Pre-Galfridian Arthur

The importance of Arthur, at least to the people of the West Country and Brittany, was not a creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth. This is indicated by Hermann of Tournai’s 1146 chronicle De Miraculis Sanctae Mariae Laudunensis which states that in 1113 nine canons from Laon in France were on a fund-raising journey that included Cornwall. They were shown local sites associated with Arthur. That there was at this early date landmarks associated with Arthur is remarkable in itself. What is even more intriguing is the incident that occurred at Bodmin in Cornwall. The French canons had brought the Shrine of Our Lady of Laon. A man with a withered arm came to be cured by the relics. The individual mentioning that Arthur still lived led to a quarrel with one of the French called Hangello and this in turn developed into a riot with order eventually being restored by the cleric Algardus. Hermann had mentioned that the Bretons, too, quarrel with the French with regards to Arthur.[1]

[1] Coe and Young, 1995, 46

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the British victories

That the ASC makes no mention of Baddon is not surprising as the policy was clearly not to mention their defeats. A further example of this are the battles mentioned in the AC and also referred to in the ByT, dated to the year 721:

And the battle of Heilin, with Rhodri Molwynog, took place in Cornwall; and the action of Garthmaelog, and the fight of Pencoed in South Wales. And in those three battles the Britons were victorious.[1]

Moreover, although the ASC is reasonably accurate, it is clear that in the Arthurian age the information has been manipulated. The entries for the years 495 and 508 look similar to those of 514 and 527 respectively, seperated by 19 years, the Metonic cycle. It would appear that, by the use of repetition, the chronicle blanked out a disastrous period for the Saxons.

[1] Williams, J., 1860, 5

Dating Baddon

The AC A-text indicates the battle of Baddon occurred 63 years after Pope Leo’s dating of Easter which occurred in the year 455. This points to a date for Baddon of 518.
The AC B-text describes the occurrence of an eclipse thus:

Anus dies tenebrosa sicut nox.

This is likely to be that which occurred on 23 December 447 and would have been visible over Britain. The document shows Baddon as occurring 71 years later. This too indicates Baddon took place in the year 518.

Further confirmation of this date is given by the ASC and DE as can be seen in the post entitled The Adventus Saxonum.


Arthur’s court is said to be located at a place called Celliwig in Cernyw. I believe it must be a place that occupies a prime strategic site in Cornwall. The Romans had to make a similar decision as to where to locate their forts. Two of their three known forts in Cornwall are a mere 5 miles apart. Both occupy hilltops that overlook the highest navigable point on major Cornish rivers.

The first is at Nanstallon and the associated river is the Camel which drains on the north coast at Padstow. The second fort is at Restormel, near the river Fowey which drains on the south coast at the town of Fowey. The forts are separated by an east-west ridgeway, possibly prehistoric in origin, which runs along the central spine of Cornwall. They could also monitor the north-south traffic, some of which would be avoiding having to sail round the tip of the peninsula.

It is here, near the geographical centre of Cornwall and between the two forts, that Castle Canyke or Kynock is situated. It is the largest hill-fort in Cornwall and I believe it to be Kelli wic. It is bivallate and oval in shape measuring 348 m and 308 m. Ferdinand Lot (1901) thought Arthur’s residence was Bodmin, the town the castle is located in, and he noted that nearby was a place called Callywith.[1] Nearby is Callywith wood, perhaps originally part of the forest indicated by the meaning of the name Celliwig, i.e forest grove.

[1] Romania 30, 13

The king list of Gwynedd

The line of descent of the Venedotian kings is given in HG 1. However, this list poses a problem in terms of chronology until it is treated as three fragments as shown in the second to fourth columns in the table below.

Gen. HG 1:1st seg. HG 1:2nd seg. HG 1: 3rd. seg. ByA 28c ChB
13 Owain
12 Hywel D.
11 Cadell
10 Rhodri M.
9 Merfyn F.
8 Esyllt
7 Cynan D.
6 Rhodri M.
5 Idwal I. Conobertus
4 Cadwaladr F. Alain II
3 Cadwallon Salomon II
2 Cadfan Beli m. Rhun Hoel III
1 Iago Rhun H. Perweur Alain I
0 Beli Maelgwn G. Rhun R. Hoel II
-1 Rhun [Einion] Cadwallon L. Einion Hoel I
-2 Einion Y. Mar Budic
-3 Cunedda W. Ceneu Audroenus
-4 Edern Coel Salomon I
-5 Padarn B. Gradlon
-6 Tegid Conan M.

As can be seen in the second column, the list states that Rhun was the father of Beli. This is correct but that individual was not Rhun Hir, the son of Maelgwn Gwynedd, who appears in the fourth column.

Rhun Hir married Perweur f. Rhun Ryfeddfawr whose name appears in ByA 28c and they both belonged to gen. 1 as shown in the above table. Triad 79 tells us she was one of the Three Lively Ladies of Britain. ByA 28c errs when it says Perweur was the “Mam Beli m Rhun …”. As can be seen from the second column Beli m. Rhun belonged to a generation one earlier than that of his supposed parents. ByB confirms that Rhun was the father of Beli. HRB wrongly asserts that Einion was the father whereas in fact he was an uncle. It was this Rhun and not Rhun Hir who fled to Armorica. His daughter, Tymyr, married Hoel II who appears in ChB.

Both HRB and ByB assert that Einion was Rhun’s brother. This allows us to solve a 1500 year old murder mystery which is not a whodunit but a “who was it dun to”, as we know the identity of the murderer but it is unclear who the victim was. Gildas wrote of Maelgwn:

In the first years of thy youth, accompanied by soldiers of the bravest, whose countenance in battle appeared not very unlike that of young lions, didst thou not most bitterly crush thy uncle the king with sword, and spear, and fire?[1]

In the Latin text the word for uncle is avunculus which strictly means mother’s brother. However, in this context I believe this can be linked to the fact given in JC 23 that an Einion was not only half-brother to Cadwallon Lawhir, Maelgwn’s father, through Einion Yrth, their father, but that their mothers were sisters, daughters of king Didlet.

Although HRB states Rhun escaped to Armorica after the death of Einion because he was driven out by the Saxons, it would seem that Maelgwn had a hand in it as well. After Maelgwn’s death his son successfully thwarted challenges to his kingship. However, it would seem that the rightful lineage to the throne was reestablished when Beli became king. As can be seen in the above table, Cadwallon is correct when he tells Salomon II  in the ByB that their two fathers were two second cousins.

[1] Williams, H., 1899, 77


Paganism in the Arthurian age

It is unlikely that paganism had disappeared in the early 6th C. O.J. Padel refers to a probably early 10th C text in the Vatican library listing between twenty-four and thirty-two names of saints revered in Cornwall.[1] Another text lists the twenty-four saintly children of Brychan Brycheiniog, the Cornish version of which is in The Life of Saint Nectan. Both lists are in the vernacular and the names are partly geographically arranged. Padel states that these lists demonstrate the existence in Cornwall of local dedications, many of which are unique to particular parish churches. The explanations he gives for the dedications is usually in terms of the conversion of the area by the local saint. The Vatican list dedications includes a number of 6th C saints, such as St Levan, St Just and St Gerrans.

The Annales Cambriae records for the year 589 AD ‘The conversion of Constantine to the Lord’. This may well be Constantine, the king of Damnonia, the one rebuked by Gildas.

[1] Thacker, A., Sharpe, R., 2002, 316-319