William of Poitiers - Critiques of The Gesta Guillelmi

Critiques of The Gesta Guillelmi

William of Poitiers undoubtedly thought of himself as an historian. He mentions in the Gesta Guillelmi that the duty of a historian is to remain within the ‘bounds of the truth.’; but he failed to obey this rule. Antonia Gransden in ‘Historical writing in England c.550 to c.1307’ shows that because William of Poitiers was just as much a panegyrist as a historian. She summarises Gesta Guillelmi as ‘biased, unreliable account of events, and unrealistic portraits of the two principle protagonists.’ Moreover, Orderic Vitalis, who uses the Gesta Guillelmi as his principal source in creating his ‘Ecclesiastical History’, chooses to omit or contradict many of Poitiers' passages in the Guesta Guillelmi, including denial of King William's mercy to the conquered English; having been brought up in England from 1075–1085, Orderic knew better. However, the Gesta Guillelmi cannot be dismissed; most of the panegyrical passages are easy to isolate, and there is a lot of material that William of Poitiers probably reports accurately.

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