History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Cymru


Osmaeliog (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'.

FeatureClearly not a Roman district which later became a Welsh cantref, unlike Rhos, Osmaeliog was granted to, or was acquired by, Venedotia during the creation of this principality by Cunedda (sometimes shown in later Welsh texts as Cunedag). Unfortunately little remains to show its location, or the territory it included within its borders. Its existence must have been brief, limited to one generation of successor to Cunedda himself, and perhaps even only briefly for that generation (see feature link for more on the sub-kingdoms of Venedotia, better known as Gwynedd).

Upon Cunedda's death the Osmaeliog territory was passed onto his second son, probably in the mid-fifth century AD, an event which saw it converted into a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd. After the aforementioned 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 its only ruling prince: Osfael. The territory's name is sometimes shown as Osweilion, Osfeilion, or Ysweilion, although modern opinion appears mixed when it comes to deciding whether '-ion' or '-iog' name suffixes came first. Even the name 'Osfael' or 'Ysfael' may have been Latinised by a newly-created royal family which already had Latinised links in its original homeland amongst the Venicones.

Only later medieval genealogies record the names of Cunedda's sons, probably using oral tradition as their source. For that reason those names and the states which bore them are 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 - a powerful and highly important figure to have in one's family tree. The sub-kings themselves, though, would have been very much junior branches of the family, probably without any particular right to challenge for the kingship of Gwynedd itself.

It is very brief mentions in those genealogies which suggest that Osfael governed Holy Island, on the western side of the larger isle of Anglesey, from which it is separated by the Cymyran Strait. The 'Maes Osfeilion' mentioned in the genealogies could well be connected to Llanfaes in the commote of Dindaethwy.

FeatureThe Annales Cambriae (see feature link) mention only in AD 902 that 'Igmund came to Mona and took Maes Osfeilion'. This 'Igmund' would be Edward the Elder, 'King of the Anglo-Saxons', a West Saxon king who commanded the unified English regions.

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

Osfael ap Cunedag

Second son of Cunedda Wledig of Venedotia.

c.460s - 470s

Any details of Osfael'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.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.