The Flores Historiarum (Flowers of History) is a Latin chronicle dealing with English history from the creation to 1326 (although some of the earlier manuscripts end at 1306). It was compiled by various persons and quickly acquired contemporary popularity, for it was continued by many hands in many manuscript traditions. Among twenty surviving manuscripts are those compiled at St Benet Holme, Norfolk, continued at Tintern Abbey (Royal Mss 14.c.6); at Norwich (Cottonian Claudius E 8); Rochester (Cottonian Nero D 2); St Paul's, London (Lambeth Mss 1106); St Mary's, Southwark (Bodleian Library, Rawlinson Mss B 177); and at St Augustine's, Canterbury (Harleian Mss 641). The main value of the work is seen in the work done by Roger of Wendover for his narrative of contemporary events from 1216 to 1235.
It was written originally at St Albans Abbey and later at Westminster Abbey. The earliest manuscript, the basis for all the various continuations, was conserved in Chetham's Library, Manchester. This nucleus of the early part of Flores Historiarum is supposed to have been the compilation of John de Cella (also known as John of Wallingford), abbot of St Albans from 1195 to 1214, although that is inconclusive. John's work started from the year 1188. This manuscript was carried down to 1265, with brief notes and emendations in the hand of Matthew Paris. A continuation carried the chronicle down to 1306; the continuation from 1306 to 1325/26 was compiled at Westminster by Robert of Reading (d. 1325) and another Westminster monk.
The title Flores Historiarum was appropriated by another St Albans writer, Roger of Wendover, who carried his chronology up to 1235, the year before his death. Roger claims in his preface to have selected "from the books of catholic writers worthy of credit, just as flowers of various colours are gathered from various fields." Hence he also called his work Flores Historiarum.
Flores Historiarum was for many years attributed to a "Matthew of Westminster" who Henry Richards Luard demonstrated was actually Matthew Paris. Like most chronicles, it is now valued not so much for what was culled from previous writers, as for its full and lively narrative of contemporary events from 1215 to 1235, including the signing of Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede.
Flores Historiarum was first printed, from a single manuscript, by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1567. The best edition is the complete one edited with introduction by Henry Richards Luard for the Rolls series (3 vols., London, 1890). It has been translated into English by C. D. Yonge (London, 1853).
See Luard's introduction, and Charles Bémont in the Revue critique d'histoire (Paris, 1891).
- According to Reginald L. Poole, reviewing Luard's 1890 edition in The English Historical Review 7 (January 1892):146-150) p. 148.
- According to Luard.
- Volume I, Chapter IX, Section 19 of The Cambridge History of English and American Literature
- Signing of Magna Carta, Runneymede, 1215