The Book of the Foundation of Walden Monastery

By Diana Greenway; Leslie Watkiss | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

I. THE PATRONS

The first aim of The Book of the Foundation of Walden Monastery, set out in the prologue, was 'to entrust to a truthful pen a record of who the first founder of the monastery of St James the apostle of Walden was, from which forebears he descended, when it was that at the prompting of divine inspiration he began this task in accordance with the holy purpose, whom he left as his heirs and what sort of men they were'. The work is structured in such a way as to focus on Walden's relations with its patrons in the period between the foundation and the death of Abbot Reginald, in 1200 or 1203. The division into five books largely corresponds with the succession of patrons, or founders as they are called in both The Book of the Foundation and the cartulary: book i deals with Geoffrey de Mandeville, first earl of Essex, and his elder son Geoffrey the younger; book ii with the younger son, Earl William; book iii with the next heir, Beatrice de Say, sister of the first earl, and her younger son Geoffrey de Say; book iv with Geoffrey de Say's loss of the honour to Geoffrey fitz Peter, whose claim was based on his marriage to the daughter of Beatrice de Say's deceased elder son; book v continues the history of Geoffrey fitz Peter's relations with Walden, but ends abruptly with the death of Abbot Reginald in 1200 or 1203.


1. Geoffrey de Mandeville and the Foundation of Walden

The writer of The Book of the Foundation, looking back to the origin of the house some sixty or more years earlier, connected it with the founder's 'hope of making [ Walden] the chief place (caput) of his whole honour and earldom [of Essex] (which he had been the first of his family to win) and his own and his family's seat'. Geoffrey de Mandeville 'decided to fulfil his heart's desire at Walden rather than elsewhere: having already ennobled it with a castle he now desired to distinguish it with a monastery'. The writer concludes his account of the foundation with the comment, 'It was therefore obvious to everybody that the religious house, despite the unsuitability of the site, had been located there by its founder for the benefit of the castle alone' (i. 6).

-xi-

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