Tuesday, 16 December 2014

André Wilmart (1928) and Montague Rhodes James (1895) quote MSS. Bodl. 297, a manuscript copy of Marianus Scotus's Chronicon on which a Bury monk has written a great many marginal notes, one of which concerns the year AD 1093, commemorates the death of Count Alan, then gives his epitaph, a seven line Latin poem in rhyming couplets:

Circa istum annum dominicae incarnationis obiit Alanus comes Brittanniae et constructor nobilis coenobii S. Mariae extra urbem Eboracam: sed apud S. Aedmundum, cuius ecclesiae multorum bonorum impensor extiterat, ab abbate Baldewino iuxta australe ostium ecclesiae prime sepultus est: sed succedente tempore infra ecclesiam supplicatione monachorum Eboracensium et parentum suorum in opposite loco prioris tumulationis conditus est. Cuius nobilitatem exomat epy tafium quod super eum sic scriptum monstratur :

1 Stella nuit regni : comitis caro marcet Alani :
2 Anglia turbatur : satraparum flos cineratur :
3 Iam Brito, flos regum, modo marcor in ordine rerum
4 Praecepto legum, nitet ortus sanguine regum.
5 Dux uiguit summus, rutilans a rege secundus.
6 Hunc cernens plora : 'requies sibi sit, Deus' ora.
7 Vixit nobilium : praefulgens stirpe Brittonum.

Wilmart thought that line 7 should precede line 1.  In English, it then reads approximately as follows:

7 In life he was noble, of glittering British stock,
1 A star [of wisdom] in the kingdom, Count Alan's flesh now withers.
2 England is deeply troubled, for the fairest of magnates has turned to ash.
3 Now the flower of the Kings of Brittany marks the natural order of things.
4 He was a shining upholder [or teacher] of the law, in whom ran the blood of kings,
5 A leader who thrived and reached the highest ranks, his glory was second only to the King.
6 Weep for seeing this, and pray "May he rest in peace, O God".

The specific term "cineratur" led me to wonder whether Alan died in a fire.  A search revealed that London suffered one of its frequent major conflagrations in 1093.  Since this was followed by a general scarcity of necessities, it seems reasonable to suppose that that year had a long, hot, dry summer that was harsh to crops and animals.  Alan was interred by Abbot Baldwin, who had been Edward the Confessor's physician, in the cemetery outside the south door of the Church of the Abbey of Bury St Edmund and not long after reburied inside the church at the request of his family and the monks of St Mary's in York which Alan had founded.  In the Church of St Edmund, Alan's death was commemorated each year on 4 August. This being at the height of the English summer, and it being known that Alan was often in London in his latter years, makes his death in that fire plausible - if only I knew the exact date of the conflagration.

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