Historia Regum

The Historia Regum ("History of the Kings") is a historical compilation attributed to Symeon of Durham, which presents material going from the death of Bede until 1129. It survives only in one manuscript compiled in Yorkshire in the mid-to-late 12th century, though the material is earlier. It is an often-used source for medieval English and Northumbrian history.


It is a "historical compilation" or a "historical collection" rather than a chronicle or anything else.[1] Antonia Gransden and David Rollason list its sources as follows:[2]

folios[3] pages[4] Description
1. 51v-54v 3-13 The Kentish Royal Legend, i.e. 7th- and 8th- century Kentish legends, including that of the martyr princes Æthelberht and Æthelred.
2. 54v-55r 13-5 An early list of Northumbrian rulers, from Ida of Bernicia to Ceolwulf of Northumbria (d. 737), stylistically embellished and supplemented by two citations from Boethius.
3. 55r-58v 15-30 Material from Bede, including Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum and especially Historia abbatum.
4. 58v-68v 28/30-68 Lost Northumbrian annals covering 732—802.
5. 68v-75r 69-91 Annals covering 849—887, derived mainly from Asser's Life of King Alfred.
6. 75r-76r 91-5 A series of annals written after 1042 covering 888—957.
7. 76r-76v 95-8 Extracts taken from William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum
8. 76v-123v 98-258 Material from the Chronicle of John of Worcester. supplemented by a now lost "Northern" recension of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle related to the extant D-recension, by the Libellus de Exordio, by the Historia Novorum of Eadmer, by Dudo of St Quentin and by William of Jumièges.
9. 123v-129v 258-83 A chronicle covering the period 1119—1129.

Much of the compiled material up until 887, i.e. the first five sections, was itself probably derived from an earlier compilation by Byrhtferth of Ramsey,[5] and probably some of it was compiled before the end of the 10th century.[6] The material covering 1119—1129 does appear to be original, and this part may have been authored by Symeon.[7]


The text survives in one manuscript, Corpus Christi College Cambridge, MS 139, folios 51v-129v, written down in the late 12th century.[8] Even though this manuscript names Symeon as the author in an incipit and an explicit, Symeon's authorship of the work is nevertheless doubted or thought to be spurious by modern historians.[8] Besides not being an original historical work, reasons of internal evidence make it highly unlikely that the Historia Regum was written by the same author as the Libellus de Exordio,[9] and the latter is thought by its latest editor to have been authored by Symeon.[10]


  1. Gransden, Historical Writing, p. 150; Rollason (ed.), Libellus, p. xlviii.
  2. Gransden, Historical Writing, p. 149; Rollason (ed.), Libellus de Exordio, pp. xlviii—l.
  3. Folio numbers in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 139.
  4. Page numbers in Arnold's edition.
  5. Rollason (ed.), Libellus, p. xlix.
  6. Blair, "Some Observations", pp. 117—8
  7. Gransden, Historical Writing, p. 150—1.
  8. 1 2 Gransden, Historical Writing, p. Rollason (ed.), Libellus, pp. xlviii—xlix.
  9. Gransden, Historical Writing, p. 149 n. 85.
  10. Rollason (ed.), Libellus de Exordio, pp. xlviii—xliv.



Further reading

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