Bevis of Hampton

General Information

(N)IMEV: 1993
Form: Auchinleck MS: Lines 1-474 in six-line tail-rhyme stanzas (aabccb); remainder in short couplets.
Date of Composition: c. 1300
Place of Composition: Southampton?
Keywords: Animal, Bedchamber, Conversion, Disease, Disguise, Dreams, Exile, Familial Discord, Forest, Friendship, Heraldry, Jerusalem, Marriage, Merchants, Military Combat, Mistaken Identity, Monster, Multiple Births, Pilgrimage, Religious Figures, Religious Spaces, Rome, Saracen, Secular Spaces, Sexual Encounters, Siege, Steward, The Third Estate, Tournament, Travel, Treachery, Urban Spaces

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

The elderly Earl of Southampton and his young wife have a son, Bevis. When he is seven, Bevis’ mother has the Earl murdered by her lover, the Emperor of Almayn. Bevis’ uncle Saber protects him, but after he beats his stepfather his mother sells him to Saracen merchants. The child is taken to King Ermin of Armenia, who encourages him to renounce Christianity. He refuses, but trains as a knight until, at the age of fifteen, his companions insult his faith and he kills them all. Ermin’s daughter Josian calms her father’s rage and heals Bevis’ wounds. Her love for him grows as he slays a monstrous boar and fights off an ambush by Ermin’s jealous steward.

King Brademond demands to marry Josian, threatening war if he is refused. Ermin knights Bevis and Josian gives him a war-horse called Arundel. He defeats Brademond, but releases him after he agrees to pay tribute. During the celebrations, Josian declares her love for Bevis, but is rejected until she promises to become Christian. A treacherous chamberlain tells Ermin, and the King sends Bevis to Brademond with a letter demanding his own death. He is thrown into a dungeon and Ermin marries his daughter to King Yvor of Mombraunt. Josian, however, uses a magic ring to protect her chastity.

After seven years, Bevis escapes from prison. He travels to Mombraunt and, disguised as a pilgrim, rescues Arundel and Josian, who assures him that she is still a virgin. As they escape, he makes Ascopart, King Yvor’s giant, his page. They sail to Cologne, where Josian is baptised and Ascopart rejects Christianity. Bevis then saves the city from a poisonous dragon before travelling to England, where he insults his stepfather and is reunited with Saber.

While he is away, Josian is forced to marry another Earl, but murders him on their wedding night. Bevis arrives just in time to save her from being burnt, and they return to England, where Saber and the Emperor of Almayn are preparing for battle. Bevis leads his troops to victory, and Ascopart captures the Emperor, who is killed in a cauldron of pitch. Bevis’ mother dies and he is recognised as Lord of Hampshire. He marries Josian and travels to London, where King Edgar makes him his marshal. When the king’s son is killed trying to steal Arundel, however, Bevis and his pregnant wife leave England, taking Saber's son Terri as their page.

The rejected Ascopart betrays Bevis by offering to return Josian to Yvor. He kidnaps her just after she has given birth to twin sons, Miles and Guy, but she keeps herself pure by pretending to be leprous. Bevis and Terri leave the children with foster parents and ride on to Aumbeforce, where Bevis wins a tournament and the heart of the princess, though she agrees to marry Terri if Josian returns. Meanwhile Saber dreams of Bevis’ troubles and sets out to find him. He slays Ascopart and rescues Josian, who supports their search by working as a minstrel. After seven years, they reach Aumbeforce, where the couple and their children are reunited, and Terri marries the princess. They all travel to Armenia and find Yvor besieging King Ermin. Bevis captures Yvor, but releases him when he agrees to pay ransom. Ermin dies, leaving Guy his heir, and he and Bevis convert their subjects to Christianity. Yvor returns and steals Arundel, vowing revenge against Bevis, but Saber retrieves the horse and rides to Armenia, followed by Yvor’s troops. Yvor challenges Bevis to single combat and fights bravely, but Bevis is victorious. The rest of the Saracens are defeated, and Bevis is crowned king of Mombraunt.

Saber hears that King Edgar has seized his lands, and they all sail to England. Bevis appeals to the king, but his steward accuses the knight of treachery and raises the citizens of London against him. Battle rages in the city’s streets until the steward is dead and the Thames runs red. Edgar offers his daughter and kingdom to Miles, then Bevis gives Hampshire to Saber and returns to Mombrant with Josian and Arundel, leaving Gui in Armenia and Terri in Aumberforce. After twenty years Josian dies, swiftly followed by Arundel and Bevis. They are buried in a lavish tomb, and their sons found an abbey to pray for their souls.

From: Ronald B. Herzman, Graham Drake, and Eve Salisbury eds., Four Romances of England. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1999
Manuscript: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates 19.2.1 (Auchinleck)


Click a title below to search for all romances in that manuscript.

Cambridge University Library, MS Ff.2.38 (folio: 102v-134r)Late fifteenth/ early sixteenth century. Dialectal forms suggest a Leicester provenance. Complete.
Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College, MS 175/96 (folio: Pp. 131-56)1450-1475. Dialect forms indicate East Midlands. Incomplete, with numerous leaves missing.
Cambridge, Trinity College Library, MS O.2.13 (folio: 149r-152r)Mid- to late fifteenth century. Fragment of 245 lines, corresponding to lines c.4431-4993. Dialectal features suggest an East Anglian provenance.
Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates 19.2.1 (Auchinleck) (folio: 176r-201r)c. 1330. Missing a leaf after fol. 188, otherwise complete.
London, British Library, MS Egerton 2862 (olim Trentham-Sutherland) (folio: 45r-96v)Late fourteenth/ early fifteenth century. Marginalia and dialect forms suggest a Suffolk provenance. Lacks final leaf.
Manchester, Chetham's Library, MS 8009 (folio: 122r-190v)1470-1480. ? London provenance. Complete text.
Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS XIII.B.29 (folio: Pp. 23-79)1450-1460. Dialect forms indicate Dorset.
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce Fragm. E.13 (folio: )Single bifolium, containing roughly lines 29-98, 227-92.
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Poet. D. 208 (folio: 49r-50v)Mid- to late fifteenth century. Fragment consisting of two leaves, approx. lines. 4056-144, 4145-252, 4253-66, some incomplete. Dialectal features suggest Suffolk or Surrey.

Early Editions

1500 (circa). London: Wynkyn de Worde? STC (2nd ed.), 1987. Fragment. 2 leaves containing lines 33-96 and 225-88. Oxford, Bodleian Library.
1500 (circa). London: Wynkyn de Worde? STC (2nd ed.), 1987.5 Fragment. 1 leaf containing lines 1-13 and 31-43. Cambridge, University Library.
1503 (circa). London: Richard Pynson. STC (2nd ed.), 1988. Lacks title page and 3 leaves. Oxford, Bodleian Library.
1510 (circa). London: Julian Notary? STC (2nd ed.), 1988.2. Fragments. Two leaves. One containing lines 2831-66, Melbourne, State Library of Victoria. The other lines 2872-941, San Marino, Henry E. Huntington Library.
1515 (circa). London: Julian Notary? STC (2nd ed.), 1988.4. Fragment. Two leaves containing lines 509-74 and 1037-87. Alexandria, Virginia Theological Seminary.
1533 (circa). London: Wynkyn de Worde? STC (2nd ed.), 1988.6. Fragment. Two leaves containing lines 3191-284. Cambridge University Library.
1560 (circa). 'Syr Beuys of Hampton'. London: William Copland. STC (2nd ed.), 1988.8. San Marino, Henry E. Huntington Library.
1565 (circa). 'Syr Beuys of Hampton'. London: William Copland. STC (2nd ed.), 1989. London, British Library.
1582 (circa). 'Syr Bevis of Hampton'. London: Thomas East. STC (2nd ed.), 1990. Oxford, Bodleian Library; Cambridge, King's College.
1610 (circa). 'The Historie of Beuis of Hampton'. London: T. Snodham? STC (2nd ed.), 1992. Lacks title page. London, British Library.
1626? (circa). 'Syr Bevis of Hampton'. London: G.W. for W. Lee. STC (2nd ed.), 1993. Oxford, Bodleian Library.
1630 (circa). 'Bevis of Hampton Newly Corrected and Amended'. London: William Stansby. STC (2nd ed.), 1994. Washington DC, Folger Shakespeare Library; San Marino, Henry E. Huntington Library.
1630. 'The Historie of Sir Bevis of South-Hampton'. Aberdeen: Edward Raban for David Melvil. STC (2nd ed.), 1995. London, British Library.
1639? (circa). 'Sir Bevis of Hampton Newly Corrected and Amended'. London: Richard Bishop. STC (2nd ed.), 1996. Oxford, Bodleian Library; Washington DC, Folger Shakespeare Library.
1654? (circa). 'The History of the Famous and Renowned Knight Sir Bevis of Hampton'. London: G.D. for Andrew Crook. Not in Wing. Cambridge University Library; Washington DC, Folger Shakespeare Library
1662. 'The History of the Famous and Renowned Knight Sir Bevis of Hampton'. London: G.D. for Andrew Crook. Wing H2160. Oxford, Bodleian Library.
1667. 'The History of the Famous and Renowned Knight Sir Bevis of Hampton'. London: A. Ibbitson for Andrew Crook. Not in Wing. Washington DC, Folger Shakespeare Library.
1711 (circa). 'The Most Famous Historie of the Valiant and Renowned Champion Beuis of Hampton'. Aberdeen: James Nicol. Oxford, Bodleian Library.

Modern Editions

David Burnley and Alison Wiggins, eds, The Auchinleck Manuscript: Online Facsimile/ Edition (Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland, 2003)187-340. Edited from the Auchinleck MS.Available online at:
E. Kölbing, Beues of Hamtoun, EETS ES 46, 48, 65 (London: Trübner, 1885, 1886, 1894)Edited from Auchinleck MS and Chetham 8009 with variants from the other MSS and Pynson print.
J. Fellows, Bevis of Hamptoun: Study and Edition (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1979)Edited from all manuscripts.
Ronald B. Herzman, Graham Drake and Eve Salisbury, eds., Four Romances of England (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1999)Edited from the Auchinleck MS.Available online at:
William B.D.D. Turnbull, ed. Sir Beves of Hamtoun: A Metrical Romance (Edinburgh: Maitland Club, 1838. Reprinted New York: AMS Press, 1973)Edited from the Auchinleck MS.


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