Why Ossa was not Osla Gyllellfawr

The identification of Osla Gyllellfawr with Ossa, grandfather of Ida, king of Bernicia, as suggested by corrupted late entries in the Bonedd y Saint, shown below, is incorrect:

Gen. ByS 70 ByS 71 JC20 17 seg.
4 Eda Glynuawr Tegyth
3 Osswallt Oswydd aelwyn Gwynbei drahavvc Ceit
2 Mwc Mawr Drevydd Douc
1 Ydolorec vrenin Offa kyllellvawr Llewarch hen

The names given in the above chart are in the manuscript form. The first two individuals in ByS 70 are Oswald and his brother Oswiu, wrongly shown as his father but corrected in the above table. The third name would then be their grandfather, the Bernician Æthelric, wrongly shown as Oswiu’s father and this has also been corrected for. An alternative interpretation, which would be correct in terms of parentage, would be Oswine son of Osric son of the Deiran Æthelric.

Bartrum maintained the first name in ByS 71, Eda Glinfawr, is Æthelric’s father, Ida. However, that is impossible since Eda can safely be placed in gen. 4, more than a century after Ida. This conclusion is arrived at by noting Eda was the grandson of Mwng Mawr Drefydd who was in conflict with Mechydd ap Llywarch Hen. Llywarch can safely be placed in gen. 1. Furthermore, as Ossa was Ida’s grandfather he would have been far too early to be a contemporary of Arthur.

It would seem that the author of ByS 71 added cognomens that did not actually apply to Eda and Offa but instead belonged to other individuals with similar names. So, Glinfawr came from the name of the father of Ecgbert of York, Eata glinmawr, mentioned in HB 61. Likewise, Offa’s cognomen derived from that of Esla, see Dating the Wessex generations.

Melville Richards’ identification of the 8th C Offa of Mercia is unlikely for the chronological reason.[1] Also, the dissimilarity in the names suggests it is doubtful that Osla was the Kentish Ochta as suggested by Idris Llewelyn Foster.[2]

[1] Richards, M., 1948, 46.
[2] Foster, I. L., 1961, 42.
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Dating the Wessex generations

Below is a table that dates the Wessex genealogies up to Alfred’s time.

Gen. Reign Obit Gen. obit Deviation
18 Alfred 899 889 10
17 Æthelwulf 858 862 -4
16 Egbert 839 836 3
12 Ine 728 729 -1
11 Cædwalla 688 702 -3
10 Centwine 685 676 -14
9 Cynegils 642 649 9
8 Ceolwulf 611 622 -11
7 Ceawlin 588 596 -8
6 Cynric 581 569 12
5 Creoda/Cerdic 554 542 12
4 Elesa/Esla 516
3 Giwis/Wig 489
2 Brond 462
1 Bældæg 436
0 Woden 409

The generations have been arrived at by using the following structure:

Yorke, B., 2003

Each generation has been dated using the obit of the individual ruler who died last in that particular generation. So, for example Alfred’s obit has been used rather than those of his brothers. With Saxon pedigrees, unlike Welsh ones where the crown generally passed down to the next generation, it was not unusual for it to go to a sibling. There are gaps in the generations, for example between Egbert of gen. 16 and Ine of gen. 12 as we do not have the obits of the intervening rulers. Note, the obits of Ceawlin, Cynric and Cerdic are not those indicated by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle but instead the values obtained by Dumville’s correction. The zero generation is that ascribed to Woden, unlike the tables for the British kings which uses Arthur’s generation. The two sets cannot be synchronised since they use differing step-sizes.

The analysis shows that for Wessex the generation step-size was 26.7 years. The deviation column shows how far the individuals obit differs from that ascribed to the generation to which he belongs. Most deviations should be less than half a step-size and indeed this is the case.

Cotton MS Tiberius B V 1 British Library

As Sisam noted Elesa/Esla and Giwis/Wig are alliterative pairs for the same individuals. To this list has been added another pair, namely Creoda/Cerdic. The generation obit values for Elesa to Woden are estimated values using the step-size given above. It will be noted that Esla was a contemporary of Arthur. This together with the similarity of names allows us to be fairly confident that he was Osla Gyllellfawr. Sisam points out that the name Esla is unknown in English.[1] This may indicate its British origin. He says Elesa is also unknown unless it is etymologically the same as Elsa in Widsith.[2]

The postulate that there were two Wessex dynasties resolves the paradox that although the ASC tells us Wessex originated from the South coast with Cerdic, the oldest Saxon sites are around the upper Thames valley and the founder was a Giwis.

[1] Stanley, E. G., 1990, 164.
[2] Sisam, K., 1953, 302.

Arthurian connections with Ewyas and Ergyng

In Culhwch ac Olwen,during his chase, Twrch Trwyth killed Llygadrudd Emys and Gwrfoddw, Arthur’s uncles, his mother’s brothers. The latter name appears in that of Gwrfoddw Hen, king of Ergyng, but he appears to be a later ruler. However, Welsh dynasties often preserved the same name, so Gwrfoddw Hen may have been a descendant. This suggests Eigr, Gwrfoddw’s sister, could have come from that region.

Ergyng may have covered parts of Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire. The Brut y Brenhinedd calls Eudaf, an ancestor of Arthur, as “Eudaf yarll ergig ac euas”, that is Earl of Ewyas and Ergyng. However, Geoffrey refers to him anachronistically as “Octavius dux Wisseorum”, presumably the territorial name being derived from Welsh Ewyas.

Magnus Maximus had a daughter, named Sevira, by Elen, daugther of Eudaf. It was through Gwrtheyrn’s marriage with Sevira that he gained control of the territory that was to become known as Ewyas. Geoffrey referred to him as the “Consol Gewissiorum”. He invited Germanic warriors to settle in the Abingdon area to help defend attacks on his territory in Ergyng. The ASC confuses this event with the later settlement in Kent. The name for Gwent is easily confused with that for Kent. Gwrtheyrn locating the Gewisse, a Saxon tribe, in the upper Thames valley made logistical sense, as his opponent, Emrys Wledig i.e. Aurelius Ambrosius, was based in the Wiltshire area. Located in that county is the village of Amesbury, formerly known as “Ambres byrig” in the Cartularium Saxonicum.[1] It is likely that the East Wansdyke earthwork was built by the Britons as a defense against attack from the north.

Cerdic is attributed in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the founder of the Wessex dynasty. However, as Dumville has pointed out, his reign started later than the chronicle suggests. In fact, he belonged to a second Wessex dynasty. The first dynasty was founded by the eponymous ruler, Wig/Giwis, the two names being, as Sisam explains, alliterative pairs. His reign was followed by that of Esla/Elesa. The latter is known as Osla Gyllellfawr, whose defeat by Arthur brought the first Wessex dynasty to an end. For obvious reasons, this disaster goes unmentioned in the ASC.

[1] Birch, W. de G., 1887, 178.

Lucius Artorius Castus inscriptions

The original reading of the inscriptions’s left-hand fragment by Carrara in De’ Scavi di Salona is below on the left and that of Higham’s, from King Arthur: The Making of the Legend, on the right. The final letter in line 7, E, is no longer visible as that portion of the fragment was lost after the original reading was made. It has been questioned whether it was in reality an E.

The errors in the original reading are:
Line 1: Missing R and U as well as inverting O and R in ARTORIUS
Line 2: Missing E in GALLICAE
Line 4: Missing a ligatured T in ITEM
Line 6: Misinterpreting a C for a G
Line 8: Ligaturing the O with the P rather than the R in PROVINCIAE
Line 8: Missing L in LI
So, Carrara never seems to have made the error of adding something that is not there. Moreover, the misinterpretation such as occurred line 6 is unlikely to have occurred with the letter following ARM since not many letters are readily mistaken to be an E. Consequently, the missing word was probably ARMENIOS.

There was a smaller inscription of Castus, shown below.
L ARTORIUS
CASTUS PP
LEG V MA[…] PR
AEFEC[…]VS LE
VI VICTRICI […]

Coliavus

The Tintagel slate is dedicated to an individual called Coliavus. He can be identified in the Llyfr Baglan as belonging to gen -1 as shown in the table below which has the names in the manuscript forms:

Gen. H2414a LB 79-80a LB 215a JC20 46
25 Gwilim Gwillim Gwillim
24 Jankyn Jenkin Jenkin
23 Adam Adam (m. Herbert m. Peter) Adam
22 Kynhaethwy Reignallt Reignallt
21 Peter Peter
20 Herbart Herbert Herbert
19 Lord Herbert Lord Herbert
18 Lord Henry Herbert Lord Henry Herbert
17 Lord Herbert Lord Herbert
16 Godwin Godwin Godwin
15 Elfryd Alured Alured
14 Wlfyn beltharnsvs Vephyn(e) Vephyn(e)
13 Helin Vortegyn Vortegyn
12 Rol (m.) Aedaf Rolopedaph Rolopedaph
11 Alanor Alanor Alanor
10 Eliwd Elnyd Elnyd
9 Vernordin Fferverdyn Fferverdyn
8 Mordaf Mordaf Mordaf
7 Iopin Hopkin Hopkin
6 Hernam Hernam
5 Oswallt Oswallt Oswallt
4 Kawrddoli Canordoyl(e) Canordoyl(e)
3 Dwfnwal Dyfnuall Boifunall
2 Eiddyn Ithel Ithyn Amor
1 Dwn(gerth) Dwn Dwn Morith
0 (Dwn)gerth Caret Caret Aidan
-1 Koilbin Coilbye Coilbye Mor
-2 Progmaell Progmaell Brochuael
-3 Kuneda wledic

Note, Jesus College 20 46 was added to the table to assist the dating as it shares Brochuael with LB.

Lord Henry Herbert, of gen. 18, was the king Henry I’s chamberlain. He attempted to assasinate the royal and is likely to be the same person as Herbert of Winchester. He did have a son called Herbert who became chamberlain to Scotland’s king David I. However, the Harleian 5835 states Lord Herbert, of gen. 19, was an illegitimate son of Henry I by Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr. This would identify him as Henry FitzRoy who died in 1158.

The LB says Lord Herbert of Cornwall was son of Godwyn, duke of Cornwall. Moreover, the Harleian 2414 describes Godwin as “iarll Kernyw”. Pen. 135 p.369 goes further and calls him “ iarll Kernyw a Dyfnaint”. Yorke mentions:

“What had a more significant impact on the history of the six West Saxon shires as an administrative grouping was Cnut’s abolition of the two ealdormanries of eastern and western Wessex and his appointment of Godwine as earl of Wessex, that is of all England south of the Thames.”.[1]

He was the father of Harold Godwinson. The table shows Godwin’s predecessor as Alfred Aetheling, the brother of Edward the Confessor. Godwin’s father, Wulfnoth, is listed next.

The 12th C Norman poet Beroul in Tristran has a character called Godoine, described as a Cornish traitor, being killed by Tristan shooting an arrow into his eye. This appears to be a reference to Harold Godwinson although the name given is that of his father. As the above genealogy shows, Harold would have claimed Cornish ancestry. This suggests there may have been at Hastings the ironic situation of units in both the opposing forces at that battle invoking the name of Arthur! The Bayeux tapestry shows one of the Saxon banners with a red dragon. This could have been an assertion of Welsh ancestry, though some may argue a Danish connection.

The Tintagel slate is likely to have been a trial attempt for a plaque intended for the island chapel commemorating Coliavus. John Leland tells us the chapel was dedicated to “S. Ulette alias Uliane”. Nicholas Orme in The Saints of Cornwall says “Perhaps this came about through Guilant being reinterpreted as Juliana, of which Juliot is a diminutive form; …”. St. Juliot appears in the folio 122v of the Great Domesday Book as Sanguiland.

That Coliavus was in some way identified with Arthur, that is Paternus according to the slate, led to Juliot being misidentified with St. Julitta, the mother of St. Paternus of Avranches. The Welsh version for Julitta is Ilid. This appears as Loth in the Historia Regum Britanniae and Llew in the Brut y Brenhinedd. Gweirydd ap Llew was Gareth of the Arthurian Romances and it is that name that appears in the above table under gen. 0.

[1] Yorke, B., 1995, 145.

West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List

In the article The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Arthur’s death it was stated Dumville derived the same date for the start of Cerdic’s reign. The following table illustrates the derivation.

WSGRL Reign Start ASC entries Discrepancy
Cerdic 16 538 519 19
Cynric 27 554 534 20
Ceawlin 7 581 560 21
Ceol 6 588 591 -3
Ceolwulf 17 594 597 -3
Cynegils 31 611 611 0
Cenwalh 31 642 643 -1
Seaxburh 1 673 672 1
Æscwine 2 674 674 0
Centwine 9 (10) 676 676 0
Cædwalla 3 (2) 685 685 0
Ine 38 688 688 0
Æthelheard 14 726 728 -2
Cuthred 16 740 741 -1
Sigebert 1 756 754 2
Cynewulf 29 757 755 2
Beorhtric 16 786 784 2
Egbert 37 802 800 2
Æthelwulf 16 (19) 839 836 3
Æthelbald 5 855 855 0
Æthelbert 6 860 860 0
Æthelred 5 866 866 0
Alfred 28 871 871 0

It can be seen from the discrepancy column that the only significant differences arise in the dating of the start of the reigns of Cerdic, Cynric and Ceawlin providing evidence that these dates were shifted earlier by one Metonic cycle in order to hide a period of Saxon defeats.

The Adventus Saxonum in the Chronicon Britannicum

The Chronicon Britannicum appears to indicate why there are differing dates for the Adventus suggested by the Historia Brittonum and the Historia Ecclesiastica. One of the possible dates indicated by the former is 428 and by the latter 447.

HB 66: “Vortigern reigned in Britain when Theodosius and Valentinian were consuls, and in the fourth year of his reign the Saxons came to Britain, in the consulship of Feliz and Taurus …”[1]

HE II 14: “So King Edwin, with all the nobles of his race and a vast number of the common people, received the faith and regeneration by holy baptism in the eleventh year of his reign, that is in the year of our Lord 627 and about 180 years after the coming of the English to Britain.”[2]

The CBrit inserts between the entries for the years 413 and 427 the following entry dated, out of sequence, to the year 447:

“Angli in majorem Britanniam venerunt, & Britones inde ejecerunt.”

This suggests that CCCCXLVII (447) may have been a corruption of CCCCXXVII (427), that is although the author was allocating the same date to the event as that in the HE, he was sequencing it in his list in line with a date close to that cited by the HB.

[1] Han, K. W. L., 2008.
[2] McClure, J., Collins, R., 1999, 97.