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The following list of legendary kings of Britain derives predominantly from Geoffrey of Monmouth's circa 1136 work Historia Regum Britanniae ("the History of the Kings of Britain"). Geoffrey constructed a largely fictional history for the Britons (ancestors of the Welsh, the Cornish and the Bretons), partly based on the work of earlier medieval historians like Gildas, Nennius and Bede, partly from Welsh genealogies and saints' lives, partly from sources now lost and unidentifiable, and partly from his own imagination . Several of his kings are based on genuine historical figures, but appear in unhistorical narratives. A number of Middle Welsh versions of Geoffrey's Historia exist. All post-date Geoffrey's text, but may give us some insight into any native traditions Geoffrey may have drawn on.

Geoffrey's narrative begins with the exiled Trojan prince Brutus, after whom Britain is supposedly named, a tradition previously recorded in less elaborate form in the 9th century Historia Brittonum. Brutus is a descendant of Aeneas, the legendary Trojan ancestor of the founders of Rome, and his story is evidently related to Roman foundation legends.

The kings before Brutus come from a document purporting to trace the travels of Noah in Europe and once attributed to the Mesopotamian historian Berossus, but now known to have been a fabrication of the 15th century Italian writer Annio da Viterbo. Renaissance historians like John Bale and Raphael Holinshed took the list of kings of Celtica given by pseudo-Berossus and made them kings of Britain as well as Gaul. John Milton records these traditions in his History of Britain, although he gives them little credence.

Contents

First kings derived from pseudo-Berossus

  • Samothes, also known as Dis: fourth son of Japheth, son of Noah. First king of Celtica, 200 years after the Flood. Britain is named Samothea after him.
  • Magus, son of Samothes
  • Saron, son of Magus
  • Druis, son of Saron (founder of the Druids)
  • Bardus, son of Druis (founder of the bards)
  • Albion, son of Neptune, a giant, who overthrows Bardus, rules for 44 years, and renames the island after himself. He is killed fighting Hercules on the continent, and from then until the arrival of Brutus, Britain has no ruler.

Kings derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth

Geoffrey synchronises some of his kings with figures and events from the Bible, Greek, Roman and Irish legends, and recorded history. These are given in the "Synchronisation" column.

England Scotland Wales Cornwall Synchronisation
Brutus I (24 years) Corineus Eli, Aeneas Silvius
Locrinus (10 years) Albanactus Kamber Gwendolen
Gwendolen (15 years)
Maddan (40 years) Gwendolen Samuel, Aeneas Silvius, Homer
Mempricius (20 years) Saul, Eurystheus
Ebraucus (40 or 60 years) David
Brutus II Greenshield (12 years)
Leil (25 years) Solomon
Rud Hud Hudibras (39 years) Haggai, Amos, Joel, Azariah
Bladud (20 years) Elijah
Leir (60 years)
Cordelia (5 years)
Marganus I (north of the Humber) and Cunedagius (south of the Humber) (2 years)
Cunedagius (33 years) Isaiah, Hosea, Romulus and Remus
Rivallo
Gurgustius
Sisillius I
Jago
Kimarcus
Gorboduc
War between Ferrex and Porrex I
Civil war; Britain divided under five unnamed kings
Pinner Staterius Rudaucus Cloten
Dunvallo Molmutius
Dunvallo Molmutius (40 years)
Brennius (north of the Humber) and Belinus (south of the Humber) Sack of Rome (387 BC)
Belinus
Gurguit Barbtruc Partholón
Guithelin
Marcia (regent)
Sisillius II
Kinarius
Danius
Morvidus
Gorbonianus
Archgallo
Elidurus (5 years)
Archgallo (restored) (10 years)
Elidurus (restored)
Peredurus (north of the Humber) and Ingenius (south of the Humber) (7 years)
Peredurus
Elidurus (restored)
A son of Gorbonianus
Marganus II
Enniaunus
Idvallo
Runo
Gerennus
Catellus
Millus
Porrex II
Cherin
Fulgenius
Edadus
Andragius
Urianus
Eliud
Cledaucus
Clotenus
Gurgintius
Merianus
Bledudo
Cap
Oenus
Sisillius III
Beldgabred
Archmail
Eldol
Redon
Redechius
Samuil Penessil (or Samuil, followed by Penessil)
Pir
Capoir
Digueillus
Heli (40 years)
Lud
Cassibelanus Julius Caesar's invasions of Britain (55-54 BC)
Tenvantius
Kimbelinus Augustus
Guiderius Claudius's conquest of Britain (AD 43)
Arvirargus Claudius, Vespasian
Marius
Coilus
Lucius (d. AD 156) Pope Eleuterus (174-189)
interregnum; war between Severus and Sulgenius Septimius Severus (Roman emperor 193-211)
Bassianus (Caracalla) Caracalla (Roman emperor 211-217)
Carausius Carausian Revolt (289-296)
Allectus Allectus assassinated Carausius in 293
Asclepiodotus (10 years) Asclepiodotus and Constantius Chlorus retook Britain in 296)
Coel
Constantius (11 years) Constantius Chlorus, Roman emperor 293-306
Constantine I Constantine I, Roman emperor 306-337
Octavius
Trahern
Octavius (restored)
Maximianus Magnus Maximus, Roman usurper-emperor 383-388
Dionotus
Constantine II Constantine III, Roman usurper-emperor 407-411
Constans Constans II, Roman usurper-emperor 409-411
Vortigern
Vortimer Germanus of Auxerre (378-448), Battle of Aylesford (455)
Aurelius Ambrosius
Uther Pendragon
Arthur Battle of Mons Badonicus, St. Dubricius
Constantine III
Aurelius Conanus (2 years) Aurelius Caninus, 6th century king of Gwent or Powys
Vortiporius (4 years) Vortiporius, 6th century king of Dyfed
Malgo Maelgwn Hir ap Cadwallon, 6th century king of Gwynedd
Keredic
Interregnum; Saxons occupy England
Cadvan Cadfan ap Iago, 6th/7th century king of Gwynedd
Cadwallo Cadwallon ap Cadfan, 7th century king of Gwynedd, d. 634
Cadwallader (d. AD 689) Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon, 7th century king of Gwynedd

Aftermath

After the death of Cadwallader, the kings of the Brythons were reduced to such a small domain that they ceased to be kings of the whole Brythonic-speaking area. Two of his relatives, Yvor and Yni, led the exiles back from Brittany, but were unable to re-establish a united kingship. The Anglo-Saxon invaders ruled the south-eastern part of the island of Great Britain, which would become England, after that point in time under the Bretwaldas and later the kings of England.

The heirs to the Celtic-British throne continued through the Welsh kings of Gwynedd until that line was forced to submit itself to the English in the 13th century. Princes and lords of Gwynedd ruled until the reign of Dafydd III, who ruled from 1282 to 1283. His death marked the end of the house of Brutus. Owen Tudor, grandfather of Henry VII of England, was a maternal descendant of the kings of Gwynedd; Henry's marriage with Elizabeth of York thus signified the merging of the two royal houses (as well as the feuding houses of York and Lancaster).

References

Bibliography

  • Charles W. Dunn, in a revised translation of Sebastian Evans. History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth. E.P. Dutton: New York. 1958. ISBN 0-525-47014-X
  • John Morris. The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650. Barnes & Noble Books: New York. 1996 (originally 1973). ISBN 0-7607-0243-8
  • John Jay Parry and Robert Caldwell. Geoffrey of Monmouth in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1
  • Brynley F. Roberts, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Welsh Historical Tradition, Nottingham Medieval Studies, 20 (1976), 29-40.
  • J.S.P. Tatlock. The Legendary History of Britain: Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and its early vernacular versions. University of California Press. Berkeley. 1950.
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