William the Breton

William The Breton

William the Breton

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William the Breton (c. 1165 – c. 1225), French chronicler and poet, was as his name indicates born in Brittany.

He was educated at Nantes and at the University of Paris, afterwards becoming chaplain to the French king Philip Augustus, who employed him on diplomatic errands, and entrusted him with the education of his natural son, Pierre Charlot. William is supposed to have been present at the Battle of Bouvines.

His works are the Philippide and the Gesta Philippi H. regis Francorum. The former, a classicizing Latin epic poem in XII books and composed in three redactions, gives some very interesting details about Philip Augustus and his time, including some information about military matters, and shows that William was an excellent Latin scholar.

In its final form the Gesta is an epitome of the work of Rigord, who wrote a life of Philip Augustus from 1179 to 1206, and an original continuation by William himself from 1207 to 1220. In both works William speaks in very laudatory terms of the king; but his writings are valuable because he had personal knowledge of many of the facts which he relates. He also wrote a poem Karlotis, dedicated to Charlot, which is lost.

William's works have been edited with introduction by HF Delaborde as Œuvres de Rigord et de Guillaume le Breton (Paris, 1882-1885), and have been translated into French by Guizot in Collection des mémoires relatifs a l'histoire de France, tomes xi and xii (Paris, 1823-1835). See Delaborde's introduction, and......
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