[From Manx Soc Vol 22, Chronicle of Man]





THE Chronicle of the Kings of Man is the earliest regularly digested account, yet discovered, of any portion of the history of the Island.

It was composed by a series of writers, inmates, to all appearance, of the monastery of Rushen, more or less contemporary with the events they narrate; and embraces the most important period of the existence of Man as a distinct kingdom, when its territory, including the Western Isles, was most extensive, and the share it took in the transactions of the day, was most considerable.1

Though commencing its record from the year 1000, the Chronicle does not make mention of the affairs of Man till the date of the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, when we are abruptly introduced to Godred Cronan, a fugitive from that memorable defeat of the Northmen, who is hospitably received by another Godred, then king of the 1sland, and in a few years becomes occupant of the Manx throne. The fortunes of the kingdom under the dynasty of Godred Cronan form the principal subject of the subsequent narration.

The annals of the civil history close in 1316, when the male line of Godred had disappeared, and the right or power to dispose of the sovereignty was matter of contest between England and Scotland, the latter of which, in addition to her own previous pre tentions, had purchased in 1266 the rights claimed by Norway during the preceding four centuries, as suzerain of the Western Isles, at that time called the Southern, Sudreyan, or Sodor Isles, in contradistinction to the Orkney, and other northern groups. The ecclesiastical history, given partly in the annals, partly in a separate short account of the successive bishops, is continued through another half century, and concludes with the installation of Bishop Duncan on the 25th of January 1376.


Whilst the Chronicle forms the groundwork of Manx mediaeval history anterior to the undisputed dependence of the kingdom on the crown of England, towards the close of the 14th century, the desultory form in which the events are frequently presented, combined with the shortness of the entire work, and the disproportionate length of particular descriptions and episodes, render the information it conveys meagre and fragmentary.

To supply this deficiency, by bringing the light of contemporary historical documents to bear upon the statements of the Chronicle, was the task undertaken by Professor Munch, a scholar eminently qualified for the work, by the bent of his mind, and the study he had made of Scandinavian antiquities.

The official records, civil and ecclesiastical, of the surrounding peoples, with their annals and other historical productions, especially the Sagas 2 of the Northmen and of their colonies; the ordinances and decisions of the Vatican 3 a series of ethnological facts; and various monuments of olden time, still existing in the Isle of Man and the neighbourhood, supplied the professor with a large amount of precise history, and copious materials for the fruitful exercise of his great powers of direct, and of conjectural induction.

By the assistance of these sources of information, Munch not only shows how the fragments of the Chronicle may be framed into a continuous picture of the period, but endeavours, especially in his preface, and in notes 2d and 3d, to carry back the view through the two preceding centuries up to the reign of Harold Harfager, who established, about the year 870, the Norwegian power in the Western Isles. The matter thus supplied in the Christiania edition of the Chronicle is not woven into a history, but presented partly in a preface, and principally in a series of detached notes or dissertations, forming a commentary on the text, and constituting the second part of the volume, of which the third and last part is an Appendix, contain ing many of the documents to which reference had been made in the preceding parts. Some of these pieces have already appeared amongst those collected by Dr. Oliver in Volumes IV., VII., and IX. of the Manx Series, but the greater part are additional.


This work, so necessary for the student of Manx history, having become extremely rare, and completely out of print, the Council of the Manx Society was desirous that a new edition should form one of their publications, and obtained, through the kind influence of the English Consul-General at Christiania, the consent of the University of that capital to the reprint. The preparation of the new edition was undertaken by the late Right Rev. Dr. Goss, who had been in the habit of passing some weeks during the summer in this part of his diocese, and occupying the time he could spare from his official occupations in elucidating the history of the Island.4

A short statement will explain what has been attempted by Dr. Goss in preparing this new edition.

1. With respect to the text of Munch's edition, particular care has been taken to give it materially correct, as far as possible. The collation of the Latin text of the Chronicle, and of many of the documents in the Appendix, as given in the former edition, with that now presented, will show how necessary it was to pay attention to this point.

The variantes added by Dr. Goss below the Latin text, show the different manner in which the words of the only known MS.5 have been read by various editors; especially in those cases in which the words in the original have been abbreviated or corrected. These variantes will explain to a considerable extent the great discrepancy that may be observed between the various translations that have been made. It is true, as Munch remarks in his preface, p. 36, that many of the various readings appear to have arisen merely from want of experience or attention in the difficult task of deciphering old MSS.,6 but in some places the signs employed to denote abbreviation, or the correc tions made, or accidental strokes of the pen in the MS., render two very different translations possible, as at p. 62, in the last words of the entry for the year 1134 7 The various readings given by Dr. Goss are those adopted by Johnstone in his Antiquitates Celto-Normannicae, or by Dr. Oliver in Vol. IV. of this Series. A few of the more important ecclesiastical documents in the Appendix are furnished with variantes taken from sources which will be stated in the respective places.

2. Translations have been added of those parts of the work which were given in the Latin text alone, by Professor Munch in his edition. An English version of the Chronicle, and of some of the documents, had already appeared in preceding volumes of the Series, but on account of the difference between the Latin text accompanying those translations, and the Latin text presented in this edition, as well as for other reasons which may be seen from collating the translations, it was judged advisable to give new versions. The manner in which, throughout the Chronicle, and not unfrequently in the documents also, proper names of persons and places are modified, partly by the spelling having been accommodated to the pronunciation adopted by the writers, and partly by the attempt to Latinise them, renders it frequently very difficult to determine the corresponding modern appellation. When the present name could be clearly ascertained it is given in the translation, even though it be not the literal English form of the Latin appellation. In this respect, however, much still remains to be done, which Dr. Goss would probably have accomplished had he been spared for a longer time.

3. Additional notes, both to the text of the Chronicle and to the Commentary of Professor Munch, form the most distinctive feature of this edition.

The Norwegian editor remarks in his preface (p. 37), that he had sought to throw light on the Chronicle from the northern Sagas, and other national records, chiefly, whilst the explanations supplied by him from English, Scotch, or Irish authors, were "merely stray bits, which may no doubt receive large additions, or even corrections, from British authors."

To present a portion of the information to be drawn from the sources here indicated, especially from the learned investigations of recent editors of old records, is the principal object of the additional notes. In comparing the statements of Munch with those of other authorities, particular attention has been paid to verifying or modifying the conjectural explanations of events and connection of facts, which the Professor carries to a great extent.

4. In the Appendix a few documents have been added, amongst which are the two most important in the collection, one for the ecclesiastical, the other for the civil history. The first (No. 5) is the bull of Anastasius IV. in 1154, by which the See of Man was annexed to the province of Drontheim, in which it remained long after the suzerainty of Norway over Man had passed away. The second (No. 27) is the treaty of 1266, by which that suzerainty was sold to Scotland.8 Four documents have been transferred from the second to the third part of the work, for the sake of uniformity.9

No. 53 belongs to a period later than that at which the Chronicle closes, but it has been given from the Theiner collection as a curious picture of the circumstances of the Island about that time.

5. Two indexes are given, one of the notes or dissertations of Professor Munch constituting the second part of the work; and another of the documents in the Appendix.

6. A sketch of the life of the author has been furnished by the kindness of E. Charlton, Esq., M.D., of Newcastle. The portrait is reproduced from that in the 1st Edition.

The annotations added in this Edition are distinguished by the brackets [ ] within which they are enclosed, whether given as distinct footnotes, or as a continuation of the footnotes of the former edition. The titles of the additional documents are placed within brackets both in the body of the Appendix and in the Index.



In the Chronicle elucidated by the accompanying notes and documents will be found the materials re quired for a continuous history of the Island, civil and ecclesiastical, with considerable details of some portions from the middle of the 11th to the close of the 14th century. An outline also, though not always quite distinctly traced, of the civil history is carried back to the last quarter of the 9th century. 10

Besides, however, making this direct contribution to the principal object of the Society, the work is calculated to do good service by directing attention to the sources from which future industry may be confidently expected not only to prepare a more complete account of the events of the period above mentioned, but to extend the narrative into times much more remote.

For we can scarcely suppose that the store of northern records out of which Professor Munch has thrown so much light upon the Chronicle, has been exhausted. During the several centuries which elapsed between the first Scandinavian expedition to the West and the treaty of Perth, the history of the north-western parts of the continent of Europe is interwoven with that of Man and of the Isles. In a letter written last June, the Secretary of the University of Christiania most generously offers every assistance to our Society from the means at his command, and refers us to Copenhagen for ulterior research, because a large portion of the Norwegian documents have been transferred to that city.

Again, the notes of Professor Munch, and still more so those of Dr. Goss, bear testimony to the great extent to which we are justified in looking for the details of the history of Man in the ancient annals of Scotland, which had a closer connection with the Island, and one dating from an earlier period than that of the Scandinavians. But the critical study of those annals is only in its infancy; the greater part of the results of that study collected and put before us by Dr. Goss had not been published at the time of the death of the great Norwegian historian. The writer of a very interesting article, entitled "Celtic Scotland," in the Qaarterly Review for July last, observes that "a rich harvest still remains for those who shall bring the requisite skill and perseverance to the task of reaping it. There are Gaelic manuscripts, not a few, lying still untouched in the Advocates' Library of Edinburgh, and elsewhere in Scotland, waiting only for competent hands to edit them. Great libraries on the Continent, and especially in Italy, are understood to be rich in Celtic treasures. May we not reason ably expect to find amongst these treasures some con tributed by the great seat of learning established in the Isles, throwing light upon the dark period before and during the first incursions of the Northmen, the very period when the monastery of lona was most flourishing, and probably supplied Man as well as other places with the ministers of religion.

A parallel progress, made by Irish antiquarians with in the last half century, in the discovery and illustration of ancient records, presents a similar ground for hope of a succession of new materials for the history of Man. A considerable portion of the slender acquaintance we already have with the early times of our island has been gleaned from Irish annals, which show that the circumstances of Man and the Western Isles, will ever be found entering as a necessary element into the narration of Irish affairs, during those days when Christianity was introduced into Man, and the first series of its bishops sent over from Ireland; when Skye and Man paid tribute to their sovereign the King of Ulster; when Argyll was colonised by the Dalriads; or later on, when the principalities erected by the Scandinavians in Ireland, and Man, and the North of England, were in constant relations of alliance or antagonism with one another.

A perusal of this work will show how far what has been observed with respect to Scandinavian, Scotch, and Irish probable sources of further information, may be applied to English and Welsh, Roman, and other records.

Again, Professor Munch makes important but not exhaustive use of the testimony found in the language, the sculptured monuments, the names, and the habits of the Isle of Man, at various periods. The peculiarity of a large number of the names of saints and other persons, of parishes, churches, and other places, ought to prove of great use in tracing the ecclesiastical history of the kingdom through the annalists, biographers (especially the Bollandists), and other writers of general, and special church history.

There remains a class of witnesses to the events of ancient times in which the Island is peculiarly rich, namely, rude stone monuments. They as yet do not speak with sufficient clearness to be of much service to our history, but the great attention which is now being paid to their investigation in every quarter of the globe, would seem to be a guarantee that before long they will convey information such as they would afford if inscribed with names and dates.

When we see the large and ever increasing amount of information that has been collected in the volumes of the Manx Society during the few years of its exist ence, and the strong light that has been thrown on ours by the labours employed on cognate histories during the same period, it is surely not too much to expect that in a very few years more we shall be able to carry back a connected and fairly developed account of the affairs of the Island, at least up to the time of its conversion to Christianity; and that, viewed from this point, the details of the prospect beyond may be gradually unfolded.


Sr. Edwards, Everton, Liverpool,
January15, 1874.



1 Thus we read, Chron. A.D. 1075, that " Godred annexed Dublin, and great part of Leinster, and held the Scots in such subjection that none who built a ship or boat dare insert more than three bolts."

2 A collection of these very important sources of Manx history, with translations and notes, would form a most interesting and appropriate continuation of Dr. Oliver's Monumenta, the first volume of which contains a few selections from these sources. Extracts from some of them were published by the Rev. W. Johnstone, in his Antiquitates Celto-Scandicae, in 1786, but the book has become extremely rare. There are also some other original historical authorities referred to by Munch, from which it would be desirable to have, amongst those edited by the Manx Society, at least the passages which bear directly or indirectly upon the history of the Island.

3 The learned and indefatigable historian, Father Theiner, archivist of the Vatican, had then lately published, from that collection of which he had charge, a large folio of documents relating to British history, entitled, Vetera Monumenta Angliae Hiberniae et Scoti

4 Historical research had always great attractions for Dr. Goss. His contributions to the publications of the Cheetham Society bear testimony to his powers in the investigation of local lore. After his appointment to the See of Liverpool he collected from the archives of private families in the county, and from other sources, especially from the treasures of the new Record Office, the matter for some volmnes of documentary addition to the ecclesiastical history of his diocese; amongst these are the pieces which he copied, with the kind permission of the High Bailiff, from archives in Douglas. At the time of his much lamented decease he was occupied in putting the last hand to this edition of the Chronicle. Whilst engaged in this work he had collected a considerable mass of materials for an ecclesiastical history of the Island, which he hoped to have leisure to complete at a later period, and for a corresponding civil history from the time of Harold Harfager.

5 In addition to the description of this MS. given by Munch in the preface to his edition, many particulars will be found in Vol. IV. of our Series, to which Dr. Oliver has prefixed the facsimile of a page of the MS.

6 To the instances cited by Munch in a note, we might add an example from the Professor's own edition, p. 29 (p. 115 in this edition), where, in the account given of Bishop Michael, the word mitis is given instead of meritis, though the ordinary sign of contraction over the syllable mi, employed in the MS., is clearly written; and the word meritis, not mitis, is necessary for the usual construction of the clause.

7 Considering the great interest that must be taken in the Chronicle by all lovers of Manx history, would it not be well to have a critical edition of it prepared by an expert, for one of the volumes of our Series? The pieces which accompany it in the MS. volume might be added, for they are to a similar purpose.

8 This document had already appeared in the Appendix to Vol. IX. of the Manx Series; but it was considered advisable to repeat it in the present volume on account of its importance to the history, and the reference made in the notes of Munch to the details it contains. On all other occasions, when a document is cited which does not occur in Munch's edition, but is to be found in some volume of the Series, the document is not repeated, but the volume cited in which it appears.

9 They are Nos. 3 and 4. from p. 76 (168 of this edition), and Nos. 8 and 13, from p. 90 (186).

10 From the end of the 14th century a succession of official and other records furnishes abundant materials for a continuous history of the Isle of Man down to the present day, requiring merely the labour of collecting and arranging The catalogue of the works published by the Manx Society shows how, much has already been done towards forming a collection of these documents, as well as of those relating to earlier tiimes, whilst the very small contributions as yet gathered for this purpose from the archives of the Island, and those of the Stanley family, appear to be evidence of the rich mines of information yet remaining to be worked. Towards the solution of many of the questions belonging to this later period, as yet imperfectly answered, especially of those relating to the ecclesiastical history of Man during the 14th and 15th centuries, we may look for no small additional assistance from the treasures of the Vatican, which have contributed so large a share of the documents already published; the cathedral archives of Drontheim which supplied the most important of the ecclesiastical documents (No. 5) in the Appendix, may be expected to contain other monuments of its archi episcopal relations to Man, which continued till near the end of the 15th century; and the records of the English and Scotch Sees to which Man and the Isles were respectively subjected, when separated from each other and from Norway, may fairly be presumed to have a store of further supplementary details.


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