Geoffrey of Monmouth
King Cadwallo’s meal

While Edwin was giving full vent to his cruelty, Cadwallo tried time and again to return to his homeland in a fleet of ships. He never succeeded, for, no matter which port he chose to land at, Edwin marched to meet him with a huge army and prevented him from coming ashore. There had come to Edwin a certain highly skilled magician from Spain, a man called Pellitus, who was extremely knowledgeable about the flight of birds and the courses of the stars. This Pellitus kept giving Edwin forewarning of all the misfortunes which were about to befall him. In this way Edwin was warned of Cadwallo’s return. He marched to meet him, sank his ships, drowned his soldiers and closed every port to him.

Cadwallo did not know what to do. Almost despairing of ever being able to return, he made up his mind to visit Salomon, the King of the Amorican Britons, so that he could ask his help and receive some suggestion as to how he could return to his own country. As Cadwallo was sailing towards Brittany, a fierce gale suddenly sprang up. This scattered his companion’s ships, so that in a short time no two remained in sight of each other. Such terror seized the helmsman of the King’s ship that he dropped the rudder and let the ship drift wherever fortune carried it. All night long it was tossed up and down between the high seas as the waves vied with each other, veering now this way, now that, to the deadly peril of the Britons. The following morning as day dawned they landed on an island called Guernsey and went ashore with the greatest difficulty.

Cadwallo was so filled with grief and anger at the loss of his comrades that he refused to take any food, lying ill instead in his bunk. At first light on the fourth day a great yearning seized him for some game to eat. His nephew Brian was summoned and Cadwallo told him what he longed for. Brian took his bow and quiver and started off across the island. If only fate would bring some wild beast in his way, then he would take some of it to the King for food. He wandered all over the island without discovering what he was looking for. He was greatly concerned at not being able to gratify his master’s wish. He was afraid that Cadwallo’s illness might end in death, if he was not able to satisfy the King’s yearning.

He therefore tried a new device. He opened up his own thigh and cut of a slice of the flesh. He made a spit, cooked the meat and took it to the King, pretending that it was venison. The king accepted that it was game. He ate some of it and so restored his strength, wondering that he had never tasted such sweet flavoured meat before. When his appetite was satisfied, he became more cheerful and brisk, and within three days was quite well again.

This excerpt from The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, written between 1121 and 1151. In some ways this is the first of a long line of writing, where Guernsey appears as a barren backdrop: a place with no game and nothing to eat. The idea that coming ashore was difficult at least seems plausible.

As far as I know Geoffrey of Monmouth did not visit the island, but was writing about a semi-mythical distant history of the Kings of Britain. Fitting then that Guernsey is glimpsed here so vaguely.