". . . In the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme,
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights."
SHAKESPEARE, Sonnet cvi.
In the long line of Arthurian chroniclers Geoffrey of Monmouth deservedly occupies the first place. The most gifted and the most original of their number, by his skilful treatment of the Arthurian story in his Historia Regum Britanniae, he succeeded in uniting scattered legends attached to Arthur's name, and in definitely establishing their place in chronicle history in a form that persisted throughout the later British historical annals. His theme and his manner of presenting it were both peculiarly adapted to win the favour of his public, and his work attained a popularity that was almost unprecedented in an age that knew no printed books. Not only was it accepted as an authority by British historians, but French chroniclers also used it for their own purposes.
About the year 1150, five years before the death of Geoffrey, an Anglo-Norman, Geoffrey Gaimar, wrote the first French metrical chronicle. It consisted of two parts, the Estorie des Bretons and the Estorie des Angles, of which only the latter is extant, but the former is known to have been a rhymed translation of the Historia of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Gaimar's work might possibly have had a longer life if it had not been cast into the shade by another chronicle in verse, the Roman de Brut, by a Norman poet, Wace, which fills an important and interesting place among our Arthurian sources, not merely because of the author's qualities as a poet and his treatment of the Arthurian story, but also because of the type of composition that he produced. For the metrical chronicle occupies an intermediate position between the prose chronicle, one of the favourite forms of medixval monastic production . . .