Gerald of Wales is primarily responsible for the generally accepted view of Henry II as a founder of monasteries. In his De Principis Instructione Liber he gives an account of the penance imposed on the king at Avranches in 1172 for his part in Becket's murder, and its commutation. Gerald reveals that instead of leading a Crusade to the Holy Land in person, and, we learn from other sources, maintaining two hundred knights there for a year at his own expense, Henry delayed for three years. He thus eventually gained from the pope a commutation to encompass the founding of three monasteries. These were, says Gerald, Waltham, where a group of holy secular canons were replaced with canons regular, Amesbury, where he violenter intrusit nuns from Fontevrault, and the third was probably Witham where a group of patient and holy men humbly bore hardship and the lack of a roof over their heads. ‘Sed quid attinet humana versutia contra divina consilia?’ asks Gerald. In a long passage he elaborates his theme that the Almighty will not be deceived by such a shamming, paltry, effort.
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