Full text: "Grenzgänger"

to Latin he spoke French and probably English, but little Welsh.84 85 At one point in his 
career he was employed as a royal servant whose task it was to promote the policies 
of the English crown in Wales and in other dominions of the Angevin kings. As an 
ecclesiastic he benefited initially from the control established by Canterbury over the 
Welsh dioceses, acting as the archbishop’s legate in the diocese of St David’s, even 
if for a brief period later, from 1199 to 1203, he sought to gain papal recognition of 
the status of St David’s as the metropolitan see of an independent Welsh province. 
As his failure in the St David’s case showed, his ecclesiastical ambitions in Wales 
could only be fulfilled with the consent of the crown and of Canterbury, such was 
their authority over the Welsh bishoprics, especially in south Wales. 
Yet if Giraldus offers an example of a cross-border career in a colonialist context, he 
also reveals, uniquely perhaps, the tensions which could arise as a result of trying to 
pursue such a career. As he himself complained shortly after his departure from the 
court, he was too Welsh for the English, too English for the Welsh: ‘both peoples 
regard me as a stranger and one not of their own . . . one nation suspects me, the 
other hates me’,8i Giraldus belonged to an ethnically hybrid group which in its 
marriages and social links had effectively broken down some of the barriers separa¬ 
ting native and settler societies in south-west Wales, at least at the aristocratic level. 
However, his position was further complicated by his excellent education and his 
commitment both to scholarship and to ecclesiastical reform. It was these elements 
which drew him closer to England than was the case with his lay kinsmen, or even 
his uncle, David fitz Gerald, bishop of St David’s, who lacked Giraldus’s scholarly 
bent and, far from promoting ecclesiastical reform, alienated church lands as dowries 
for his daughters.86 This suggests in turn that to talk in terms of a career that tra¬ 
versed a geographical border is an oversimplification: it would be more accurate to 
regard Giraldus as a man who crossed cultural frontiers which corresponded, in part, 
to those dividing England and Wales. Above all else, Giraldus was a scholar and 
writer, most at home in the company of highly educated clerics like himself.87 Thus 
what he most liked about England were the opportunities it provided to rub shoulders 
with men whose intellectual formation, like his, was deeply indebted to the learning 
of France. One of the things that was unusual about him, however, was that he chose 
to capitalize upon his own distinctive background and experience in works which 
sought to make Wales (and Ireland) familiar to an English audience. 
Nevertheless, while Giraldus’s most original writings were his books on Ireland and 
Wales, he also wrote about bishops, saints and political events in England. His 
84 Bartlett, Gerald (as n. 6) pp. 14-15; Michael Richter, Studies in Medieval Language and 
Culture, Blackrock, Co. Dublin 1995, pp. 137-8. 
85 Cited by Bartlett, Gerald (as n. 6) p. 17 from Giraldus, Opera 8 p. lviii. Cf. the comment 
on this passage in Wilhelm Berges, Die Fürstenspiegel des hohen und späten Mittelalters 
(Schriften der MGH 2), Leipzig 1938, p. 144: ‘Der Waliser Girald, der als Engländer 
aufgewachsen ist, findet nirgends mehr eine heimatliche Aufnahme.’ 
86 Michael Richter, A New Edition of the So-called Vita Dauidis Secundi, in: Bulletin of the 
Board of Celtic Studies 22 (1966-8) p. 248; cf. Pryce, Deheubarth (as n. 5) pp. 275-6. 
87 Thus, for example, Türk (as n. 19), p. 95; Walker, Cultural Survival (as n. 41) p. 48. 
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