister) in 767, before he took all his learning to the court of Charlemagne. As such, Egbert, a former pupil of Bede’s, would have transmitted Bedan theories into the school. His successor Ælberht, archbishop of York (773-8) and Alcuin’s teacher, would have included these theories in the curriculum he created. This formed the background to the future ideas of Alcuin and created a continuum of Anglo-Saxon ideas from Bede to Alcuin’s pupils on the Continent, ensuring that the York view of the world survived.[85] Ælberht was clearly in favour of Bede; this can be seen in his letter to Lull, which he ended with a citation from Bede’s metrical Life of St Cuthbert (Vita Sancti Cuthberti, 716).[86]


[1] J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, Early Germanic Kingship in England and on the Continent (Oxford, 1971), p. 98.

[2] B. Colgrave & R.A.B. Mynors (eds. & trans.) Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford, 1969); W. Levison, ‘Bede as Historian’ in A.H. Thompson (ed.), Bede: His Life, Times and Writings (Oxford, 1935), pp. 133-41, esp. 133.

[3] HE, Preface, p. 3.

[4] B. Ward, The Venerable Bede (London, 1990, revised 1998), p. 144.

[5] For missionaries see infra, p. 23. Gervold, abbot of St Wandrille, was an administrator of customs at Frankish seaports and important ambassador to King Offa for example, see F.L. Ganshof, ‘Les relations extérieures de la monarchie franque sous les premiers souverains carolingiens’, Annali di Storia del Diritto, Rassegna Internationale, v-vi (1961-2), pp. 1-53; trans. ‘The Frankish Monarchy and its External relations’ in F.L. Ganshof, The Carolingians and the Frankish monarchy: studies in Carolingian history, trans. J. Sondheimer (London, 1971) pp. 166-73; W. Levison, England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (Oxford, 1946), pp. 111.

[6] S. Allott, Alcuin of York (York: Sessions, 1974), no. 40, pp. 51-3.

[7] Altfrid, The Life of St Liudger in Whitelock, EHD, no. 160, ch. 12, p. 789.

[8] Allott, Alcuin, no. 51, p. 67.

[9] Whitelock, EHD, no. 1, p. 187.

[10] Ansker, Life of St Willehad in MGH, SS II, pp. 379-84; clergymen initially went to England from Francia, for example, Agilbert, HE iii.25, p. 298-300.

[11] M. Lapidge, ‘Anglo-Latin literature’, in S.B. Greenfield & D.G. Calder (eds.) A New Critical History of Old English Literature (NY & London, 1986), pp. 5-37, repr. in ALL, p. 1; Walahfrid Strabo’s Prologue to Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne, trans. L. Thorpe (Harmondsworth, 1970, repr. London, 1970), p. 23, also cf. p. 67; G. Brown, ‘Introduction: the Carolingian Renaissance’, in R. McKitterick (ed.) Carolingian Culture: emulation and innovation (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 1-51.

[12] Y. Hen, ‘The uses of the Bible and the perception of kingship in Merovingian Gaul’, EME, 7/3, (1998), pp. 277-90.

[13] R. McKitterick, ‘The Diffusion of Insular Culture in Neustria between 650 and 850: the implication of the manuscript evidence’, in H. Atsma (ed.) La Neustrie, repr. in R. McKitterick, Books, Scribes and Learning in the Frankish Kingdoms, 6th-9th Centuries (1994), p. 395; for maps, see R. McKitterick, The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987 (London, 1983), pp. 370-79.

[14] Allott, Alcuin, no. 31 Letter of Alcuin to Colcu, p. 43. Trade links were re-established after 791; idem, Alcuin, no. 40, pp. 51-3; J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, ‘Charlemagne and England’, in J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, Early Medieval History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975), pp. 161-3; P.H. Blair, The Moore Bede, EEMF, Vol.9 (Copenhagen, 1959), p. 25.

[15] Whitelock, EHD, no. 3, p. 272.

[16] This date for Alcuin’s arrival on the continent from a work not later than 829, the Vita Alcuini and its date for Alcuin’s and Charlemagne’s meeting at Parma in 782, however, D. Bullough argues that 786 is the date of Alcuin’s arrival at the court of Charlemagne as opposed to the traditional date of 781/2, in D. Bullough, ‘Alcuin before Frankfort’, Das Frankfurter Konzil von 794, ed. R. Berndt SJ (Mainz, 1997), pp. 571-85, esp. pp. 573, 578, 580.

[17] D. Whitelock, After Bede, Jarrow Lecture, 1960, p. 7.

[18] The Moore MS is now Cambridge University Library, Kk.V.16 (CLA 2.139); Blair, The Moore Bede, p. 29.

[19] St Petersburg National Library of Russia, MS. Lat. Q.v.I.18 (CLA, 1621); Gneuss, 846; R.A.B. Mynors, ‘Textual Introduction’, in Colgrave & Mynors, The Ecclesiastical History, pp. xliv-xlvi; O. Arngart, (ed.) The Leningrad Bede: An eighth century manuscript of the Venerable Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum in the Public Library, Leningrad, EEMF, Vol.2 (Copenhagen, 1952); for dating, based on certain chronological notices and dates on fol. 159 of the MS, see O. Dobiache-Rojdestvensky, ‘Un manuscrit de Bède à Léningrad’, Speculum 3 (1928), pp. 314-21 and M.B. Parkes, The scriptorium of Wearmouth-Jarrow, Jarrow Lecture, 1982, p. 6.

[20] Ibid., pp. 5-6; Arngart, ‘Introduction’, in The Leningrad Bede, p. 31; For discussion of Cædmon’s Hymn, see P. Cavill, Anglo-Saxon Christianity (London, 1999), pp. 90-108.

[21] For dating see P.E. Dutton, (ed. & trans.) Charlemagne’s Courtier: the Complete Einhard (Peterborough, Ontario, 1998), pp. xviii-xx.

[22] Einhard, VK, bk. iii, pp. 56, 59, 67.

[23] Suetonius, The Twelve Cæsars, trans. R. Graves (Harmondsworth, 1957, revised 1979), p. 293.

[24] Mynors, ‘Textual Introduction’, p. lxiii.

[25] Cambridge University Library, Kk.V.16, fol. 128v.

[26] B. Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne, trans. & ed. M. Gorman (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 56, 67, 73; Einhard, VK, bk. iii, p. 67.

[27] Whitelock, EHD, no. 179, p. 824.

[28] Ibid., no. 180, p. 825; incidentally these letters coincide with the date of the St Petersburg Bede, see Parkes, S criptorium of Wearmouth-Jarrow, p. 16.

[29] Whitelock, EHD, no. 188, p. 768; Blair, The Moore Bede, p. 25; Levison England and the Continent, p. 140.

[30] see infra, p. 35; Whitelock, After Bede, p. 9.

[31] R.A.B. Mynors, ‘The Early Circulation of the Text’, in Blair, The Moore Bede, p. 34.

[32] Oxford, Bodleian Library Laud misc. 126, fol. 260r; E.A. Lowe, ‘An eighth-century list of books in a Bodleian manuscript from Würzburg and its probable relation to the Laudian Acts’, Speculum, 3 (1928), pp. 3-15; Würzburg: Universitätsbibliothek, Theol. fol. 118. s. x, Ebrach. Deutsche Archiv VII (1839), 109; St Gall: Stiftsbibliothek 247. s. ix med., St Gall. Scherrer, 168; Whitelock, After Bede, p. 9; M.L.W. Laistner & H.H. King, A Hand-list of Bede Manuscripts (Ithaca, NY, 1943), pp. 4, 93-103; Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries, p. 96.

[33] R.H.C. Davis, ‘Bede after Bede’, in C. Harper-Bill, et. al. (eds.) Studies in Medieval History presented to R. Allen Brown (Woodbridge, 1989), p. 104; Viking attacks in England at his time may account in part to such figures, yet they are still telling.

[34] R. McKitterick, ‘Constructing the past in the early Middle Ages: the case of the royal Frankish annals’, TRHS, 6th ser. VII (1997), p. 110; F. Wallis (trans.), Bede: The Reckoning of Time (Liverpool, 1999).

[35] Ibid., p. lxxxviii; Laistner & King, A Hand-list, p. 94.

[36] Cambridge University Library, Kk.V.16, fol. 128r; Continuations from the Moore MS, in Colgrave & Mynors, The Ecclesiastical History, pp. 573-7.

[37] Ibid., p. 575; Whitelock, EHD, no. 1, pp. 175-7.

[38] Laistner & King, A Hand-list, p. 103.

[39] P. Godman, Alcuin: The Bishops. Kings and Saints of York (Oxford, 1982) p. xlii; Godman’s counter-hypothesis to this date is that on one of Alcuin’s return visits to Northumbria in 786 or 790-3 Alcuin composed or finally revised the poem, see idem, Alcuin, pp. xliii-xlvii; D. Bullough states that the date of composition was ‘probably in the (late) 770s although with subsequent additions and possible revisions in the next decade’, in ‘Hagiography as patriotism: Alcuin’s «York Poem» and the early Northumbrian «vitae sanctorum»’, in Hagiographie Cultures et Sociétés, IVe-XIIe siècles (Paris, 1981), p. 339.

[40] See infra, p. 35.

[41] Levison, England and the Continent, p. 147; Godman, Alcuin, pp. cxiii, cxxviii-ix, cxxix.

[42] Ibid., p. xlv; Godman, Poetry, pp. 197-206.

[43] HE ii.5, pp. 149-51; Whitelock, EHD, no. 1, p. 186; for discussion of the terms Bede used for kings, see J. Campbell, Bede’s Reges and Princepes, Jarrow Lecture, 1979 (1980).

[44] Levison, England and the Continent, p. 123.

[45] McKitterick, ‘Constructing the past’, p. 128; Alcuin, York Poem, in Godman, Alcuin, v. 103, p. 13; P.D. King, (trans.) Charlemagne: Translated Sources, pp. 74-107; B.W. Scholz, (trans.) Carolingian chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories (Michigan, 1970).

[46] Whitelock, EHD, nos. 179, 177, pp. 824, 816; see infra, pp. 30-1.

[47] HE Preface, p. 3.

[48] HE v.23, p. 559; see D.P. Kirby, Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum: Its Contemporary Setting, Jarrow Lecture, 1992, pp. 5, 14, for how Bede viewed Ceolwulf and the events at the end of the reign; D.P. Kirby, ‘King Ceolwulf of Northumbria and the Historia Ecclesiastica ’, Studia Celtica, 14/15 (1979-80), p. 168.

[49] HE iii.14, pp. 257-9; Wallace-Hadrill, EGK, pp. 85-6.

[50] Kirby, Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica, p. 11.

[51] HE iii.2, p. 215.

[52] HE iii.24, p. 291.

[53] Wallace-Hadrill, EGK, p. 81.

[54] HE ii.16, p. 193.

[55] HE iii.14, pp. 257-9.

[56] HE iii.6, p. 231.

[57] HE ii.5, pp. 150/1.

[58] HE iii.9-13; Campbell, Bede’s Reges and Princepes, p. 12; W. Parsons, ‘The Mediaeval Theory of the Tyrant’, Review of Politics, 4/2 (1942), p. 129; For Charlemagne’s interest in the City of God, see supra, p. 10.

[59] HE Preface, p. 3; emphasis mine.

[60] Wallace-Hadrill, EGK, p. 73.

[61] HE iv.26, pp. 427-31; N.J. Higham, An English Empire: Bede and the Early Anglo-Saxon Kings (Manchester, 1995), p. 12.

[62] HE iii.3, p. 221.

[63] M. Winterbottom (ed. & trans.), Gildas: The Ruin of Britain and other Works (London, 1978); Wallace-Hadrill, EGK, p. 74; see infra, p. 39.

[64] E.G. Doyle, (trans.) Sedulius Scottus: On Christian Rulers and The Poems (NY, 1983), ch. 11, p. 69; R.W. Dyson, (trans.) A Ninth-Century Political Tract: The De Institutione Regia of Jonas of Orleans (NY, 1983), ch. 3, p. 17.

[65] Wallace-Hadrill, EGK, p. 86.

[66] HE ii.13, pp. 183-7.

[67] HE iv.26, p. 431.

[68] Hincmar, On the Governance of the Palace, ch. 2; trans. P.E. Dutton (ed.), Carolingian Civilization: A Reader (Peterborough, Ontario, 1993), p. 486.

[69] HE i.15; F. Kern, Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages, intro. & trans. S.B. Chrimes (London, 1939), p. 14; Wallace-Hadrill, EGK, p. 9, 14; E. John, ‘The Point of Woden’, ASSAH, 5 (1992), p. 129-130.

[70] HE iv.5, p. 349.

[71] N.K. Chadwick, ‘The Celtic background of early Anglo-Saxon England’, in K. Jackson & N. Chadwick et al. Celtic and Saxon: Studies in the early British border (London, 1964), p. 332; see infra, pp. 29-30.

[72] HE v.7, pp. 469-73; for others see Wallace-Hadrill, EGK, pp. 87-91.

[73] Kirby, ‘King Ceolwulf’, pp. 168, 170.

[74] W. Trent Foley & A.G. Holder (trans. & intro), Bede: a biblical miscellany (Liverpool, 1999).

[75] Laistner & King, A Hand-list, p. 5.

[76] J.A. Burrow, The Ages of Man: A Study in Medieval Writing and Thought (Oxford, 1986), pp.83-5.

[77] M. Innes & R. McKitterick, ‘The Writing of History’, in McKitterick Carolingian Culture, pp. 195; Bede: The Reckoning of Time, ch. 66, pp. 158, 354.

[78] J. McClure, ‘Bede’s Old Testament Kings’, in P. Wormald, et al. (ed.) Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society: Studies presented to J.M Wallace-Hadrill (Oxford, 1983), p. 87; extant in one pre-900 MS: Lyon: Bibliothèque publique 449, foll.1-94v. s. ix1, Chapter Library; Laistner & King, A Hand-list, p. 65.

[79] Wallace-Hadrill, EGK, pp. 76-8.

[80] HE i.34, p. 117.

[81] Bede’s Letter to Egbert, in L. Sherley-Price, (trans.) Bede Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Harmondsworth, 1990), ch. 7, p. 342.

[82] McClure, ‘Bede’s Old Testament Kings’, p. 95.

[83] M. Garrison, ‘The English and the Irish at the court of Charlemagne’, in P.L. Butzer, M. Kerner & W. Oberschelp (eds.) Karl der Gross und sein Naehwirken: 1200 Jahre Kultur und Wissenschaft in Europa 1: Wissen und Welterbild (Turnhout, 1997), p. 116.

[84] The three Letter to Egbert MSS are Hague: Koningklijke Bibliotheek, 70 H 7. s. x in.; BL, Harley MS 4688, s. xii (Webster & Backhouse, no. 96), Durham; Oxford: Merton College C I 10. s. xv; Laistner & King, A Hand-list, p. 120; Wallis, ‘Introduction’ in The Reckoning of Time, p. lxxxvi; C. Plummer (ed.), ‘Introduction’, in Venerabilis Baedae Opera Historica, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1896; repr. 1946), pp. lxxxvi, cxli-ii, 405-23; cf. Mynors, ‘Textual Introduction’, pp. xxxix-lxxiv and Davis, ‘Bede after Bede’, p. 103.

[85] Godman, Alcuin, p. lxii.

[86] Ibid., p. lxiv; A.W. Haddan & W.S. Stubbs (eds.), Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland (Oxford, 1868; repr. Oxford, 1964), Vol. 3, pp. 403-13.

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The Influence of Anglo-Saxon Political Thoughts on Carolingian Kingship
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Mark McNaughton (Author), 2001, The Influence of Anglo-Saxon Political Thoughts on Carolingian Kingship, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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