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Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Britain

 

 

 

MapDamnonii & Attacotti

The area of Scotland now known as Strathclyde was originally occupied by the British tribe known as the Damnonii. They were bordered to the north by the Venicones and the Epidii, and to the south by the Votadini, Selgovae, and Novantae tribes.

The Roman conquest of Britain did not originally include the Damnonii territory, although there were periods when they later fell under Roman administration. That didn't last, however, and the Damnonii seem to have been a source of trouble for the Romans over a long span of time. They appear to have been formed a definite kingdom in the second century (one of the 'four kingdoms of ancient Scotland'), when a descendant of Caratacus of the Catuvellauni collected together a force of 'free Britons' in opposition to the 'enslaved' Britons and their masters to the south. The Damnonii may have been related in some way to the Dumnonii, and also the Irish tribe(s) of that name ('fir Domnainn', which means 'men (of) Domnonii').

FeaturePeople of the Damnonii form one of the candidates for the mysterious Attacotti of the fourth century AD. The Attacotti name can be broken down in two ways. The first supplies the name Alt Clut, while the second has links to the Novantae immediately to the south of Alt Clut, suggesting that the Attacotti certainly came from this area of lowland Scotland, either from around the rock of the Britons or from a short distance to the south.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway.)

AD 82

Continuing a campaign which in the previous two years had secured the territory of the Votadini, Selgovae, and Novantae tribes, the Roman Governor of Britain secures the western coast up to the Clyde to contain the Damnonii tribesmen there and perhaps to prevent Irish landings.

140 - 143

The Romans move north to the Forth-Clyde line, roughly the southern Pictish boundary, reoccupying British Lowland Scotland and beginning construction of the more basic Antonine Wall.

148 - 184

Corvus / Corbed

Descendant of Caratacus of the Catuvellauni.

148 - 184

Corvus apparently announces the creation of the kingdom in 148, raising a following of British patriots. He fights off the Irish of Meath and Connaught, and it seems possible that this part of a serious train of events along the Antonine Wall. The Roman forts are are apparently evacuated and burnt, either by the enemy or by retreating Romans - there is some slaughter at Newstead at least. It is quite possible that the Romans are severely mauled before they can put down the revolt, and reinforcements arrive under the new Governor, Gnaeus Julius Verus. Corvus himself dies fighting the Romans in 184 but his kingdom remains outside direct imperial control, one of the four kingdoms of the north.

His line is represented as the senior of the descendants of the old British royal house (presumably that of the Catuvellauni), while the junior line is represented by High King Coilus from within the province. The list of the names of rulers who apparently succeed him is unreliable and not necessarily in the correct order.

Art Vroisc

Son.

Fer

Son.

Duibne Mawr ('the Great')

fl c.250

Beinnie the Briton

Mentioned by Irish as leading army against them at Muchramha.

Art the Young

A repetition of Art Vroisc?

Fer

Another repetition to plug a gap in the succession?

fl c.305

Cursalem

Son. A general of Constantine the Great.

305

The Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus makes a treaty with the Damnonii Britons in an effort to halt their attacks on Britain. Subsequent Damnonii leaders have a firmer footing in history, and they even have Latinised names, suggesting a certain acceptance of Romanisation following the acceptance of the treaty. Each individual also has other versions of his name, some of which are later, traditional versions used in royal pedigrees.

fl c.330

Clemens / Cluian / Cluim / Ceodar

Son. Roman confederate & chief of the Damnonii?

fl c.360

Quintillius / Cinhil

Roman confederate & chief of the Damnonii?

fl 364?

? / Cynloup

Son. Alt Clut and possible Attacotti leader during the attack of 364.

364

FeatureAccording to Ammianus Marcellinus, the Picts, Scotti, Saxons, and Attacotti attack Roman Britain in what seems to be a serious incursion. The Attacotti could be the Britons of Alt Clut.

There is a gap is between Quintillius and his grandson, Coroticus. Note that the former bears a Roman name, except in traditional pedigrees, and the latter a British name. The latter name is in fact the name of a great, legendary (by this time) leader of a revolt against the Romans, that of Caratacus of the Catuvellauni. It is the same name, despite spelling differences (there is no regularised spelling or pronunciation at this time). It is likely that Coroticus is named by his father after a great warrior who had fought the Romans, so is it beyond the bounds of reason that the father, Quintillius' son, is the Attacotti leader who participates in the barbarian conspiracy of 364? If not, and he emerges a little later, perhaps in the 380s, then could he name his son in memory of the glorious revolt led perhaps by his own father (who could still be absent from this list)?

As for that 'missing' father, an alternative suggestion for his otherwise unknown name is Cynloup. This comes in a variety of forms, such as Cynlop, Cynloyp, Cynllwyb, and it is also claimed that he is son of one Cinhil of Colchester. The name is 'cyn' (from the Brythonic 'cuno', meaning 'dog') and an unknown suffix in the form of 'loup'. In Welsh this could be 'llwybr', meaning 'a path', but that makes no sense, while 'llwybro' is the verb form, 'to walk'. This does not sound like a name. Instead, 'lop' or 'loup' are preferable here, although they require a moderate long shot in linking them. Latin was pronounced and used differently in Gaul when compared to Italy. The same would be true for Britannia, where Latin words lose their suffixes from nouns. Classical Latin has the word 'lupus', meaning 'wolf', which comes down to French as 'loup' and Walloon as 'leu'. Lose the '-us' suffix and 'lup' remains, which is pretty close to Cynloup. Could the name mean 'wolfdog'?

MapAlt Clut / Alt Clud

The tribe of the Damnonii, never fully conquered by Rome, seem to have created a definite kingdom in the region of Scotland now known as Strathclyde. The kingdom quickly became known by the Brythonic name of its capital at Dumbarton: Alt Clut ('Rock of the Clyde'). Centered on the Clyde headwaters and its capital of Dumbarton, or Alcluith (an older version of the name), the kingdom seems to have stretched a little north of the Antonine line, in the direction of Stirling to the ridge of the Campsie Fells and, taking in the later county of Dunbarton, up to the head of Loch Long. It was bordered to the north by Pictland, to the north-east and east by the Goutodin, and to the south by Caer Guendoleu, and Galwyddel.

Essentially re-established in AD 382 by Magnus Maximus, it may in fact have been much older. The original Roman conquest did not include Alt Clut's British Damnonii territory, although there were periods when it later fell under Roman administration. For the most part, however, it seems to have remained an independent kingdom. Certainly it was one of the few British kingdoms never to be conquered by the English or Normans, and was eventually taken over by the Scottish crown. Its southern region of Cumbria was gained after the fall of North Rheged and a period of possession by Bernicia, and simply bore the name of its 'people of the same land', the Cymri, which is the same source of the name for Cymru (Wales).

Many kings are poorly attested and are often known by the Welsh or Irish versions of their names. Where both Strathclyde British, and later Welsh forms are known, the latter is always shown last. Edward Dawson suggests the theory that the Attacotti of 364 could be the Alt Clut Britons.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe.)

c.410 - c.450

Coroticus / Ceretic Guletic (Land Holder)

Son. First king of Alt Clut. A Christian king. Also ruled Goutodin?

c.450

The name Coroticus is probably a more accurate Northern British version of the later Welsh Ceretic. It means 'beloved of' or 'dear to' ('cara') and the god, Dag ('dagda', or Dag the Good). Coroticus is almost certainly the British warrior addressed in a letter by St Patrick, which bemoans the capture and enslavement of newly-Christianised Scotti. Patrick blames Coroticus for this and excommunicates his warband as 'associates of the Scots and Apostate Picts; desirous of glutting themselves with the blood of innocent Christians'. The apostate Picts are those converted to Christianity by St Ninian who have subsequently reverted to paganism.

fl 450

Dumnagual Hen / Dyfnwal Hen

Grandson.

c.470

MapThe Goutodin seem to become fully independent around this time, possibly from the rule of Coroticus (and that of his grandson). An alternative possibility is that from the time of Coel Hen up until this point they have been governed from Ebrauc. One later royal pedigree names Cinuit as the son of Coroticus, with his own son being Dumnagual Hen, and Dumnagual's son being one Garwynwyn.

c.475 - c.480

Erbin

c.480 - c.485

Cinuit

Son of Coroticus (according to tradition).

c.485

Cinuit's son, Tutagual, or Tutgwal Theodovellaunus, establishes himself in Galwyddel, perhaps as a legitimate division of Alt Clut on his father's death, an entirely normal and customary practise in Celtic kingdoms. However, if the order of succession here is correct, then the continual shift between two branches of the royal house hints at a civil war or successional struggle that has since been forgotten.

c.485 - c.490

Gereint

Son of Erbin.

c.490 - c.495

Tutagual / Tudwal

Son of Cinuit. Also king of Galwyddel (c.485-c.495).

c.495 - 501

Caw

Deposed.

501 - 508

Domgal

c.508 - c.540

Clinoch / Clinioc

Son of Dumnagual Hen. Popular Christian king.

c.540 - c.558

Cinbelin

Brother. Defeated by his nephew, Conall.

c.550

Elidyr/Morken Mwynfawr (Wealthy)

m Eurgain, eldest legitimate daughter of Maelgwyn of Gwynedd.

c.550

Upon Maelgwyn's death in 549, Elidyr considers that because he is married to one of Maelgwyn's legitimate children, and the new king of Gwynedd is illegitimate, he now has a strong claim on the throne of Gwynedd. Elidyr invades and is defeated and killed in battle in Gwynedd.

547

FeatureTo the east, the British kingdom of Bernaccia is seized by the Angles who have been serving as laeti and the ruling king, Morgan Bulc is forced out. He takes refuge with the Goutodin, shifting his power base there, but the loss leaves Alt Clut's border exposed to the invaders.

c.559 - c.573

Tutagual / Tudwal

c.573 - 612

Rhiderch Hael / Rhydderch Hen

Possible High King.

573

One of the most pointless and destructive disputes of the period arises over the stronghold of Caerlaverock (the 'Fort of the Lark'), located on the northern side of the Solway Firth immediately south of Dumfries. This is very likely to be in Caer-Guendoleu's territory, where it abuts that of Galwyddel. Although the spot is tranquil today, traces of fortification can still be seen nearer Liddel Water. Not far away is Arfderydd (Arderydd, Armterid, or even Atterith, and today known as Arthuret, near Longtown in Cumbria. The principle leader of the side opposing Guenddolau is Riderch Hael, most probably for territorial reasons.

King Guenddolau dies in the battle at Arfderydd against Alt Clut, Ebrauc and Dunoting, with Rhydderch being backed up by Guenddolau's own brother and cousin respectively. The early source of information for this event comes from the Annales Cambriae, which also records that 'Merlin went mad'. This would be Myrddin Wyllt, Guenddolau's court bard who ranks with Taliesin in seniority and who seems to be confused with a possible Merlin of the mid-fifth century in the eyes of later tradition (most especially by Geoffrey of Monmouth in The History of the Kings of Britain). This is one of many internecine wars which all serve to weaken the British defences in this century.

579 & 586

Riderch Hael receives mentions in these years, along with his allies in Elmet & Rheged. In 590 the three kingdoms are in coalition with the dispossessed Morcant Bulc of Bernaccia in operations against the Angles, and are present at the siege of Ynys Metcaut (Lindisfarne).

590

Guallauc of Elmet allies himself to his cousin, Urien Rheged. A confederation of British kings is formed from this alliance, primarily based and operating in the north. The dispossessed Morcant Bulc of Bernaccia and Riderch Hael of Alt Clut both join the confederation in operations against Anglian Bernicia, and are present at the siege of Ynys Metcaut (Lindisfarne) in this year. The Bernicians are almost driven out of Britain but the confederation falls apart when Morcant Bulc has Urien Rheged assassinated, fearing his great power should the Britons win the war against the invaders. His act fatally weakens the British cause in the North.

597

The Gododdin is a long series of elegies composed from the early seventh century onwards, principally by Aneirin, son of Dunaut of Dunoting. It commemorates a force of Britons who assemble near Din Eidyn of the Goutodin at this time in preparation for facing their powerful foe. It includes not only the still-wealthy and aggressively strong Goutodin themselves, but warriors from all over the country, including 'three chiefs of Novant', clearly the nearby Novantae in post-Roman form. After attending 'churches for shriving, true is the tale, death confronted them' - clearly the British Church exists here - this force marches south to fight the Angles at Catreath (generally accepted as being modern Catterick, approximately eighty kilometres north of Ebrauc). It seems strange that they should march past Bamburgh on their way, the capital of the early Bernician kingdom, but perhaps not if they are making an attempt to reclaim the lost capital of the North, Ebrauc.

The battle seems to take place during an attack against the Roman fort near the strategic road junction now called Scotch Corner, by the south bank of the Swale at Catterick Bridge. Gwawrddur is praised for 'glutting black ravens on the wall of the fort, though he was not Arthur' (a term used to denote great slaughter of the enemy, but even so this warrior is still not a match for Britain's heroic battle leader of the previous century). Ultimately, the battle is a disaster for the Britons. The flower of the Northern British warrior class is decimated by the superior numbers of the Bernicians. Goutodin, as well as the other kingdoms of the north, probably including Elmet, are all fatally weakened by the defeat.

612 - 621

Neithon / Nechtan / Nwython

616 - 632

North Rheged falls to Edwin of Bernicia, although a rump enclave survives up against Alt Clut's southern border. Alt Clut's territory now includes eastern Dumfries.

621 - 633

Bili / Beli meb Nwython

Son.

633 - 645

Eugenius / Ywain / Hoah / Owen meb Beli

Son. Killed Domnal Breac. King of Dal Riada in 642.

638

The events of around 597, as chronicled in the Gododdin, sound the death knell for the Goutodin kingdom. Fatally weakened by this, the Annals of Ulster note pithily 'the battle of Glenn Muiresan and the besieging of Eten' - Din Eidyn, which apparently falls to Oswald of Bernicia.

642

The death of Oswald of Bernicia possibly sparks a contest between the northern powers for control of the Firth of Forth and the Goutodin lands. Owen of Alt Clut and Domnal Brec of Dal Riada fight at Strathcarron, to the east of Din Eidyn, with the Irish king being killed and Owen claiming his throne. The Annals of Ulster also mention a battle between Oswald's successor and a band of unnamed Britons - possibly Alt Clut again (or even the remnants of the Goutodin themselves). Clearly, thanks to Northumbria's retention of Dunbar in the seventh century, the Angles hold on to their newly gained territory.

645 - 658

Guret / Gwriad

? - 693

Elfin

Son of Eugenius.

? - 694

Dumnagual / Domgal

Brother.

682

Mermin

Killed in Man or Ulster. Possibly a relative rather than a king.

694 - 722

Bili / Beli

MapSon of Elfin.

722 - 750

Teudebur / Tudor / Tewdur

Killed at the battle of Mocetauc.

744

Angus of Pictland turns his attention on Alt Clut, and may have defeated them in open battle in this year.

750

The Pictish king, Angus, attempts to take territory from Alt Clut. His brother, Talorcan, leads a Pictish army at the battle of Mocetauc. Talorcan is killed, as is Teudeber, king of Alt Clut.

750? - 754

Rotri

754 - 760

Dumnagual / Domgal

Son of Teudebur.

756

The Picts attempt to conquer Alt Clut, this time with help from Northumbria. The combined armies nearly succeed in capturing Dunbarton, but a reversal sees them almost destroyed.

760 - c.780

Eugein / Owen

780

The Annals of Ulster state that Dumbarton suffers a burning. It is possible that Owen is killed by this event - usually a 'burning' signifies capture.

c.780 - c.798

Rudderch / Rhydderc

c.798 - 816

Cynan

816 - ?

Domgal / Dumnagual

Son of Rudderch.

fl c.859

Constantin

? - 872

Arthgal map Dumnagual

Son of Domgal. Captured and killed by Vikings.

870 - 871

FeatureFeatureThe Annales Cambriae records that Ald Cluid (Dunbarton) is overcome by Vikings, 'black pagans' after a four month siege. The Vikings are led by Olaf the White and Ivarr the Boneless, joint kings of the Viking kingdom of Dublin. After the conquest, the Vikings winter there before returning to Dublin with their prisoner, Arthgal.

Vikings

The ambitious Rhun persuades his brother-in-law, Constantine of the Scots, to see that the Vikings execute Arthgal, so securing Rhun the throne and bringing to an end the British ruling dynasty of Alt Clut. Once this happens, Glasgow begins to increase in importance to the detriment of Dumbarton. The name Strathclyde also first comes into use in this period, but, confusingly, the kingdom is also called Cumbria, after its southern territory.

Map Strathclyde / Strathalcluith

Strathclyde was the name used for the kingdom by the Scotti (Strathalcluith, and later Strathcluaide, are older forms of that name which effectively mean 'straddling' or 'crossing the Clyde'). Once King Rhun had secured the throne, it was widely regarded as a junior territory of Scotland itself. The line of succession is sometimes a little confused at this point, especially on dates of rule.

Strathclyde apparently managed to extend its region of control into Cumbria from about 900 onwards, but there are two schools of thought about this. One is that Scottish/Strathclyde sub-kings managed to extend their area of influence southwards into former Rheged, which had been conquered by the Northumbrian Angles and then taken over by various Viking elements, possibly with support from York. The other is that the shadowy 'kings of Cumbria' (a purely British name which is related to the Welsh cymry) managed to reassert independent British control of the region following the removal of Anglian authority. Numerous place names which point to a British origin confirm a strong native element was still holding onto some form of control, but were they truly independent or merely elements of an expanded Strathclyde? If the former, then this was the last independent British kingdom to exist outside of Wales.

(Additional information by Mick Baker.)

872 - 878

Rhun mac Arthgal

Son. Brother-in-law of Constantine I of the Scots.

878 - 889

Eochu / Eochaid

Son. King of the Scots (878-889).

889 - 900

Donald I

Cousin. Donald II of the Scots (889-900).

900

Around this time, Galwyddel is absorbed into the kingdom as the region's former ruler, Ynys Manau, is overrun by Vikings. Strathclyde also seems to gain the former North Rheged's Cumbria from the Scandinavian kingdom of York at this time.

900 - 908

Strathclyde is probably ruled directly from Scotland.

908 - 916

Donald II mac Aed / Dunmail

Son of Scottish king. Effectively a sub-king.

916/925 - 937

Eogan / Owain / Owen mac Donald

Son of Donald I. Granted by Constantine II of the Scots.

934 - 937

The grand alliance including the Scots, Northumbrian Danes at York, Dublin Danes, and the Welsh of Gwynedd and Cumbria (under Strathclyde's rule), mass their forces north of the Humber in a bold attempt to destroy ∆thelstan of Wessex. The plan fails, however, when the West Saxons and Mercians of the south destroy the alliance at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937.

940 - 943

Donald II mac Aed / Dunmail

Returned to the throne or first rule?

943 - 954

Indulf mac Constantine

King of the Scots (954-962).

946

There is a major invasion by the West Saxon King Edmund. The two sons of Donald II are blinded.

FeatureThere is some confusion following the attack and some sources seem to suggest that for a time (probably only in the reign of Malcolm mac Donald) Cumbria (the southern half of the kingdom) seems to split from Strathclyde and claim independence as a separate kingdom. This may instead be a confusion of the two names being used by different sources for the kingdom as a whole.

954 - 962

Dubh mac Malcolm / Duff

King of the Scots (954-962).

962 - 971

Donald III mac Eoghain

Entered the church pre-971. Died a pilgrim 975.

971 - 972

Amdarch / Riderch mac Donald

972

Amdarch disappears as a result of an attack by the Scots.

973 - 997

Malcolm mac Donald mac Eoghain

Not to be confused with Malcolm II of the Scots.

973

Malcolm assumes the title, 'King of the Cumbrians', but this is thought to have included all of Strathclyde including Cumbria. However, its use is interesting. Could Malcolm have been a native Briton striving to reassert the independence of his own people in the face of Scottish rule?

975 - ?997

Riderch mac Donald

Did he return to reclaim the throne for the Scots?

997 - 1018

Eoghain II / Owen the Bald

A Strathclyde British ruler?

1018 - 1034

It is thought that Owen dies at the Battle of Carham in 1018. It seems likely that he has a British successor, but this person's name is unknown, and the extent of his domain must also be a matter of great uncertainty.

Strathclyde is gradually subdued by the Scots between 1018-1034 (usually credited to Malcolm II of Scotland).

1018 - 1034

Duncan mac Crinan

King of the Scots (1034-1040).

1034

With Duncan's accession to the Scottish crown, Strathclyde is fully merged within that kingdom.

c.1054

Malcolm

Ruled under the earl of Northumbria.

1054

The English King Edward the Confessor dispatches Earl Siward of Northumbria against the Scots, ruled by Mac Bethad mac FindlŠich (Macbeth), to reinstall Malcolm, 'son of the king of the Cumbrians', in Strathclyde.

The name Malcolm causes confusion, as some think that this refers to the later king of Scots Malcolm III Canmore. How long Malcolm remains 'king of the Cumbrians' is unknown (certainly not later than 1070, when all of Strathclyde is under Scottish control). Also unknown is whether the title is applied by the English to the whole of Strathclyde or if it is a referral to the previous possible division of Cumbria and Strathclyde.