By David Bellos
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Extra info for Balzac Criticism in France, 1850-1900: The Making of a Reputation
As soon as he was crowned, the king was led with great ceremony to the church of the metropolitan see. On both his right and left he was escorted by two archbishops. Ahead of him marched the four kings of Scotland, Cornwall, Demetia, and Venedotia. ]40 While the coronation certainly affords the subject-kings a place of honor and dignity, it still clearly affirms that they are in Arthur’s service. Indeed, the appearance of North and South Wales alongside Scotland and Cornwall also affirms the unspoken truth that in Geoffrey’s world, Logres—England—is always the center from which power emanates, while Wales remains perpetually peripheral.
Not surprisingly, one of the passages most consistently deleted by the Historia’s various medieval Welsh translator-adaptors was Geoffrey’s narration of the final transformation of the ancient Britons into the Welsh. 29 Compared to these Welsh versions, Geoffrey’s imputation of barbarity to the Welsh might seem initially surprising, almost a thoughtless lastminute parting shot, but a closer examination of the Historia as a whole reveals instead he has carefully laid the groundwork for this transformation from a very early point in the narrative.
Indeed, their history barely seems worth telling, and one might also note that, in his account of the newly coined term “Welsh,” Geoffrey, who certainly knew enough Welsh to know that Welsh called themselves Cymry, is here explicitly imposing the language of the Germanic outsiders to the Britons’ degenerate descendants, the word “Welsh” (< wealh) meaning things like “slave” and “foreigner” in Anglo-Saxon. British history ends not with a bang, but with a whimper, and Welsh history seems to end before it has even begun.