The three Merlins

As first stated by Giraldus Cambrensis, Merlin of the Historia Regum Britanniae was not the same individual as Myrddin Caledonius.[1] But whereas he stated there were two Merlins in fact there were three.

Gildas’s Ambrosius Aurelianus was known to the Welsh as Emrys Wledig. Geoffrey or a later copyist called him Ambrosius Merlinus. This Merlin was a boy during Gwrtheyrn’s reign and so belonged to gen -2. His father is likely to have been Constantine III. His mother may have been Gwledyr ferch Clydwyn. If so, his name appears in ABT 18d as Amwerydd ap Custennin.

Emrys was the father of Uthr Bendragon and not his brother as claimed by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Also, Geoffrey created a doublet of Emrys by inverting the two Latin elements and thus producing the name for this supposed brother as Aurelius Ambrosius.

The second Merlin was An, the son of a daughter of Helig ap Glannog, see Myrddin Emrys, and consequently of gen. -1. He was the one who articulated the prophecy in HRB VII 3 and was involved in the deception played on Eigr.

The third Merlin is he of the Vita Merlini, known as Myrddin Caledonius, son of Morfryn and king of Dyfed. His sister, Ganieda, was married to Rhydderch Hael who was of gen. 0, see Rhydderch Hael and Rhydderch Hen. He may well have been a contemporary of the adult Arthur, being of gen. 1.

It is generally held that the name Merlin was created to avoid the association with the Latin equivalent of Myrddin, namely Merdinus. However, in reality, the name originated in the HRB as a corruption of Aurelianus.

[1] Rhys, E., 1908, 125.
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Arthur’s descent from Cunedda

Gwen, the mother of Eigr, was the daughter of Cunedda Wledig, see Amlawdd and Gwen. Arthur is identified with Paternus, Padarn in Welsh, on the Tintagel slate. The V. Paterni tells us that Paternus’s mother was a lady named Gwen (Guean) but does not give her ancestry. This is provided by late additions to the ByS, e.g. in version J:

Gwenn v’ch Karedic ap Kvnedda wledic

The respective pedigrees are shown below:

Gen. JC 7, ByA 31 ByS 21 Reconciled
0 Arthur Padarn Arthur/Padarn
-1 Eigr Pedrwn Gwen Eigr Gwendragon
-2 Gwen Emyr Llydaw Ceredig Gwen
-3 Cunedda Wledig Cunedda Wledig Cunedda Wledig

Arthur’s pedigree may be reconciled with that of Paternus as shown by the column entitled ‘Reconciled’ in the table above. The name of the Paternus’s mother, Gwen, was, in fact, also an element of Eigr’s cognomen. The evidence for this assertion is provided by two Irish Arthurian Romances. In the RIA.23D 22 version of the Romance Eachtra an Mhadra Mhaoil (The Story of the Crop-Eared Dog)[1] we have:

Artur mhic Iobhair mhic Ambros mhic Constaintin

whereas in the RIA.23M 26 version it is:

Arthur mhac Ambróis mic ConstantÍn mic Uighir Finndrea guin

In the Romance Eachtra Mhacaoimh an Iolair (The Story of Eagle-boy)[2] the last name in the above pedigree takes the form Ughdaire Finndreagain. These pedigrees are consistent but need to be interpreted as shown in the table below which presents the names in the forms given in the various documents:

Gen. EaMM RIA.23D 22 EaMM RIA.23M 26 EMaI
0 Artur Arthur Artur
-1 Iobhair [Iobhair] Uighir Finndreaguin Iubhair Ughdaire Finndreagain
-2 Ambros Ambróis Ambrois
-3 Constaintin ConstantÍn Constaintin

Iubair is the name given to Arthur’s father in the 1467 ms. The name Iobhair can take the form Iomhair which is derived from the Welsh Emyr Llydaw. This title referred to Petranus, Pedrwn or Pedr in Welsh, the father of Paternus. Thus, Arthur’s father, Iobhair (Pedr), was the son of Ambrois (Ambrosius) who also held the title Emyr Llydaw as shown by ByS 21. His father was Constantine as indicated in the Historia Regum Britanniae. However, as that document incorrectly claimed Constantinus (Custennin Fendigaid) was the brother of Aldroenus (Aldwr) who belonged to the later gen. -2, in order to maintain a viable chronology he was forced to claim Ambrosius was the brother of Arthur’s father.

Moreover, Arthur’s mother was Uighir Finndreaguin (Eigr Gwendragon), where Irish Finn and Welsh Gwen have the meaning white or fair or blessed. Finndreaguin was erroneoulsy taken to be Cinndreaguin resulting in the matronymic Arthur m. Uighir Finndreaguin becoming the false patronymic Arthur m. Uther Pendragon.

Allocating Ambrosius to gen. -2 is consistent with HB 42 which indicates he was one generation later than Vortigern and also with HB 66 which says the discord between Vitalinus and Ambrosius occurred 12 years after Vortigern’s reign. He was an illegitimate son of the Roman emperor Constantine III. Because the HRB wrongly identified Constantine as Aldwr’s brother, as stated above, Geoffrey was forced to make the false claim that the emperor’s genuine son, Constans II, was also the brother of Ambrosius.

[1] ITS vol.10 1907 2
[2] ITS vol.10 1907 118