Custennin ap Cadwr

Custennin is the first ‘tyrant’ mentioned by Gildas. He was a nephew of Arthur as indicated by a number of sources[1]:

1. The Chronicle of John Hardyng:
“To Constantyne, duke Cader sonne on hye, / his neuewe was, for Cader was his brother, / As well was knowen they had but one mother.”[2]

2. Brut y Brenhinedd p. 182v:
“… i nai ap i vrawd kanis mab oedd y kadwr hwnnw i wrlais iarll keirnyw o eigr verch amlawd wledig mam arthur.”
“… his nephew, his brother’s son, for that Cador was son to Gorlois Earl of Cornwall, by Igerne, Arthur’s mother, daughter of Prince Amlawd.”[3]
as shown in the following extract from the manuscript:

Black Book of Basingwerk, NLW ms. 7006, 182v.

3. ByA 32:
“Kustenin ap Kadwr ap Gwrlais iarll Kemyw nai ap brawd vnvam ac Arthur.”[4]

It was because he was Arthur’s closest surviving relative that he inherited the crown of Dumnonia. His pedigree appears in Harl. 2414 and Llyfr Baglan. The former is shown below where the names appear as in the manuscript.

Gen. Harl. 2414b Harl. 2414c Harl. 2414d
2 Bledrys
1 Kystennin
0 Petrawg Kador
-1 Klemens Gwrloys
-2 Sartogys Selor
-3 Pandwlff Mor (m. Sglepiado[s])
-4 Gerdan Owen
-5 Maxen Wledig

Note, Harl. 2414b is a continuation of Harl. 2414d. Harl. 2414c had been inserted in between as Gerdan and Owen were both offsprings of Maxen. Gerdan is probably Gratiana, daughter of Macsen Wledig, who according to Harl. 1974 30 and 31 married Tudwal ap Turmwr.

[1] Bartrum, P.C., 2009, 96.
[2] Grafton, R., Ellis, H., 1812, 146.
[3] Parry, J.J., 1937, 182b.
[4] Bartrum, P.C., 1966, 94.

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 who was the daughter 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.


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 JC 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, JC 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, see The Bayeux tapestry and the draco standards. 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; …”. Evidence for this claim is the fact that St. Juliot appears in the folio 122v of the Great Domesday Book as Sanguiland. The name Guiland derived from Koilbin, one of the manuscript forms for Coliavus. So we have the following sequence:

Coliavus → Koilbin → Guiland → Juliana/Juliot → Uliane/Ulette.

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.

The king list of Gwynedd

The pedigree of the Venedotian kings is given in HG 1. However, this list poses a problem in terms of chronology until it is treated as two separate lines of descent, labelled HG 1a and HG 1b:

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

Although later sources show Merfyn Frych as the husband of Esyllt, a viewpoint supported by Bartrum, this earlier document is correct in stating he was her son. 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 fifth column above.

Rhun Hir married Perweur ferch Rhun Ryfeddfawr, whose name appears in ByA 28c, and they both belonged to gen. 1 as shown in the 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 ap Rhun belonged to the same generation as his supposed parents. Brut y Brenhinedd confirms that Rhun was the father of Beli. Historia Regum Britanniae wrongly asserts that Einion was the father whereas in fact Einion Yrth was a grandfather. It was Rhun ap Einion Yrth and not Rhun Hir who fled to Armorica. His daughter, Tymyr, married Hoel II who appears in Chronicon Briocense, see above table.

Both HRB and ByB correctly 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]

The Latin text uses the word “avunculus” where the above passage reads “uncle”. Strictly speaking, that term 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 half-brother to Cadwallon Lawhir, Maelgwn’s father, through their father Einion Yrth. 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 Iago became king. As can be seen in the above table, Cadwallon ap Cadfan is correct when he tells Salomon II  in the ByB that their two fathers were two second cousins.

[1] Williams, H., 1899, 77