Peter of Blois

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Peter of Blois or Petrus Blesensis (c. 1135 – c. 1211) was a French poet and diplomat who wrote in Latin. Peter studied law in Bologna and theology in Paris. It was probably during his student years that he composed a number of Latin sequences after the manner of the Goliards, some of which were preserved in the Carmina Burana collection. He also wrote Vacillantis trutine libramine.[1]

Peter went with Stephen du Perche and Walter of the Mill to Sicily in 1166 and there became the tutor to King William II of Sicily in 1167. He was one of the few Frenchmen to survive the tumult of Stephen's years as chancellor of Sicily. Around 1173, he went to England, where he served Henry II and successive archbishops of Canterbury, Richard of Dover, as a Latin secretary. He wrote to his continental contacts, like Walter of the Mill, Archbishop of Palermo, in praise of Henry II and defended him against the charge that he had deliberately instigated the murder of Thomas Becket.[2] He was appointed Dean of the College of Wolverhampton, which he found corrupt. Resigning around 1202, he launched an ultimately unsuccessful bid to replace the institution with a Cistercian abbey.[3] Around 1182 he was appointed Archdeacon of Bath, a position he held for 26 years, followed by appointment as Archdeacon of London (1202–1212).

He served as Latin secretary to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's widow. In 1173 he wrote an open letter to her to "deplore publicly and regretfully that, while you are a most prudent woman, you have left your husband."[4] However, when in 1183 Henry the Young King died during the revolt against his father, Peter wrote to Eleanor a letter of reasoned consolation.[5]

Many of his letters still survive. He is incorrectly associated with Pseudo-Ingulf's Croyland Chronicle. According to historian R.W. Southern, Peter's letters were widely read until the seventeenth century, "for pleasure and instruction by cultivated readers". They conveyed "moral, legal and theological instruction, and...satire on men and institutions".[6] He was the author of a number of controversial works of varying lengths. A strongly anti-Semitic work, Against the Perfidy of the Jews, is largely a marshalling of arguments, ostensibly from Scrpiture, in favour of the Doctrine of the Trinity and other specifically Christian teachings, intended as a handbook of argumentation. Peter commended it as such in a preface addressed to a Bishop of Worcester, probably John of Coutances.[7] However, he held out no hope of conversion: "Their hour is not yet come, but He has blinded them till the time when the heathen are converted." Commenting on the Passion of Christ, he denounced the Jews as "persisting in their malice."[8]

His brother was William of Blois, another poet, who is sometimes confused with William de Blois, the Bishop of Lincoln.[9] A sister, Christiana of Blois. was a nun, whom Peter encouraged in her vocation.[10]


  1. ^ William Doremus Paden - Medieval lyric: genres in historical context - Page 112 2000 - "Peter of Blois, "Vacillantis trutine," ed. Peter Dronke, The Medieval Poet and His World (Rome: Storia e Letteratura, 1984), 298-300. la Vacillantis trutine libramine mens suspensa fluctuat et estuat, in tumultus anxios dum se vertit et bipertit ..."
  2. ^ Scott McLetchie (translator). Peter of Blois: Description of Henry II, Fordham University
  3. ^ Victoria County History: Staffordshire: Volume 3, n.44.
  4. ^ M. Markowski (introduction and translation). Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine: An Attempt to Chastise Her, Fordham University
  5. ^ A letter from Peter of Blois, at Epistolae: Medieval Women's Latin Letters, Columbia University.
  6. ^ Southern,R.W. The Making of the Middle Ages (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953) ISBN 0-300-00230-0 pp. 213-214
  7. ^ A treatise addressed to John Bishop of Worcester, Fordham University
  8. ^ Giles, Volume 3, p.94
  9. ^ Sharpe, Richard (2001). Handlist of the Latin Writers of Great Britain and Ireland Before 1540. Publications of the Journal of Medieval Latin 1 (2001 revised ed.). Belgium: Brepols. p. 754. ISBN 2-503-50575-9. 
  10. ^ A letter from Peter of Blois, at Epistolae: Medieval Women's Latin Letters, Columbia University.
  • Robinson, J. A., "Peter of Blois" in Somerset Historical Essays (1921)
  • A Giles (1847). Petri Blesensis Bathoniensis archidiaconi opera omnia : nunc primum in Anglia ope codicum manuscriptorum editionumque optimarum, Oxford. This is the standard collection of the works of Peter of Blois in Latin, in four volumes, available on-line at Internet Archive:

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