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Annales Cambriae: page view from MS. A

Annales Cambriae, or The Annals of Wales, is the name given to a complex of Cambro-Latin chronicles deriving ultimately from a text compiled from diverse sources at St David's in Dyfed, Wales, not later than the 10th century. Despite the name, the Annales Cambriae record not only events in Wales, but also events in Ireland, Cornwall, England, Scotland and sometimes further afield.



The principal versions of Annales Cambriae appear in four manuscripts:

A: London, British Library, MS. Harley 3859, folios 190r-193r.
B: London (Kew), Public Records Office, MS. E.164/1 (K.R. Misc. Books, Series I) pp.2-26
C: London, British Library, MS. Cotton Domitian A.i, folios 138r-155r
D: Exeter, Cathedral Library, MS. 3514, pp. 523-8, the Cronica ante aduentum Domini.
E: ibid., pp. 507-19, the Cronica de Wallia.

A is in a hand of about 1200 inserted without title into an MS. of the Historia Brittonum where it is immediately followed by a pedigree for Owain ap Hywel (d.988). Although no explicit chronology is given in the MS., its annals seem to run from about A.D. 445 to 977 with the last entry at 954, making it likely that the text belongs to the second half of the tenth century.

B was written, probably at the Cistercian abbey of Neath, at the end of the 13th century. It is entitled Annales ab orbe condito adusque A.D. 1286.

C is part of a book written at St David's, and is entitled Annales ab orbe condito adusque A.D. 1288; this is also of the late 13th century.

The basis of B and C is a world chronicle derived from Isidore of Seville's Origines (Book V, ch.39), through the medium of Bede's Chronica minora. After A.D. 457, B agrees nearly with A until A ends, and after the empire of Heraclius (610-41) C mostly agrees with A until A ends, although it is clear that A was not the common source for B and C (Dumville 2002, p.xi). B and C diverge after 1203, C having fewer and briefer Welsh entries.

D and E are found in a manuscript written at the Cistercian abbey of Whitland in south-west Wales in the later 13th century; the Cronica ante aduentum Domini extends from 1132 B.C. to 1285, while the Cronica de Wallia extends from 1190-1266.

A alone has benefited from a complete diplomatic edition (Phillimore 1888). Annales Cambriae, the A-text.

Source for the Arthurian legend

There are two entries in the Annals on King Arthur, one on Medraut (Mordred) and one on Myrddin (Merlin). These entries have been presented in the past as proof of the existence of Arthur and Merlin, although that view is no longer widely held. Some say it is interesting to note that all the other people mentioned in the chronicle are real and this argument is often offered as evidence for the historicity of Arthur, Merlin and Mordred; however, given that the entries could have been added arbitrarily as late as 970, long after the development of the early Arthurian myth, it cannot be taken as a particularly strong argument.

Entries on Arthur, Medrod and Merlin (Myrddin):

Year 72 (c. AD 516) The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ on his shoulders for three days and three nights and the Britons were victors.
Year 93 (c. AD 537) The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut fell [and there was death in Britain and in Ireland.] Text in brackets not in MSS. B or C.
Year 129 (c. AD 573) The Battle of Arfderydd (Armterid, A; Erderit, B; Arderit, C) [between the sons of Elifer, and Guendoleu son of Keidau; in which battle Guendoleu fell; and Merlin (Merlinus) went mad.] Text in brackets found only in MS. B.


  • Brett, Caroline, 1988 'The Prefaces of Two Late Thirteenth-century Welsh Latin Chronicles', Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 35, pp.64-73.
  • Dumville, David N., 1972-74 'Some aspects of the chronology of the Historia Brittonum', Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 25, pp.439-445.
  • Dumville, David N., 1977 'Sub-Roman Britain: history and legend', History 62, pp.173-192.
  • Dumville, David N., 1977/8 'The Welsh Latin annals', Studia Celtica 12/13, pp.461-467 (review of Hughes 1974)
  • Dumville, David N., 1984 'When was the 'Clonmacnoise Chronicle' created? The evidence of the Welsh annals', in Grabowski K. & Dumville D.N., 1984 Chronicles and Annals of Mediaeval Ireland and Wales: The Clonmacnoise-group of texts, Boydell, pp.209-226.
  • Dumville, David N. (ed, and trans.), 2002 'Annales Cambriae, A.D. 682-954: Texts A-C in Parallel', Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge.
  • Dumville, David N. 2004 ' Annales Cambriae and Easter', in The Medieval Chronicle III, Rodopi, Amsterdam & New York.
  • Hughes, Kathleen, 1974 'The Welsh Latin chronicles: Annales Cambriae and related texts', in (1980) Celtic Britain in the Early Middle Ages, Boydell, pp.67-85.
  • Hughes, Kathleen, 1980 'The A-text of Annales Cambriae', in Celtic Britain in the Early Middle Ages, Boydell, pp.86-100
  • Miller, Molly, 1975 'The Commanders at Arthuret', Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological and Antiquarian Society, New Series, 75, pp.96-118.
  • Miller, Molly, 1977/8 'Date-Guessing and Dyfed', Studia Celtica 12/13, pp.33-61.
  • Miller, Molly, 1979 'The disputed historical horizon of the Pictish king-lists', Scottish Historical Review, 58, pp.1-34.
  • +Miller, Molly, 2004 'Final stages in the construction of the Harleian Annales Cambriae: the evidence of the framework' in The Journal of Celtic Studies JCS 4, Brepols.
  • Phillimore, Egerton (ed.), 1888 'The Annales Cambriae and Old Welsh Genealogies from Harleian MS. 3859', Y Cymmrodor 9 (1888) pp.141-183.
  • Remfry, P.M., Annales Cambriae. A Translation of Harleian 3859; PRO E.164/1; Cottonian Domitian, A 1; Exeter Cathedral Library MS. 3514 and MS Exchequer DB Neath, PRO E (ISBN 1-899376-81-X)
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, ed. (1860), Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288), London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts,  
  • Wiseman, Howard, 2000 'The derivation of the date of Badon in the Annales Cambriae from Bede and Gildas' Parergon 17.2, pp.1-10.
  • Wiseman, Howard, 2002 'The derivation of the date of the Arthurian entries in the Annales Cambriae from Bede and Gildas' Vortigern Studies website

See also

External links

  • An English translation of the original annals (combining text from MSS. A, B & C for the period from the mid 5th to the late 10th centuries) can be found here.


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