My post on Cannibalism in High Medieval English Literature concerns Blurton's chapter treating "Cannibal Kings." Like Karl, I've provided you with a view of my marginalia, and you'll quickly see my own obsession: the relations among nation, kingship, ethnic identification (especially when more than one identification is simultaneously available for an author or a given historical person), and the transnational vectors of twelfth-century England. I'm wondering, really, if it is fair to call the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gerald of Wales, and Walter Map English rather than British. And I'm wondering if it matters that the two regents the chapter treats, William Rufus and Henry II, were kings of England but were not English kings.
I've always thought that "William Rufus" should be translated as "Billy the Red." William Rufus makes it seem like he possessed two fairly unremarkable names ("William Rufus, you come over here this minute!") rather than a resonantly non-English name plus an epithet. Just like a pirate. Or a Viking. Or a Norman. You can see where I'm going with this. Billy the Red estranges the name enough to make it clear that it wasn't necessarily easy to accommodate him into the roll call of "English" monarchs. And think of how much more difficult it was to assimilate his father, Guillelmus Nothus (William the Bastard, whom we now politely call William the Conqueror).
So, picking up on what Dan Remein wrote about cannibalism and assimilation in the comments to Eileen's post, I'm wondering if some of the cannibal anxieties that surround William Rufus, even as a doppelgänger for Henry II, don't have to do with the nation per se but with the regent himself, especially as a body in which "Englishness" is something of a problem. In a time of layered, hybrid, and even multiple ethnic/national/racial identities for the aristocracy, is it really all that easy to substitute the body of the king for the corpus and community of the realm? Henry II is a good illustration: his Norman granddad married Matilda, the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland (but thereby also a descendant of Edmund Ironside and other greats of the "Anglo-Saxon" royal family). Henry II's father was the detested (by the English) Earl of Anjou, Geoffrey. This complicated descent makes Henry II many things, but "English" isn't all that easily one of them. Neither, really, is "Norman," making it not so easy to align him with William Rufus except in the way that both were potential intrusions of the strange. But then again, by the time Hnery II plopped his royal derriere on the throne England had long been ruled by men who were not fully English: not even the Confessor had been that.
So, here is my question. Much of the material Blurton examines is written by authors of compound heritage: Walter Map and Gerald of Wales and possibly Geoffrey of Monmouth had some Welsh blood; Marie de France, while of unknown origin, lived in England but composed in French (a language she interwove with English, Breton, and Welsh materials). So, if England had a "body politic," who then is this England? The non-international, quietly assimilated members of the aristocracy and upper class (call them the lower elites)? Or is "England" an imaginary corporate body that doesn't in fact have specific members -- that, in a way, exists nowhere except as a disembodied idea, and as an anthropophagous one at that?