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Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Britain

 

MapPost-Roman Britain (Romano-Britons) (British Isles)

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.

With the expulsion of Roman officials in AD 409, Britain again became independent of Rome and was not re-occupied. The fragmentation which had begun to emerge towards the end of the fourth century now appears to have accelerated, with minor princes, newly declared kings, and Roman-style magistrates all vying for power and influence while also facing the threat of extinction at the hands of the various barbarian tribes which were encroaching on the borders from all sides.

Various units of laeti and foederati had been settled in the country from the mid-fourth century onwards (probably following the sudden visit to Britain by Emperor Constans in 343). By 409 they had been settled for up to sixty years, and may not have retained much of their 'Germanness'. The country was probably filled with immigrants from all over the former empire: Italians, Gauls, Spanish, Danubians, many of them the descendants of legionnaires and all settled for some time. By now they were part of the very fabric of the country.

However, as Edward Dawson points out, later units of laeti may not have been so settled, and there appear to have been large numbers of them around many towns in the south-east of Britain. Amongst all the empire's immigrants, it was the Germanic groups who best retained their cultural identity, sometimes for generations, continuing to teach their children German when others were learning Latin, or perhaps native British. When fresh waves of Germans arrived, conquering all in their path, it was probably not hard for the settled Germans to experience a change of loyalty.

The new states which appeared in Britain (and in some cases disappeared) or were consolidated in the fifth century include Alt Clut, Bernaccia, Bro Erech, Caer Celemion, Caer Colun, Caer Gloui, Caer Gwinntguic, Caer Mincip, Caer Went, Ceint, Cernyw, Cornouaille, Cornubia, Demetia, Domnonia, Dumnonia, Ebrauc, Elmet, Ercing, Guotodin, Gwent, Gwynedd, Powys, Rhegin, and Vannetais. The region around Caer Lind Colun may also have been under independent British control for a short time, although this was quickly subsumed by Lindsey.

MapIt may have been in this period in which emerged the Welsh concept of Lloegr (Lloegyr, Logris or Loegria). This was a span of territory which was roughly analogous to modern England south of the Humber, and was 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.

Could it have been purely a local term used by tribal Britons to refer to the areas which were under Roman law (continued by the post-Roman administration) instead of military or royal rule (which covered the north and the western principalities by this period)? The name Lloegr may stem from the Latin 'legibus', which means 'laws', and which was also present in Oscan as 'ligis'. There may not have been a Celtic equivalent as this may have been a new word, something which had not existed when the Celts and Latins shared a common language. It also has to be wondered just who coined this new name. Was it the Romanised Britons in the south of Britannia who mangled the word 'legibus' or fused it with some Gaulish or Old Brythonic cognate, to form a proper noun which referred to that area of Britannia which was not under military rule or royal tribal rule, indicating that it was ruled by Roman civil law (and therefore, perhaps, a cut above the rough-and-ready north and west)? The result might be Lloegr, a word which later entered the Welsh language as the name for England as a whole.

Some later post-Roman high kings, accepted as such in other references, are not on the Geoffrey of Monmouth list, so are shown here in red text. The listing of most of these British monarchs was derived by the late Lewis Thorpe PhD from the 1966 translation of The History of the Kings of Britain (1982 Edition).

Roman Canterbury

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker and Edward Dawson, from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe, from The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Lindsey, Kevin Leahy, from The Oxford History of England: The English Settlements, J N L Meyers, from Herefrith of Louth, Saint and Bishop; A Problem of Identities, A E B Owen, from Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, Vol XV, from The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton, from History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth, from the Historia Brittonum (The History of the Britons), Nennius, and De Excidio Brittaniae et Conquestu (On the Ruin of Britain), Gildas (both J A Giles, Ed & Trans, 1841, published as part of Six Old English Chronicles (Henry G Bohn, London, 1848)), from the Annales Cambriae, James Ingram (taken from the Harleian manuscript, the earliest surviving version, London, Everyman Press, 1912), and from the Life of St Germanus of Auxerre, Constantius of Lyon.)

409 - c.425

FeatureThis is a period in which central administration apparently breaks down to an extent, with local administrative centres and then rulers beginning to appear. The climb to power of Vortigern of the Pagenses seems to reverse this trend, although in some regions he probably has to administer what are in effect kingdoms rather than provinces. Quite possibly, in true Roman fashion, he acquires the title of emperor, perhaps proclaiming himself 'Emperor of Britannia' in order to cement his hold on power. It seems that he and Aurelius Ambrosius of Caer Gloui form the figureheads for opposing parties, but for the moment it is he who has dominance.

Roman amphitheatre at Silchester
This artistic reconstruction shows the amphitheatre at Caer Celemion (Calleva Atrebatum, modern Silchester), which was built outside the walls, to the north-east of the town itself

During this period, mercenaries, or laeti, are settled in some regions of the country, possibly to bolster populations of foederati and laeti which may already have been in place for some generations. Groups are known to exist along the Thames Valley, in the north of Caer Celemion, and along the Saxon Shore from Caer Gwinntguic to Ceint and Caer Went. There is a strong economic reason for placing them in the Thames Valley and other lowland areas. Northern coastal Germans (Angles, Jutes, Frisians and Saxons) are accustomed to employing a farm economy set in lowlands, not uplands. They know how to work marshes and river valleys, so these settlement areas suit them entirely.

416

FeatureA synod is held in Carthage (the Council of Carthage) in the Roman province of Africa which takes a firm line against the Pelagian 'heresy'. Pelagius (c.354-420/440) is a British ascetic who has allegedly denied the doctrine of original sin and he finds many supporters in Britain and the British Church, especially amongst the educated classes.

420

The use of coinage (usually silver coins) as the means of substantial payment seems to die out within ten years of this date. However, a high level of self-sufficiency in both civil service and the army has already become the established norm in Britain for the best part of a century, so this in itself is far from being a sign of the collapse of civilisation.

c.421

Triphun is the Irish leader of the Déisi in Demetia. As the fourth generation of Déisi to have been raised in Britain, the tribe now has roots in the country and has clearly developed a certain degree of reliability and trustworthiness. By taking a Roman name, Triphun has become part of the British ruling elite, so much so that he is able to marry Gweldyr, the Romano-British heiress of Demetia and become king himself of what becomes known as Dyfed.

425 - c.455

Wortigernos / Vitalinus (Vortigern)

King of Pagenses. First emperor of Britain? Died by fire.

429

St Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus, bishop of Troyes, visit Britain to fight the Pelagian 'heresy' which is running rampant through the British Church. They meet with a still extant Romano-British aristocracy (the principle proponents of the heresy), probably at Verulamium (Caer Mincip, possibly administered from Caer Colun). The following year, in line with standard Roman imperial policy in Gaul, Vortigern brings in Saxon allies to help restore order along the borders.

St Germanus of Auxerre
The Alleluia Victory saw St Germanus lead the Britons to a bloodless victory over marauding Saxons, perhaps demonstrating that the country was finally managing its own defence

c.432 - 436

Aurelius Ambrosius of Caer Gloui is apparently a leader of a British council, which presumably answers to Vortigern. It is his decision to confirm the Irish Deisi as commanders of the Demetia area of the west coast to counter the threat of Irish raiders. Vortigern acquiesces and assigns Ambrosius 'Dinas Emrys and all the western lands', suggesting that Ambrosius becomes the architect for the defence of these western areas. This is motivated by the council's reluctance to depend entirely on Saxon mercenaries, with their constant demands for increased provisions, especially in an area were they would be lightly supervised. The Deisi have already been settled for some time and would be self-supporting.

c.437/438

According to Gildas and Nennius when referring either to Aurelianus Ambrosius (Ambrosius the Elder) or his son, this family represents the Romanised nobility in Britain, and they appear to be based at the city of Caer Gloui and its surrounding territories. They are the main opposition to Vortigern's pro-Celtic faction, and it is at this time that the increasing animosity between the two groups erupts into internecine warfare. The factions fight the Battle of Guolloppum (Cat Guolph, Wallop in Hampshire). The result is uncertain, but it is probably followed by a period of civil strife in eastern and southern Britain.

fl c.437 - c.446

Ambrosius the Elder

Leader of Romanised opposition in Britain. Killed by plague.

c.440 - 441

Saxon foederati and laeti (settled on the east coast and Thames Valley, and probably increased in number since the barbarian raids on Britain of 409) take advantage of the unrest and openly revolt. As a cause they cite the failure of the British to supply them with provisions which may have been reduced to zero as a consequence of the civil war.

FeatureBy 441, the Gallic Chronicles report large sections of Britain under German control following Saxon revolt: 'Britain, abandoned by the Romans, passed into the power of the Saxons'. Communications between Britain and Gaul are disrupted, vacated towns and cities are in ruin. The migration of Romano-British towards the west and to Armorica turns into a torrent, with emigrants coming especially from Dumnonia and Cornubia. The country begins to be divided geographically, along factional lines.

c.446

St Germanus' second visit to Britain rids the country of the last of the Pelagian heresy when he visits Elafius' subjects. Elafius seems likely to be the leader of the territory of Caer Gwinntguic. Severe plague hits southern Britain in the same year, and unburied bodies are to be found in the streets of cities such as Caer Ceri.

450

MapFormer Celtic tribal associations continue to re-emerge as independent territories and kingdoms develop over the course of the fifth century. There is evidence of the reuse and refortification of Iron Age hill forts. Cadbury Congresbury in Somerset is producing substantial quantities of Mediterranean pottery, with smaller amounts also coming from South Cadbury as local leaders move their residences to more protected locations.

Post-Roman Londinium
By the mid-fifth century Londinium had been largely abandoned following at least half a century of slow decay and a steadily dwindling population, but with trade virtually ceased the city's purpose was temporarily ended

It is attacks by the Picts (under Drust mac Erp) and Irish Scotti which prompts Vortigern to hire Jutish and Angle mercenaries to fight them off. Hengist and Horsa are invited into Britain and land at Ypwines fleot (Ebbsfleet). Traditionally, they fulfil the terms of their contract by fighting back the invaders and receive territory on which to settle on the island of Ynys Tanatus (Thanet) in Ceint (although according to British oral tradition, they are first given territory around the Wash and only gain Tanatus after their numbers are swelled by a massive influx of their countrymen).

c.455

According to later British tradition, Vortigern is removed from office by the council after trying to settle yet more foreign laeti in Britain, this time in the north-east, within the territory of the 'Kingdom of Northern Britain'. The high kingship is given to his eldest son, the able and popular Vortimer. Hengist, seeing that he no longer has a malleable ally, revolts and the territory or kingdom of Ceint is quickly overrun.

c.455 - 457

Vortimer / Britu

Son of Vortigern. King of Gwent. Chosen to replace Vortigern.

c.455

In the east of the island, the new and more serious foederati revolt sees a loss of territory to Jutes and Angles which is never regained by the Britons. The new arrivals have seen how weak are the British defences and begin a takeover of the kingdom of Ceint, aided by the many foederati settlements in key areas of the land, especially along the Saxon Shore forts and at Canterbury. They are probably further encouraged by the chaos in Roman Gaul following the murder of the magister militum Aetius. Hengist's polyglot army fights British forces (traditionally commanded by Vortimer) at a place they name Ægelesthrep or Ægelsthrep (probably Aylesford or, less likely, Epsford, both in Kent). Vortimer's brother, Cadeyrn Fendigaid, king of the Pagenses, is killed, as is Hengist's brother, Horsa.

FeatureAgain according to later tradition, Vortimer is poisoned and his death allows Vortigern to reclaim the high kingship temporarily before he is faced by Ambrosius Aurelianus. Vortigern flees to his ancestral lands, 'at the fortified camp of Genoreu, on the hill called Cloartius', in Ercing, by the River Wye. There he meets his end when Ambrosius sets fire to his fortress with him inside it. Historically speaking, as much as extremely limited historical knowledge will allow, Aurelianus and his probable successor, Artorius, seem to lead the fight to preserve the remaining British territory. If Vortigern had titled himself 'Emperor of Britannia', then it seems reasonable to assume that his successors copy this, but after Artorius even the grounds for this supposition become reduced.

As if all that isn't enough, in the region of Deywr within the 'Kingdom of Northern Britain', Soemel is noted by the later royal pedigree as someone who 'separated Deira from Bernicia'. It seems to be Soemel who probably refuses to blindly obey orders and instead establishes negotiated terms of service, perhaps on a semi-independent basis. This time of chaos and confusion would be an ideal date for this event. At the same time, it would seem likely that Angles from Deywr are settling in Lindsey, which may still be under Romano-British control.

c.457 - c.480

Ambrosius Aurelianus (Riothamus?)

Magistrate of Caer Gloui. Possible 2nd emperor of Britain.

FeatureGeoffrey of Monmouth proposes an almost entirely mythical account of the life of Ambrosius Aurelianus. It ends with him being poisoned by Saxons, and his brother, Uther Pendragon, succeeds him. Uther immediately sets out to attack the Saxons involved in his brother's death, who have teamed up with Paschent (Pascent of Buellt), son of Vortigern, and a young nobleman of Ireland named Gillomanius (could this individual be the contemporaneous High King Lóeguire macNéill?).

Uther defeats them all, killing Paschent and Gillomanius. Then Uther has to defeat a resurgent Octa (which scholars think might actually be the real name of Hengist of Kent) before enjoying a largely peaceful reign which leads up to the well-known death of Gorlois of Cornwall and the birth of Arthur Pendragon (with this event, according to legend, taking place in Tintagel, possibly a Dumnonian royal court at this time).

Romano-Britons burying treasure
With discord building in the country between about 420-450, many Romano-Britons left in a hurry, burying their wealth in the hope that they could return in better times to collect it

457

After much hard fighting at a place called Crecganford (Crayford in Kent), and apparently heavy losses, the British abandon Ceint. The Saxons who had joined Hengist in 455 also settle in what is becoming Kent, but they have little impact on the Jutish nature of the kingdom and leave few traces. Some of them instead push further west to form early elements of the Middel Seaxe.

c.460

Occupation of Cadbury Castle is re-established, perhaps selected for its defensive capabilities in these troubled times. Its reoccupation is not in the form of a city or an established seat of government for successive rulers. Instead it seems to be a place which a British leader of stature, perhaps Ambrosius Aurelianus, or Riothamus (if they are not one and the same person), makes his personal headquarters.

468 - 469

FeatureRiothamus, 'King of the Britons', crosses the Channel to Gaul, bringing 12,000 ship-borne troops. 'Riothamus' is a title rather than a name, apparently meaning 'supreme king', which raises the possibility that he is Ambrosius Aurelianus. Riothamus remains in the country for a year or more (perhaps reinforced by Armorican Bretons), and advances to Bourges and even further. Gaul's imperial prefect, the deputy of the Western Roman emperor, treacherously undermines him by apparently dealing with the Visigoths.

Caught by surprise by the Visigoths, Riothamus fights a drawn-out battle near Bourges but is eventually defeated when no imperial forces come to his assistance. He escapes with the remnants of his army into the nearby territory of the Burgundians, never to be heard of again. A second battle soon follows which involves a combined army consisting of units of Romans, troops from Soissons under Comes Paulus, and Burgundian foederati, but they are also defeated, and Soissons and Armorica are cut off from Rome. The disappearance from history of Riothamus does not rule out the possibility of him successfully returning to Britain, but this would also be a reasonable date for Arthur to take command of Britain's defence as his successor.

477

Newly arrived Saxons under Ælle and his sons land at Cymens ora and beat off the Britons who oppose their landing (part of the proposed British kingdom of Rhegin), driving them to take refuge in the great forest called Andredesleag (The Weald). These Saxons quickly become known as the Suth Seaxe.

c.480 - 511

Artorius / Arthur Pendragon

Son of Uthyr/Uther & Eigr. Possible 3rd emperor of Britain.

FeatureThere is a great deal of material which has been written about Arthur, or more properly Artorius, but there is little direct proof of his existence. For that reason, several scholars have chosen to disbelieve entirely in his existence. However, it seems impossible that an individual who makes such an impact on history that later generations of kings name their sons after him, and who is included in a vast body of literature could not exist. In an historical sense, it seems logical to place him in the last few decades of the fifth century, governing, or at least protecting, the country after Ambrosius Aurelianus and before his traditional date of death in 511 (or 537 by some sources), and perhaps claiming Cadbury Castle as his headquarters.

FeatureTraditionally, again, he is the son of Eigr (Ygerna), the daughter of Anblaud 'the Imperator', who has a connection to Ercing. He marries Guinevere, a medieval form of a Cornish name which is probably Veneva (and which descends as the modern Jennifer). She is a princess of Dumnonia, and possibly a sister to King Gerren. Artorius himself is primarily a leader of cavalry, the best weapon of the British against the foot-slogging Saxons for as long as they can maintain their breeding stock. This is the force he leads against Geoffrey of Monmouth's Saxon leaders, Colgrin, Badulf, and Chelderic (the first of whom is sometimes linked to Deywr), while being supported by King Hoel of Brittany. This is also how he enters into legend.

486

Clovis of the Franks defeats, captures and executes Syagrius, the last Roman commander of Soissons. The Franks are now completely dominant in northern Gaul and Roman control has been thrown off. The death of Syagrius also sends a signal to the Saxons and other Germanic peoples that attempting to settle in Gaul is now hopeless. This would seem to be the single defining event which forces the Saxons to turn their attention to invading Britain instead.

488

This is the last recorded entry for the Jutes of Kent in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle until 565. The battles against the Britons move further westwards as they lose the south coast to the Suth Seaxe, Londinium to the Middel Seaxe and their Suther-ge, and the Upper Thames to the Thames Valley Saxons and Ciltern Saetan.

However, the influx of Saxon fighters may have slackened since 460, when the prospects for soldiers of fortune may have seemed better in the remnants of Roman Gaul, coupled with the fact that the Britons are apparently starting to gain the upper hand (especially in the traditional twelve victorious battles of Arthur in locations such as Lind Colun). Despite this apparent improvement in fortunes, the sense of profound shock which has been dealt to British society by events since the first major Saxon revolt around 441 has triggered changes which will see the rapid mutation of British into early Welsh in the space of about a century. Young people in this period who grow up with British and Latin languages may be hearing their grandchildren speaking a different tongue. Even the bardic tradition begins to break down, with the sounds and patterns of their words destroyed by the changes. Much of the Iron Age tradition is lost, although fragments survive.

Remains of Roman Canterbury
The Roman city of Canterbury was, by the sixth century, in ruins, with small Jutish houses built in between. The remains of the city wall can be seen all around them

495

FeatureAccording to tradition Cerdic lands in five ships on the south coast at Cerdices ora, together with Saxon and possibly some Jutish companions, and begins a takeover of the local Jutish, Saxon and sub-Roman territories. The Jutes and Saxons who are already settled there are apparently already referring to themselves as the West Seaxe (possibly separate from the earlier Meonware settlers to the east).

The fighting begins on the same day as Cerdic 'arrives', suggesting that his potential power play begins in violence or immediate resistance. If Cerdic is in fact a Briton who rebels against the remaining central authority (which seems to be a distinct possibility), then given his location he could be serving as a magistrate of the Belgae territory of Caer Gwinntguic until he seizes part of the tribe's territory in order to found his own little empire. It is another blow to British unity and defence.

c.496

FeatureArthur seemingly commands the defence of Mons Badonicus against a confederation of Saxon and Jutish warriors which is led by Ælle of the Suth Saxe. The British victory grants them a generation of relative peace and consigns the South Saxons to subsequent obscurity. All building and repair work on major new defensive works probably comes to an end with the victory.

FeatureThere is now a gap in Germanic Bretwaldas for the next half century. This is probably due to the Mons Badonicus defeat and the long peace between the Britons and the Germanic coastal settlements. As there is no significant warfare, there can be no significantly superior war leader to push forward the Germanic advance. Quite the opposite, in fact, as there seems to be a reverse migration of Angles and Saxons into the Continent during the first half of the sixth century. Those who remain are firmly in control of the east (see feature link, right).

Geoffrey of Monmouth has Arthur handing the kingship over to Constantine, but that would presume that the dating shown here is wrong. An alternative date (also given by Geoffrey) for Arthur's retreat to Avalon (Glastonbury in Dumnonia) is 542, which would provide an overlap between Arthur and Constantine, but would displace Arthur's fifth century activity against the Saxons. This revision might only work if his father, Utherpendragon, had actually existed and had enjoyed the long reign given to him by Geoffrey.

c.530 - c.540

Constantine / Custennin ab Cado

King of Dumnonia.

531

On the Continent, the Franks of Austrasia conquer the Thuringians. Portions of territory are lost to the Saxons, probably to the Continental Saxons, but there also seems to be a reverse migration of Germanics from the east coast of Britain, where the recent British victory at Mons Badonicus has cut them off from the acquisition of new lands. These returning Angles and Saxons appear to be given land in Thuringia by King Theuderich. However, it is also at this time, in this century, that the migration of Britons from the mainland to Brittany is at its heaviest, weakening the British defensive position for the future.

fl 540

Aurelius Conanus

King of Caer Gloui.

? - 540

Vortiporus / Vortiporius

King of the formerly client Déisi of Demetia.

c.540

Vortipor(us) of the Déisi of Demetia is clearly a powerful figure in British history, as noted by his being included in the list of high kings of Britain. His name has been recorded in various ways, from the Latinised Vortipor itself, to the Gaulish Voteporix, and the (perhaps) more genuinely original Vortepor mac Aricol. Even this has been recorded as Gartbuir mac Alchoil.

c.540 - 549

Malgo / Maglocun / Maelgwyn Gwynedd

King of Gwynedd.

547

In the north, 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 Guotodin, shifting his power base there, but the loss leaves a gaping hole in the defences of the eastern coastline. It is the first such breach in the defences of the north, despite a century of such chaos to the south of Britain, and suddenly the defensive strength of the Men of the North looks shaky.

549 - c.600

MapFollowing the death of the powerful Maelgwyn, and given the dearth of information about the Northern British kings at this time, it is entirely plausible to place Keretic and the 'three unnamed tyrants' below as kings in the North. The Yellow Plague which sweeps the country hits the Britons far harder than it does the invaders, finally shifting the balance of power in favour of the latter. Even the Picts seem to be affected by the plague, with the possible loss of at least one of their kings, Drust mac Munaith, in 552.

It is odd to have such a gap so late in the list, but not if those rulers were from the poorly documented North. The Saxon advance in the south also lends weight to this hypothesis (by Mick Baker). Their westwards advance becomes much more rapid, with them soon swallowing much of Somerset and Dorset from Dumnonia. The Angles also advance, taking large swathes of central and northern Britain, and ending any realistic claim by the high kings of Britain to rule over the whole island.

Saxon cremation urns from the area around London
By the mid-sixth century, Saxons were settling around Londinium, and using pots such as these for their cremation burials, while the seax blade is generally more Frankish than Saxon, but the city itself remained overgrown and in ruins for another half a century

Three unnamed tyrants now claim the high kingship. The names below are accepted as high kings in other references, and their dates fall conveniently into the gap left between the reigns of Malgo and Keretic, but they are not in the list formed by Geoffrey of Monmouth. To differentiate them, they are shown here in red text.

549 - 560?

Morgan Bulc

King of Bernaccia (to 547), and Guotodin (c.560 onwards).

552

The West Seaxe conquest of Caer Gwinntguic proves that the southern Saxons have recovered from their massive Mons Badonicus defeat. From this point onwards, the Britons continually lose territory until the modern borders of Wales are decided.

560? - 579

Rhydderch Hen

King of Alt Clut.

579 - 590

Urien

King of North Rheged.

577

Caer Gloui, together with Caer Baddan and Caer Ceri, falls to the West Seaxe. With this collapse, the territory of Caer Celemion to the east is now totally isolated, and Dumnonia is cut off from any overland contact with other surviving British territories (and largely disappears from the overall story as far as the rest of the Britons are concerned). Gwent and Pengwern now form the western frontier against further Saxon advances. The Hwicce take over the territory and eventually push its borders north into Worcestershire, at the expense of Pengwern.

Gloucester's Roman walls
Despite the focus of settlement now being away from the old fort, Glevum's Roman walls were still very much in use in the sixth century, at least until the city's fall to the West Seaxe

590 - 613

Keretic / Keredic / Ceredig

Probably the same Ceretic as in Elmet.

580

Ebrauc (York) falls to the Angles of Deira. It is a major blow to British hopes of regaining control of the country and blots out at least two and-a-half centuries of Christian worship in one of the British Church's key bishoprics. It seems likely that, if he exists, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Archbishop Tadioceus of York flees the city with the rest of the nobility, holding his title as an exile, perhaps from Elmet.

595

FeatureThe Annales Cambriae records the death of Dynod of Dunoting in battle against the Bernicians. He is probably the last British ruler of the Pennines (unless the remnants of the territory are absorbed into North Rheged). His family are forced to flee to Powys, including his second son, the famous bard, Aneirin, while another son, Deiniol, is already in Gwynedd as the British Church's first bishop of Bangor.

By this time the Deiran and Bernician Angles are pushing far into British territory, and the Iclingas are expanding to the south with only Elmet and Cynwidion holding out in this region as enclaves until 616-617, and South Rheged until about 613.

c.597

The Gododdin is a long series of elegies composed from the early seventh century onwards which commemorates a force of Britons who assemble in Guotodin at this time. This force marches south to fight the Angles at Catreath and seemingly attacks the Roman fort near the strategic road junction now called Scotch Corner. 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. Guotodin, as well as the other kingdoms of the north, probably including Elmet, are all fatally weakened by the defeat.

603

The first meeting between the Roman Church in the form of St Augustine of Canterbury, and the Celtic Church (the descendant of the former British Church of the Roman period) takes place. It is arranged when Æthelbert of the Cantware uses the Hwicce as intermediaries, and the meeting goes favourably for Augustine.

A second meeting is quickly arranged, although perhaps not in the same year. This takes place at Abberley in Worcestershire, probably close to the border between the Hwicce and Pengwern. It is attended by seven bishops of the Celtic Church, along with many learned monks, mainly from Bangor-is-Coed (in Pengwern). The meeting ends in disappointment for the Roman envoy, with no agreements of cooperation or unity being reached between the two churches, especially in regard to the important question of the calculations for Easter and evangelising the pagan English.

The Mote of Mark
The Mote of Mark is an early hill fort at Rockcliffe, overlooking Rough Firth, which was occupied in the sixth century, presumably by Rheged's nobility

c.600 - 610

The territory of Caer Celemion is destroyed, probably by Ceawlin of the West Seaxe. It is the last British-held territory south of London and east of Dorset to fall. The town of Calleva Atrebatum is abandoned and its wells are filled in to prevent its citizens from returning.

c.610 - 630

Pressure from the Ciltern Saetan to the south and the Middil Engle to the north forces the kingdom of Calchwynedd into collapse around this time. The territory is subjugated by the rapidly growing power of the kingdom of Mercia, which in this period often shows signs of being partially British itself, either in its early ancestry in Britain or in its choice of allies and the people who probably form a good percentage of the population.

613

After Keretic, the high kings are dominant only in Wales and surviving British western territories. However, even contact with territories such as Dumnonia, Elmet, and Gododdin are becoming tenuous, as the lines of communication are cut. In the first half of the seventh century, the whole of northern Britain is lost, including South Rheged around this time, cutting off Alt Clut, Gododdin, and Galwyddel.

FeatureFurther tragedy is about to strike. In one of the bloodiest and hardest fought battles of its time, several British kings form a coalition to halt Æthelfrith of Bernicia at the Battle of Caer Legion (Chester). Cearl of the Mercians could also be involved on the British side (according to scholarly theory). Iago of Gwynedd and Selyf of Powys are both killed, and the battle is a disastrous British defeat (see one of Geoffrey of Monmouth's more accurate entries about this campaign via the feature link). The subsequent Battle of Bangor-is-Coed, however, appears to be a British victory over Æthelfrith.

613 - 625

Cadvan / Catamanus

King of Gwynedd.

617

Cadwallon (and probably his father) already holds a claim on the crown of Deira as part of his domains. He now apparently includes Elmet in this claim, following the kingdom's conquest by Edwin of Deira.

625 - 634

Cadwallo / Cadwallon ap Cadfan

King of Gwynedd. Claimed the Deiran crown, including Elmet.

633 - 634

Uniquely, perhaps, Penda of Mercia allies himself not to other English kingdoms but to the Brito-Welsh of the west Midlands and Wales. In this year, already working in alliance with Cadwallon, Penda kills Edwin of Bernicia and Deira at the Battle of Hatfield Chase (just outside the western borders of Lindsey). It seems that, up until this great victory, Penda is the junior partner in the alliance, but following Cadwallon's death in 634 he holds all the cards and is senior partner in the alliance with Pengwern.

634 - 664

Cadwaladr

King of Gwynedd. Last high king of Britain.

664

Cadwaladr is probably killed by the great plague which hits the country. There is no obvious candidate to replace him, and such is the extent of the loss of territory over the past century that there is no longer a 'British' Britain over which to claim any high kingship. Instead, the rival Anglo-Saxon Bretwaldaship takes precedence. Kingdoms such as Dyfed, Gwynedd, and Powys remain independent in the west, with Dumnonia in the south-west, and Alt Clut in the far north, but everywhere else the English are in control. A revised form of the British high kingship later emerges in medieval Wales, but only after centuries of internecine rivalry to work out just who qualifies as a 'prince of Wales'.