Roger of Hoveden, or Howden, was, to judge from his name and the internal evidence of his work, a native of Howden in the East Riding of Yorkshire. But nothing is known of him before the year 1174. He was then in attendance upon Henry II, by whom he was sent from France on a secret mission to the lords of Galloway. In 1175 he again appears as a negotiator between the king and a number of English religious houses.
The interest which Hoveden shows in ecclesiastical affairs and miracles may justify the supposition that he was a clerk in orders. This, however, did not prevent him from acting, in 1189, as a justice of the forests in the shires of Yorkshire, Cumberland and Northumberland. After the death of Henry II, it would seem that Hoveden retired from the public service, though not so completely as to prevent him from drawing on the royal archives for the history of contemporary events. About the year 1192 he began to compile his Chronica, a general history of England from 732 to his own time.
Up to the year 1192 his narrative adds little to our knowledge. For the period 732-1148 he chiefly drew upon an extant, but unpublished chronicle, the Historia Saxonum sive Anglorum post obitum Bedae (British Museum MS. Reg. 13 A.6), which was composed about 1150. From 1148 to 1170 he used the Melrose Chronicle (edited for the Bannatyne Club in 1835 by Joseph Stevenson) and a collection of letters bearing upon the Becket controversy. From 1170 to 1192 his authority is the chronicle ascribed to Benedictus Abbas, the author of which must have been in the royal household at about the same time as Hoveden. Although this period was one in which Hoveden had many opportunities of making independent observations, he adds little to the text which he uses; except that he inserts some additional documents. Either his predecessor had exhausted the royal archives, or the supplementary searches of Hoveden were languidly pursued.
From 1192, however, Hoveden is an independent and copious authority. Like Benedictus, he is sedulously impersonal, and makes no pretence to literary style, quotes documents in full and adheres to the annalistic method. His chronology is tolerably exact, but there are mistakes enough to prove that he recorded events at a certain distance of time. Both on foreign affairs and on questions of domestic policy he is unusually well informed. His practical experience as an administrator and his official connections stood him in good stead. He is particularly useful on points of constitutional history.
His work breaks off abruptly in 1201, though he certainly intended to carry it further. Probably his death should be placed in that year.
See W. Stubbs's edition of the Chronica (Rolls Series) and the introductions to vol. i. and iv. This edition supersedes that of Sir H. Savile in his Scriptores post Bedam (1896). (H.W.C.D.)
Being the entry for ROGER OF HOVEDEN, or HOWDEN in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.