Full text: "Grenzgänger"

their return.28 29 Further north, along the Shropshire border, two families were promi¬ 
nent as agents of royal business in Wales from the reign of Henry II onwards. By 
1160 Iorwerth Goch, younger brother of Madog ap Maredudd, the king of Powys 
who died in that year, held the fief of Sutton in Shropshire from Henry II ‘by the 
service of being interpreter (latimarius) between the English and the Welsh’, a 
serjeanty inherited by Iorwerth’s sons and grandsons. After the manor was alienated 
to John Le Strange in the 1260s, however, the service changed to that of conducting 
the king in Wales in time of war.2g Likewise the Welshman Roger of Powys held 
Overton Castle in Flintshire and Whittington Castle, Shropshire, from Henry II by 
the serjeanty of ‘bearing the king’s mandates throughout Wales’, a tenure inherited 
by Roger’s son, Meurig—who was also required to lead the men of Powys to the 
royal court—and then by Roger’s grandson, Goronwy; that this service included 
acting as an interpreter is made explicit in a source of c. 1211,30 
Giraldus, it is true, was no interpreter — a role ruled out by his very limited 
knowledge of Welsh — nor did he owe diplomatic services to the English crown by 
virtue of serjeanty tenure.31 What makes him unique, however, is the extent to which 
his career depended on crossing borders between Wales and England as well as the 
degree to which that career is illuminated by his own voluminous writings. Ad¬ 
mittedly, as we have seen, he also spent time in France, Ireland and Italy, but these 
visits all stemmed essentially from either family connections or career interests in 
Wales or England. It is true, too, that the fact that almost all we know about Giraldus 
stems from his own words poses serious problems of interpretation, compelling us to 
read him critically, bearing in mind the rhetorical objectives of his autobiographical 
writings in particular.32 Nevertheless, the prominence he gives to the tensions arising 
from his mixed ancestry and connections is revealing and his writings take us closer 
to the experience of negotiating the boundaries between Wales and England than any 
other medieval source. For even when allowance is made for a heavy dose of self¬ 
justification, there can be no doubt that in its ecclesiastical as well as its political 
28 [Abraham Farley (ed.)], Domesday Book, 2 vols., London 1783, 1 fo. 179b. 
29 R. W. Eyton, Antiquities of Shropshire, 12 vols., London 1854-60, 2 pp. 108-20; Con¬ 
stance Bullock-Davies, Professional Interpreters and the Matter of Britain, Cardiff 1966, 
pp. 15-17; Hall, Red Book (as n. 22) 2 pp. 454, 511. 
30 Bullock-Davies (as n. 29) pp. 16-17; Eyton (as n. 29) 3 pp. 105-6; 11 pp. 31-5; Hall, Red 
Book (as n. 22) 2 pp. 453, 454, 511. See also Frederick C. Suppe, Military Institutions on 
the Welsh Marches: Shropshire 1066-1300, Woodbridge 1994, p. 96; Frederick C. Suppe, 
Who was Rhys Sais? Some Comments on Anglo-Welsh Relations before 1066, in: Haskins 
Society Journal 7 (1996) pp. 63-73. 
31 Cf. n. 84 below. In the journey round Wales in 1188 Alexander, archdeacon of Bangor 
interpreted the sermons preaching the Third Crusade into Welsh: Giraldus, Opera 6, pp. 55, 
126. 
32 Cf. Bartlett, Gerald (as n. 6), p. 1; David Walker, Gerald of Wales, in: Brycheiniog 24 
(1978-9) pp. 62-3. The fullest discussion of Gerald’s autobiographical writings is Georg 
Misch, Geschichte der Autobiographic, 2: 2, Frankfurt a.M. 1962, pp. 1297-1479. 
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