History Files
 

Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Britain

 

Prydein (Prettania / Britannia / Britain) (Britons) (Iron Age) (British Isles)
Incorporating the High Kings of Britain

The history of the British Isles from the end of the most recent ice age to the formation of the united Anglo-Saxon kingdom forms several stages and covers a good deal of conflict. It starts with the Early Cultures which appear prior to the Iron Age. Then the Celtic occupation of Prydein leads up to the Roman incursions and the creation of Roman Britain. Subsequent decline generates the Post-Roman period in which all stories of Arthur are contained, but this also covers the gradual loss of Celtic power in the land and its marginalisation on the western and northern fringes.

FeatureThe earliest traces of human habitation in the British Isles dates to about 700,000 years ago (see feature link). Modern humans entered the British Isles around 30,000 years ago, although the ice eventually forced them out during a fresh advance. The most recent (and current) recolonisation occurred from about 12,000 BC onwards. These people made up the earliest cultures, although subsequent waves of incomers gradually replaced them.

FeatureThe first wave of proto-Celtic settlers in Britain could have arrived in the Late Bronze Age period, between 1500 BC at the earliest to around 1000 BC. They're arrival signalled the end of the dominance of the islands by the Bell Beaker folk. These early Celtic arrivals were later the focus of what may have been a long-established tradition of kingship which was claimed by the post-Roman Celtic peoples of Britain (see feature link).

Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain, expanded on work by Nennius when he attempted to list all of the kings of Britain reigning between the arrival of Brutus and the Britons (a possible, archaeology-supported, early influx of proto-Celts) circa 1100 BC up to AD 689 and the end of Gwynedd's attempts to regain territory which had been lost to the Teutonic Bretwaldas and their followers. These possible early arrivals were nominal rulers of the British Celtic tribes (starting initially in the south and east of Britain and working outwards). In all likelihood, they were probably strong rulers of their own tribal groups and perhaps held at least theoretical high-kingship over the rest. They usually only exercised real authority in this role in times of emergency, such as at the landings of Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC.

MapPre-Roman, heroic age Celtic kingdoms almost always formed the basis of the ancestral heritage of later post-Roman Celtic kings. Although largely legendary until the Roman and post-Roman periods, considering the importance that the Indo-European Celtic warrior class placed on lineage, added to the tradition of being able to recite one's ancestors, these names may well reflect an element of truth. But, because the Iron Age Celts left no written records, and the post-Roman Britons probably lost a large amount of the records they possessed to the Adventus Saxonum, very little of this can ever be proven.

The dates shown here are rough approximations for the legendary period (lilac-backed), and are calculated back from known high kings. They should not be taken as being historically accurate, but they do form the framework for the known facts about the Celtic settlement of Britain.

FeatureThe name 'Britain' seems to date from the Celtic period of dominance in the country, prior the Roman invasion of AD 43. However, the way in which it was chosen and how it may have evolved during that period, before the Romans were able to record it for posterity, is a more complicated proposition (see feature link, right, for the detailed exploration of the name).

The listing of most of these high kings was derived by the late Lewis Thorpe PhD from the 1966 translation of The History of the Kings of Britain (1982 Edition). In general, events given below with dates are historical fact or general estimates worked out from archaeological evidence, while events without dates relate to traditional, legendary storytelling.

Ancient Britons

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker and Edward Dawson, from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, from the Historia Brittonum (The History of the Britons), Nennius (J A Giles, Ed & Trans, 1841, published as part of Six Old English Chronicles (Henry G Bohn, London, 1848)), from History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth, from Atlas of British History, G S P Freeman-Grenville (Rex Collins, London, 1979), from Geography, Ptolemy, and from External Links: Proto-Celtic Word List (PDF), and Harvard’s New Genetics Research on Ancient Britain (SciTechDaily).)

fl c.1115 BC

Brutus

Led Britons to Lloegr (approx modern England). Reigned 23 yrs.

FeatureThe legendary traditions of the Britons are later written down by Nennius (see feature link) and Geoffrey of Monmouth, largely in story form and involving much invention either by the writers themselves or, more probably, by a much more ancient bardic tradition in an attempt to explain the origin of the name of Prydein/Britain and lend the Britons a greater heritage by linking them to Troy.

Artist's impression of Troy
This illustration is an artist's impression of an unspecified version of Troy, although it is believed to be based on the city which existed around the time of the Trojan War, shortly before its defeat and destruction

Those traditions begin with Brutus and his followers landing at the mouth of the River Dart (in modern Devon). Brutus is the son of Silvius of the Latin kings of Italy, while his fellow leader, Corineus, and all his followers are the descendants of Trojan refugees.

The newcomers fight off the 'giants' who occupy the island and Brutus gives all of the south-west peninsula to Corineus (westwards from a line between the Severn and Wight, meaning all of the fifth century AD kingdom of Dumnonia).

Brutus founds a city on the banks of the Thames which he names New Troy, 'that is, Trinovantum' (thereby linking the later tribe of the Trinovantes to the region which is under their control in the first century BC). It is here that the 'Crown of the Island' is worn, in the land which had been called Albion but is now named Britain after Brutus himself.

Map of Late Bronze Age Cultures c.1200-750 BC
This map showing Late Bronze Age cultures in Europe displays the widespread expansion of the Urnfield culture and many of its splinter groups, although not the smaller groups who reached Britain, Iberia, and perhaps Scandinavia too (click or tap on map to view full sized)

He divides the land between his three sons. Albanactus (Albanac) gains Albany (Scotland), and Kamber gains Cambria (Wales). The eldest, Locrinus, gains Lloegr (Logris or Loegria, analogous to England south of the Humber and remarkably similar to the civilian-controlled areas of Roman Britain, south and east of the military zones of Wales and the north, most clearly shown on the accompanying maps in the AD 70-79 period).

Perhaps not coincidentally, archaeologists have discovered evidence of a fairly significant disruption in cultural practices in the twelfth century BC, one which may indicate a migration into Britain, or perhaps even an invasion (see the Harvard report linked above).

This is precisely the period in which Brutus and his people arrive, with the legendary characters shown here probably representing the first arrival in Britain of Celto-Ligurian Bronze Age peoples (Urnfield culture peoples). The native 'giants' refers to the hard-fighting Beaker culture natives.

A true 'invasion' theory is no longer as popular as it once was, being replaced by the idea of small scale migrations of a new ruling elite and their followers who simply replace a swathe of the country's population.

Skeleton of a migrant proto-Celt in Britain
This skeleton of one of four individuals to have been DNA sequenced and who is thought to have participated in the migration between about 1200-800 BC, being located at Cliffs End Farm in Kent

Locrinus

Son. High King of Britain. Reigned 10 years. Killed in battle.

Albanactus / Albanac

Brother. King of Albany (Scotland). Killed in battle.

Kamber

Brother. King of Cambria (Wales).

According to legend, 'foreign people' land in Britain to the north of the River Humber. They ravage the land and Albanactus is impetuous enough to engage them in battle without requesting reinforcements from his brothers. He is slain, and his death is avenged with great slaughter of the invaders on the banks of the Humber.

Locrinus is engaged to Vennolandua, daughter of Corineus, but he falls in love with Estrildis, concubine of the invaders' now-dead leader. Keeping his concubine a secret from his new wife leads to civil war between Locrinus and Vennolandua.

In her anger, she dons full armour and becomes the first true warrior queen of the British. The two armies meet and Locrinus is slain. Vennolandua has Estrildis and her daughter, Savren, thrown into the Severn, and rules as high queen until her son is of age to succeed her.

Queen Gwendolen

Widow of Locrinus. Ruled 15 years until Maddan came of age.

Maddan

Son. Reigned 40 years.

c.1035 BC

The Phoenicians are creating trading posts along the North African coast, such as Carthage and Utica, in southern Italy, in the Mediterranean, such as Kition on Cyprus, and in southern Spain, such as Gadir and Tarshish. Merchants are also known to trade with the occupants of the Land's End region of Britain, and general opinion is that these traders are also Phoenicians, although there is no surviving proof.

Snettisham torcs c.100 BC
The Celts arrived in Cornwall at much the same time as seafaring merchants were trading there, probably for the tin deposits in the region

Mempricius

Son. A tyrant. Reigned 20 years. Killed by wolves.

Tradition maintains that Mempricius and his brother, Malin, quarrel over who should succeed the peaceful forty year reign of their father. Through trickery, Malin is murdered by Mempricius, who goes on to rule as a tyrant over the whole island.

He murders anyone who might provide competition, including members of his own family. Even his own wife deserts him. In the end, he is brought down not by his suffering subjects but by wolves which attack him when he becomes separated from his companions on a hunt.

fl c.1006 BC

Ebraucus

Son. Reigned 39 years. Eponymous founder of Ebrauc.

c.1000 BC

FeatureMummification is being practised in the Outer Hebrides. In 2003, archaeologists discover the mummified remains of four people below a Bronze Age roundhouse in South Uist (see feature link). It is believed that the process had begun at the same time as in Egypt. It could perhaps be linked to the complex chambered tombs which had been constructed in the area around 3800 BC.

FeatureFarther south, in the modern county of Suffolk, the first phase of a long-standing wooden causeway is constructed between the site of modern Beccles and a spot on the River Waveney. The causeway remains in use for the next millennium and-a-half, with various rebuilds along the way (see feature link).

Also around this time, plus or minus a century or so, the Hekla 3 volcano on Iceland erupts. It is one of the most severe eruptions of the past 12,000 years (the Holocene era), and its effects are felt almost immediately in Britain.

Text
Iceland's Hekla 3 volcano staged one of its most severe eruptions of the past 12,000 years around 1100-900 BC, causing an almost instantaneous winter in Britain

The temperature drops significantly, according to tree-ring evidence, and marginal land which had first been cleared and farmed by the Beaker culture is now abandoned. One example of this is Dartmoor, where abandoned farmland and farm housing is soon covered by formations of peat. Warfare and banditry probably sweeps the country as food stocks fall drastically.

Brutus Greenshield

Son. Reigned 12 years.

fl c.950 BC

Leil

Son. Reigned 25 years. 'Founder' of Caer Leil (Carlisle).

Rud Hud Hudibras

Son. Reigned 39 years.

Bladud

Son. Reigned 20 years. Founder of Aquae Sulis (Caer Baddan).

Leir

Son. Reigned 60 years. Shakespeare's 'King Lear'.

FeatureLeir is the subject of William Shakespeare's play, 'King Lear', and the Shakespearian spellings of his daughters' names are shown after the more original Celtic versions below. Leir is also the traditional founder of Caer Leir (or Caer Lerion, modern Leicester - see feature link).

Goronilla and Riganna are gifted Albany and Cornwall respectively when Leir decides to divide his kingdom amongst his offspring (as is the custom, but this time before his death). Cordaella is banished from Britain for not praising her father when asked. She seeks refuge with her foster parents, Maglocun and his wife, and is brought to King Aganippus in an unidentified part of Gaul. Cordaella and Aganippus are soon married. Goronilla gains Logris while Riganna gains Cambria, both of which should have gone to their youngest sister.

Troyes burial mound
An Iron Age Celtic prince lay buried with his chariot at the centre of this huge mound in the Champagne region of France, according to the country's National Archaeological Research Institute

Queen Goronilla / Goneril

Dau. Queen of Logris & Albany (Scotland). Killed in battle.

Queen Riganna / Regan

Sister. Queen of Cornwall & Cambria (Wales). Killed in battle.

Leir has withdrawn from public life, but his attempts to maintain his household and warband are frustrated by Goronilla and Riganna. His status is whittled away by the pair until he has nothing other than the lowliest of bards.

He goes to Gaul, to 'the place where Aganippus was king' (presumably a specific Gaulish tribe - he is sometimes referred to as one of the twelve kings who ruled Gallia), and seeks forgiveness from Cordaella. With the pair warmly reunited, they raise an army and defeat Goronilla and Riganna in battle. Leir is restored to his throne and Cordaella succeeds him.

Leir

Restored. Reigned 3 or 10 years.

Queen Cordaella / Cordelia

Youngest daughter. High Queen. Reigned 5 years.

fl c.750 BC

Marganus

Nephew via Goronilla & Maglaurus. Duke of Albany (Scotland).

fl c.750 BC

Cuneglasus / Cunedagius

Cousin. Son of Riganna & Henwinus. Duke of Cornwall.

After reigning for five years, Cordaella faces rebellion by her two nephews. Marganus of Albany (Scotland) and Cuneglasus of Cornwall capture her and imprison her. Grieving for the loss of her kingdom and widowed since shortly after becoming high queen, she kills herself.

Cuneglasus becomes king of Loegria, Marganus of Albany. Two years later, Marganus invades Loegria and is put to flight and then killed by Cuneglasus in Cambria (Wales). Cuneglasus is now undisputed high king.

Snettisham torcs c.100 BC
Celts in Britain and on continental Europe were well known for their ostentatious jewellery, with chieftains wearing thick gold torques like this example (front of picture)

fl c.750 BC

Cuneglasus / Cunedagius

Succeeded Cordaella. Reigned 33 yrs.

c.750 BC

Cuneglasus is dated by Geoffrey of Monmouth to the period in which Romulus founds the city of Rome and the prophet Isaiah ministers to the Israelites.

The two versions of his name are curious, as they mean different things. Cuneglasus literally means 'blue dog' ('cuno-' meaning dog and 'glasus' meaning blue). Cunedagius means 'the hound (or dog) of [the god] Dadga'. A possibility is that the Britons combine 'cune'/'cuno' (dog) with 'maglos', to produce 'cune(ma)glas' as a pun. The modern Welsh are somewhat famous for clever nicknames, a habit they have almost certainly inherited from their British forebears.

This is also the period in which the Iron Age begins to arrive in Britain, introduced alongside more early Celtic settlers. The site of Caerau in the later territory of the Silures shows evidence of this, although the initial spread of the Celtic newcomers is probably confined to the south and south-east coast before it moves inland.

It is quite possible that with most of southern Britain held by Celts, the pre-Indo-European natives of the west and north respond to the threat by building defences which contain the latest technological advances, which are typical of those seen at Caerau.

Caerau hill fort
The hill fort of Caerau (pronounced Caer-eye) now stands on the edge of a modern housing estate on Cardiff's outskirts and with a road cutting through part of the lower hill

The use of iron weapons would more quickly supplant bronze ones as a matter of necessity, and pockets of pre-Indo-Europeans would survive and persist much as later Romano-Britons do in the face of Anglo-Saxon advances, with the natives adopting elements of the newcomers' weapons and fighting techniques as a matter of survival (the Votadini could be an example of this).

Either way, Celtic language and tough iron swords gradually replace native language and soft bronze swords across the country over the course of the next 250 years.

Rivallo

Son of Cuneglasus. No reignal length given.

Gurgastius / Gurgustius

Son. No reignal length given.

The relationship for the next high king, Sisillius, is not given, suggesting that the succession breaks down around this time. Curiously, this is not mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth as he works through the list of kings, making it more likely that some kind of oral tradition is being remembered for which the details in this case have been lost.

Only the names and their relationships to their predecessors survive. The limited number of rulers for this period of almost four hundred years, between about 750 BC and 387 BC, could also mean that many names have been lost altogether. The swings between two branches of the royal house as they hold the high kingship support the idea of a period of civil war.

Sisillius (I)

Son.

Jago

Nephew of Gurgastius.

Kimarcus

Son of Sisillius.

Corodubic / Gorboduc

Son. m Judon. Died senile, fostering civil war between sons.

c.550 BC

FeatureInhabitants of the Outer Hebrides could be farming animals for milk by this time. In 2000, traces of cow's milk in cooking pots are discovered by archaeologists at the Iron Age settlement of Cladh Hallan, South Uist, on the Western Isles (see feature link).

Bones of calves are also found at the site, suggesting that the Iron Age farmers are slaughtering the young animals to maintain milk production. Further bones, of people, discovered underneath dwellings show that the practice of mummification continues in the region.

Cladh Hallan mummies
The bodies of ancestors were submerged in peat bogs to mummify them, before being laid to rest beneath the dwelling of their relatives, laying there during several hundreds of years of occupation before the site was finally abandoned around 400 BC

Ferrex and Porrex (I)

Sons.

According to legend, as their father descends into senility Ferrex and Porrex become engaged in a civil war, and Britain is fractured. Corodubic dies as the fighting begins. Ferrex flees to Gaul and brings a Gaulish army back with him, but this is destroyed by Porrex, with Ferrex dying in battle.

In her grief, their mother, Judon, kills Porrex and the line of descent is broken. A long period of civil war follows and five (initially) unnamed kings subsequently rule areas of the country with no one claiming the title of high king.

The legendary Logris is generally analogous to England south of the Humber and on a rough map looks remarkably similar in territory to the civilian-controlled areas of Roman Britain, south and east of the military zones of Wales and the north.

Pinner

King of Logris (equal to civilian-controlled Roman 'England').

Staterius

King of Albany (Scotland). Killed in battle.

Rudaucus

King of Cambria (Wales). Killed in battle.

Cloten

King of Cornwall (Dumnonia).

Dunvallo Molmutius

Son. King of Cornwall (Dumnonia).

The period of civil war comes to a head with the rise of Dunvallo Molmutius. He attacks Pinner and kills him in battle. Rudaucus and Staterius form an alliance against him but again, both are defeated in one huge pitched battle and are killed. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions five kings of Britain during the civil war period, and Dunvallo is not one of them, but the name of this other king has been lost.

Sequential Maps of Roman Britain AD 43-425
The Roman invasion of Britain began late in the season, using three divisions which swiftly conquered the south-east before more slowly penetrating the west and north to bring all of England and Wales under their control, as shown in this series of sequential maps (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Dunvallo Molmutius / Dyfnwal Moelmut

Gained high kingship. Representation of later historical king.

Claimed by tradition as one of the 'Three Pillars of the Island of the Mighty', Dunvallo Molmutius appears to have two possible sources for his origins. One is as Dumnovellaunos of the Trinovantes at the end of the first century BC.

The other is as Dyfnwal Moelmud (the Bald and Silent), king of Bernaccia in the mid-fifth century AD. In this mythical list, his son is Brennius, who appears (in part at least) to be Bran Hen of Bernaccia. The legendary Dunvallo is also nicknamed 'the Lawgiver' because he forms the laws which later prevail throughout Britain.

FeatureIn the tale by Nennius, following Dunvallo's sudden death the highly competitive Brennius and Belinus divide Britain between them (with Brennius notably taking the lands north of the Humber, precisely where Bernaccia would later be located).

The first druids to enter the island are (allegedly) invited so that they can decide which of the brothers will be high king, and the two are eventually reconciled, although not without five years of peace and a great deal of further warfare. During his period of exile, Brennius also encounters King Guichthlac or Ginchtalacus of the Dacians or Danes respectively, King Elsingius of the Norwegians, and Seginus or Segnius of the Allobroges.

Western Alps
The Celtic tribes of the Western Alps - including the Allobroges - were relatively small and fairly fragmented, but they made up for that with a level of belligerence and fighting ability that often stunned their major opponents, including the Romans

fl c.387 BC

Belinus

Son. King of Logris. 'Duke of Cornwall'. Cuncar of Bernaccia?

fl c.387 BC

Brennius

Brother. King of Albany & Cambria. Bran Hen of Bernaccia?

387 - 386 BC

While there is a possibility that Brennius is a version of Bran Hen of Bernaccia, it is more likely that he has been placed here because he is actually the powerful Brennus of the Senones tribe, a chieftain who conquers and sacks Rome at this time.

Gurguit Barbtruc

Son of Belinus. Possibly Gurguit Farfdrwch of Meirionnydd.

FeatureThanks to the generosity of Gurguit Barbtruc, Partholoim or Partholomus is the leader of the first settlement in Ireland after the Mesopotamian Great Flood. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions him in conjunction with Gurguit Barbtruc, probably finding him in the Historia Britonum (Chapter 13), the ninth century Welsh Latin historical compilation put together by Nennius (see feature link).

However, in Irish legendary history, Partholoim is shown as the victor in battle against Cíocal Gricenchos who is claimed to rule from an astonishing 2751 BC, making Partholoim's position highly uncertain even in legendary history.

Sumerian flood tablet
The Sumerian flood story includes a depiction of a large vessel which is packed with various objects and, presumably, animals, clearly showing a basis for the later Old Testament flood story of Noah and the ark

Guithelin

Son. Possibly Gwyddno Garahnhir of Meirionnydd.

Queen Marcia

Widow, and regent for her young son, who was aged 7.

Sisillius (II)

Son. Reigned after his mother's death.

c.350 BC

It is estimated that the second wave of Celtic migrants reaches western Britain (modern Wales) around this time, replacing or absorbing the previous Celto-Ligurian peoples of the Bronze Age. These second wave settlers include the Ordovices, as well as the predecessors of the Gangani and Deceangli, an unknown and unnamed neighbouring people who may bear some relation to the Ordovices.

Kinarius

Son.

Danius

Brother.

c.325 BC

Pytheas of Massalia, a Greek geographer and explorer undertakes a voyage of exploration around north-west Europe. During his trip he visits Britain, which he names the Prettanic isles (spellings vary thanks to the translation from the original Greek, and the name also covers all of the islands and Ireland too).

FeatureHe travels extensively (see feature link), making notes of what he sees, and also provides what may be the earliest written report of Stonehenge. He names the promontory of Kantion (land of the Cantii), the promontory of Belerion (later the land of the Cornovii), and Orkas (the Orkneys). Belerion is home to a civilised people who are especially hospitable to strangers, apparently due to their dealings with foreign merchants who are involved in the tin trade.

Ptolemy's map of Britain
The details recorded by Pytheas were interpreted by Ptolemy in the second century AD, and this 1490 Italian reconstruction of the section covering the British Isles and northern Gaul shows Ptolemy's characteristically lopsided Scotland at the top

Morvidus

Son. A cruel ruler.

Gorbonianus

Son.

Archgallo

Brother. Outraged nobles who rose in rebellion to depose him.

c.300 BC

Judging by burial practises in the region, the Parisi probably occupy their territory by this date. Whether they are related to the Parisii tribe in Gaul is unknown, but they seem to be a late arrival in the migration of those Celtic tribes which are dominant by the first century AD.

Elidurus (the Dutiful)

Brother. Reigned 5 years.

Tradition paints this as an unsettled period, one which sees the five sons of Morvidus constantly jostling for control of the country. The throne changes hands no less than seven times during their lifetimes with Elidurus occupying it three times. Elidurus, Ingenius and Peredurus seem to be borrowed from the names of the last British rulers at Ebrauc in the late sixth century AD.

The Kirkburn Sword
The Kirkburn sword was one of the greatest treasures to be unearthed from the East Yorkshire region. Dated to 300-200 BC, it comes from the grave of a Celtic man

Archgallo

Restored by Elidurus. Reigned well for 10 years.

Elidurus

Succeeded his brother, but defeated and deposed.

Ingenius

Brother. King of Logris & Kambria. Reigned 7 years.

Peredurus

Brother. King of Albany. In reality, Peredyr of Ebrauc.

Peredurus

Succeeded to Logris as a benign king. Died.

Elidurus

Restored for a second time.

?

Son of Gorbonianus. Name unrecorded (& not even invented).

Marganus (II)

Son of Archgallo.

Enniaunus

Brother. Reigned 6 years. Deposed as a tyrant.

Idvallo

Son of Ingenius.

Runo

Son of Peredurus.

Gerennus

Son of Elidurus.

Catellus

Son.

In the traditional list of high kings given by Geoffrey of Monmouth, the father-to-son succession largely appears to fail at this point, or whatever records he might be working from have not recorded the information.

Millus

Porrex (II)

Cherin

mid-200s BC

A large number of Gallo-Belgic A coins are to be found in southern Britain at this time or soon afterwards. This suggests heavy trade with the Ambiani tribe in northern Gaul, but also the probability that Ambiani have settled in Hampshire, possible as the earliest representatives of the tribe of the Belgae. The Suessiones may be another Belgic tribe which is settling heavily in Britain from this time.

Gallo-Belgic quarter stater
Shown here is a gold Gallo-Belgic quarter stater of the C-type, which can be dated between 80-60 BC, at least a couple of decades before the first of Julius Caesar's expeditions to Britain

This arrival of the third wave of Celtic settlers in the country probably sees them become dominant over previous, second wave arrivals in some parts (most especially with the Cantii). In other areas, the previous occupants are probably forced to migrate further west.

The Cornovii tribe (to be found in the Midlands by the first century AD), may be one such tribe. There are also Cornovii to be found in Cornwall by the first century AD and Cornavii in Pictland by the second century AD. If there is any connection between these three, could it be due to a fracturing of the tribe as it is pushed out of its established territory?

Fulgenius

Son.

Edadus

Brother.

Andragius

Brother.

Urianus

Son.

Eliud

Cledaucus

Clotenus

Gurgintius

Merianus

Bledudo

Cap

Oenus

Sisillius (III)

Beldgabred

A great musician.

Archmail

Brother.

Eldol

Redon

Redechius

Samuil Penessil

A representation of a later semi-historical king.

Samuil Penessil is an addition to whatever traditional list of kings later exists in the British Celtic oral tradition. He is Sawyl Penuchel, of the South Pennines in the late sixth century. By Geoffrey of Monmouth he is split into two individual kings, Samuil and Penessil. Clearly Geoffrey doesn't know who he is.

Clonmore Abbey
The ruins of St Madoc's Clonmore Abbey survive (with St Madoc being the son of Sawyl Penuchel), as do many headstones in the graveyard, but the abbey itself is in ruins

Pir

Capoir

Digueillus

Son.

113 - 105 BC

A large-scale migration of Teutones and Cimbri from their homeland in what later becomes central and northern Denmark is triggered by deteriorating living conditions in their homeland. The chaos caused by the passage of this mass wandering through Western Europe is probably the spark which causes migrations of Belgic peoples from the Netherlands and northern Gaul into Britain.

fl c.110 BC

Heli / Beli Mawr (the Great)

Son. Reigned for 40 yrs. m Don ferch Mathonwy.

Beli Mawr is claimed as the founder of the Deisi, later rulers of the kingdom of Dyfed, and also of the Silures. His eldest son, Aballac, is claimed as the ancestor of Coel Hen, of the fourth century 'Kingdom of Northern Britain' which is based at Ebruac. His second child, daughter Lweriadd, marries Llyr Lleddiarth, who is claimed as the founder of Gwent. Another of his children as claimed by tradition is Cassivellaunus of the Catuvellauni, the mid-first century BC high king who fights against Julius Caesar's expeditions.

Map of Britain AD 10
By the end of the first century BC and the start of the first century AD, British politics often came to the attention of Rome, and the borders of the tribal states of the south-east were pretty well known (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.90 - 60 BC

Gallo-Belgic C coins can be found in Britain which are tentatively identified with Diviciacus of the Suessiones. Finds are concentrated amongst the Cantii, but can be found as far west as the Sussex coast, in the territory of the Regninses, and up to the Wash, covering the Catuvellauni, Trinovantes, and Iceni.

fl c.80 BC

Lludd Llaw Ereint (the Silver-Handed)

Third child. Began the line of Cunedda Wledig of Gwynedd.

Lud, or Lludd Llaw Ereint, is claimed as the ancestor of Cunedda Wledig, the chieftain of the Venicones tribe, in Fife in Pictland, who is moved by Britain's late fourth century AD central administration to northern Wales to fight off the wave of Irish raiders there (or who invades North Wales during a time of weakness in Britain's administration).

Lludd himself is claimed as the rebuilder of the city of Trinovantum, which is renamed Lludd's Dun, or London, in his honour. Following his death he is buried at Porthlud (modern Ludgate in the City of London).

His two sons, Androgeus and Tenvantius, are still young and another son, Amalach or Afallach is claimed as the founder of the later ruling families of both Powys and Gwynedd, so Lludd's brother, Cassivellaunus, gains the high kingship.

Gwynedd
The mountains of North Wales provided a powerful refuge for the rulers of Gwynedd in times of trouble and a wonderfully scenic backdrop to Cunedda's victories over the Irish raiders who were plaguing the region in the late fourth century

c.60 - 30 BC

Cassivellaunus

'Brother'. King of the Catuvellauni. Fought Julius Caesar.

Androgeus

Son of Lludd. In reality Mandubracius of the Trinovantes.

Tenvantius

Brother. King of Cornwall. Later High King Bran.

Cridous

King of Albany.

Gueithaet

King of Venedotia.

Brittahel

King of Demetia.

c.60 - 50 BC

Gallo-Belgic F coins are also found in many coastal areas of Britain, introducing the triple-tailed horse design on the reverse which becomes widespread over the next few decades.

The existence of so many coins which are linked to the Suessiones, or which ape their design, suggests to scholars that the Suessiones form a considerable portion of the Belgic peoples who migrate into Britain from the second century BC.

Julius Caesar states that the Belgae have entered Britain looking for booty, saying: 'The inland part of Britain is inhabited by tribes declared in their own tradition to be indigenous to the island, the maritime part by tribes which migrated at an earlier time from Belgium to seek booty by invasion...' The 'indigenous' tribes are probably themselves descended from earlier waves of Celtic immigrants into the island.

Belgae
Many Belgic groups showed marked Germanic influences, so were they Celts with German words and warriors, or Germans with Celtic words and warriors? The truth probably lies somewhere in between

57 BC

On the Continent the Belgae enter into a confederacy against the Romans in fear of Rome's eventual domination over them. They are also spurred on by Gauls who are unwilling to see Germanic tribes remaining on Gaulish territory and are unhappy about Roman troops wintering in Gaul.

The tribes march en masse against the Romans but are defeated in turn, or are forced to surrender. Many anti-Roman leaders flee, especially those of the Bellovaci and probably the Suessiones, and end up in Britain, probably as part of a limited wave of refugees. With this action, northern Gaul has been brought under Roman domination.

c.56 BC

The fleet of Roman general Julius Caesar defeats the Veneti off the coast of what becomes known as Armorica. Elements of the tribe may flee to Britain and Ireland where they form two tribes of Venicones, one in what becomes Pictland and the other in County Donegal, where both are attested by Ptolemy by AD 140.

55 - 54 BC

FeatureLed by Cassivellaunus, several British tribes are involved in the fight against the unwanted Roman expeditions of Julius Caesar which enter the country via the Kent coast.

The second expedition embarks from Portus Itius in Gaul, which probably lies in the territory of the Morini. British tribes which resist the expedition include the Atrebates, Belgae, Cantii, Catuvellauni, and Trinovantes, while others surrender to the invaders, namely the Ancalites, Bibroci, Cassi, Cenimagni, and Segontiaci.

Cassivellaunus commands around 4,000 chariots, something which has not been seen for a long time on the continental mainland, and the sight appals the Romans. Caesar himself admires the courage of the Britons.

John Deare's invasion of Julius Caesar
John Deare's late eighteenth century sculpture shows Julius Caesar and his troops on their beachhead in Kent, desperately fighting off the Britons

Tradition has Cassivellaunus fighting Caesar alongside the representatives of the peoples of Britain, Androgeus of the Trinovantes, Tenvantius (the young Bran Fendigaid) of Cornwall, Cridous of Albany, Gueithaet of Venedotia, and Brittahel of Demetia, alongside Nennius, brother of the high king. Nennius dies of his wounds fifteen days after the battle.

c.20 BC

Appearing in several of the Welsh Triads, Bran Fendigaid (Bran the Blessed), is the son of Lir (or Llŷr in later Welsh) who comes from beyond the waves, from the 'Living Land'. Lir dwells with Penardin White Throat (or Penarddun) in her brother's house (a well-known Celtic custom of temporary marriage where no bride fee is paid), her brother being the otherwise unnamed high king.

FeatureShe is named by the Mabinogion (see feature link) as a daughter of Beli Mawr, which would make her brother Lludd Llaw Ereint, although the genealogy is confused (unusual, if this story is a complete fabrication and not based on partially-remembered events).

Bran's younger siblings by Lir are Manadan (or Manawydan) and Branwen, and he has a half-brother born after Lir's return to the 'Living Lands' in the form of Emnissien (or Efnysien).

fl c.30 BC

Bran Fendigaid ('Blessed') / Tenvantius

Son of Lludd. King of Ewyas / the Silures.

Bran becomes high king. He is approached by Matholug (or Matholwch), king of Ireland, who asks for Branwen's hand in marriage. Branwen is taken back to Ireland where she gives birth to a son, Gwern.

Browne's Hill dolman
Browne's Hill dolman with its hundred ton capstan (the stone on top) was erected around 2000 BC, during the mythical supremacy of the Fomóraigh high kings of Ireland

An insult paid to Matholug by the troubled Emnissien plays on his mind so, at the urging of his advisors, Branwen is consigned to captivity in his kitchens. When Bran hears of this, he leads a mighty host which defeats the Irish king. His son, Caradoc, is left in command in Britain.

Despite a truce between Bran and Matholug, further fighting erupts, devastating both sides and resulting in the deaths of Bran, Emnissien, Gwern, Matholug and, eventually, Branwen. Only Manadan survives with a few followers to bring Bran's sacred head back to Britain and to bury it in the White Mount looking down the Thames to the sea. While the head remains in place, Britain will be protected from invasion from across the sea.

Caradoc ap Bran

Linked to the Silures.

When Bran sails with his host to face Matholug, king of Ireland, as mentioned it is Caradoc who is left in command of the chieftains of the land.

These chieftains are Hefeydd the Tall, Unig Strong Shoulder, Iddig ab Anarawd, Ffodor ab Erfyll, Wlch Bone Lip, Llassar fab Llasar Llaes Gyngwyd, and Pendaran Dyfed.

Caesar Augustus
During his long 'reign' as Rome's first citizen, Augustus brought peace to the city and oversaw its transition from failing republic to vigorous and expanding empire, which would soon visit Britain

Once Bran leaves, Caradoc is attacked by his great-uncle, Caswallawn fab Beli (the historical Cassivellaunus of 54 BC). The chieftains are murdered by him and Caradoc dies of a heart broken by the needless slaughter. When Bran's brother, Manadan, returns from Ireland, he submits to Caswallawn.

As Cassivellaunus has already held the high kingship once, quite legitimately, these legends would seem to suggest that he has been supplanted or succeeded, and perhaps only recently, around 30 BC.

fl c.30 BC

Caswallawn fab Beli / Cassivellaunus

Son of Beli Mawr. Restored.

c.AD 1 - 41

Cunobelinus / Cunobelin / Cymbeline

Ruler of the Catuvellauni. Acknowledged by Rome.

41 - 43

Togodumnus

Ruler of the Catuvellauni. Killed in battle or died of his wounds.

43 - 51

Caratacus / Guiderius

Ruler of the Catuvellauni. Seized and taken to Rome.

43

MapThe might of imperial Rome invades Britain and quickly starts to conquer individual kingdoms. The Cantii and Trinovantes are amongst the first to fall, while the northern Dobunni appear to surrender. The soon-to-be first Roman Governor leads the campaign to convert Prydein into Britannia.