Richard of Cirencester

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This article is about the historical person. For the forgery that was attributed to him, see De Situ Britanniae.

Richard of Cirencester (c. 1335–c. 1401), historical writer, was a member of the Benedictine abbey at Westminster.

Life[edit]

His name (Circestre) first appears on the chamberlain's list of the monks of that foundation drawn up in the year 1355.[1]

In 1391 he obtained a licence from the abbot to go to Rome and in this the abbot gave his testimony to Richard's perfect and sincere observance of religion for upwards of thirty years. In 1400 Richard was in the infirmary of the abbey, where he died in the following year.[1]

His only known extant work is Speculum Historiale de Gestis Regum Angliae, 447-1066. The manuscript of this is in the university library at Cambridge, and has been edited for the Rolls Series (No. 30) by John Eyton Bickersteth Mayor (2 vols., London, 1863–69). It is in four books, and at the conclusion of the fourth book Richard expresses his intention of continuing his narrative from the accession of William I, and incorporating a sketch of the Conqueror's career from his birth. This design he does not, however, appear to have carried into effect.[1]

The value of the Speculum as a contribution to our historical knowledge is but slight, for it is mainly a compilation from other writers; while even in transcribing these the compiler is guilty of great carelessness. He gives, however, numerous charters relating to Westminster Abbey, and also a very complete account of the saints whose tombs were in the abbey church, and especially of Edward the Confessor. The work was, however, largely used by historians and antiquaries, until, with the rise of a more critical spirit, its value became more accurately estimated. Besides the Speculum Richard also wrote, according to the statement of William of Woodford in his Answer to Wycliffe (Edward Brown, Fasciculus Rerum expetendarum, p. 193), a treatise De Officiis; and there was formerly in the cathedral library at Peterborough another tractate from his pen, entitled Super Symbolum. Of neither of these works, however, does any known copy now exist.[1]

Historically, Richard is better known due to a forgery attributed to him by Charles Bertram. While the forgery was eventually discredited, its frequent citation by historians has associated Richard's name more closely with Bertram's forgery than with his own works.[1]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Speculum Historiale de Gestis regum Angliæ
  • Tractatus super Symbolum Majus at Minus
  • Liber de Officiis Ecclesiasticis

References[edit]

Attribution

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Richard of Cirencester". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.