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Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Cymru


Edeyrnion (Romano-Britons) (Wales)

FeatureWith the expulsion of Roman officials in AD 409 (see feature link), 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 from all sides.

FeatureIn the west, largely in what would become modern Wales, this process seems to have started earlier and taken place more quickly. Even by the start of the fifth century it is apparent that several territories had emerged here. The process seems to have been triggered by the reorganisations of Magnus Maximus in the late fourth century (see feature link), with what later tradition would claim as the creation of the 'kingdoms' of 'North Wales', 'South Wales', and 'Mid-South Wales'.

Perhaps not originally a Roman district which later became a Welsh cantref, unlike Rhos, Edeyrnion was granted to, or was acquired by, Venedotia during the creation of this principality by Cunedda (sometimes shown in later Welsh texts as Cunedag). It was located near Bala, on the south-eastern edge of Venedotia. Clearly a border territory, it was later a commote of Powys. The name evolved in medieval Wales as 'Edeyrniawn', which was used as the basis of the modern name for this rural district.

FeatureUpon Cunedda's death the Edeyrnion territory was passed onto his ninth son, probably in the mid-fifth century AD, an event which saw it converted into a sub-kingdom of Venedotia which itself was quickly becoming better known as Gwynedd (see feature link for more on its sub-kingdoms). After a short period of personal control by its sole prince within Gwynedd's overall borders, the sub-kingdom was apparently drawn back under the direct control of its Gwyneddian overlord ('king' was a Germanic title, while the Welsh used the Latin princeps).

The origin of the name is purportedly based on that of the first ruling prince: Edern. This is sometimes shown as Edeirnion. Even the name Edern may have been Latinised as Aeturnus by a newly-created royal family which already had Latinised links in its original homeland amongst the Venicones.

Virtually nothing seems to be known about the territory within Edeyrnion during its brief existence as a sub-kingdom. Only later medieval genealogies record the names of its ruling prince, probably using oral tradition as their source. For that reason the name is probably reliable, as it would be the duty of each ruling prince to be able to recite the list of his ancestors back to Cunedda and his many sons, with this successful warlord being a powerful and highly important figure to have in one's family tree.

Roman Canterbury

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Ancestry of the Kings and Princes of Wales (genealogical document in Old Welsh), from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe, from Wales and the Britons, 350-1064, T M Charles-Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2013), from Welsh Genealogies AD 300-1400, Peter Bartrum, 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, from the Annales Cambriae, James Ingram (taken from the Harleian manuscript, the earliest surviving version, London, Everyman Press, 1912), from A History of the English Church and People, The Venerable Bede (Leo Sherley-Price translation - revised by R E Latham), and from External Links: Ancient Wales Studies, and Cunedda Wledig (Dictionary of Welsh Biography), and The Irish Settlements in South-West Wales: A Topographical Approach, Melville Richards (The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol 90, No 2, 1960, pp 133-162, and available online via JSTOR).)

fl c.445

Edern / Edeyrn ap Cunedag

Ninth son of Cunedda Wledig of Venedotia.

c.460s - 470s

Any details of Edern's life and family are unrecorded in the genealogies, making it highly likely that he remains an unmarried warrior of the Venedotians who, perhaps, is more concerned with ongoing efforts to rid the region of Irish raiders and perhaps even attempts at settlement (as in the case of the highly successful Déisi tribe of Demetia).

Map of Britain AD 450-600
This map of Britain concentrates on British territories and kingdoms which were established during the fourth and fifth centuries AD, as the Saxons and Angles began their settlement of the east coast (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Upon his death - potentially in battle - his territory likely passes back to the ruling prince of Venedotia, either Einion Yrth or his son and successor, Cadwallon Lawhir, the Arthurian King Cradelmant of Northgalis (North Wales). This Cadwallon is also the Cadwallo, 'King of North Wales', who appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain.

Edeyrnion is later gained by Powys. It remains the object of  ongoing discontent between the medieval Gwynedd and Powys. Following the Norman conquest of Wales, it becomes part of the historical county of Denbighshire.

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