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Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Cymru


Rhufoniog (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'.

FeatureRhufoniog was the name given to a small sub-kingdom of Venedotia which was initially ruled by Rhufon, one of the sons of Cunedda Wledig (sometimes shown in later Welsh texts as Cunedag). As with Cunedda, Rhufon's name is often shown in its later Welsh format as 'Rhwfon', but it may have originated in a very Latinised 'Romanus' which would have been current in the fifth century AD. He would have gained his territory upon Cunedda's death, probably in the mid-fifth century (see feature link). By this time the name 'Venedotia' was being altered by time and very rapid language shift towards 'Gwynedd'.

This rather remote and isolated principality was located in and around Denbigh, later to be known as Rhufeiniog. It was bordered to the north by Rhos, to the east by the core of Gwynedd and also by Dunoding, to the south by Edeyrnion, and to the west by Dogfeilion.

It enjoyed perhaps a century of personal control by its own princes, within Gwynedd's overall borders ('king' was a Germanic title, while the Welsh used the Latin princeps). Although it is doubtful that the territory remained a distinctive sub-kingdom under Maelgwyn Gwynedd's overlordship, Rhwfon's immediate descendants still enjoyed some degree of power in this eastern territory. They quite possibly acted as protectors of the eastern border, once Powys had gained former Gwyneddian land (modern Clwyd) in the east.

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 Wales and the Britons, 350-1064, T M Charles-Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2013), from Welsh Genealogies AD 300-1400, Peter Bartrum, 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).)

fl c.445

Rhufon / Rhwfon ap Cunedag

Third son of Cunedda Wledig of Venedotia. First prince.


Having occupied the capital of the Paganes territory to the immediate south of Rhufoniog for about six years, the pagan Banadl is killed during a revolt by his Christian Romano-British subjects. Cadell Ddyrnllwg is helped to regain his seat of power by Germanus, and still controls the West Midlands and eastern Wales.

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)


FeatureBy now the newly arrived Jutish foederati have seen how weak are the British defences and begin a takeover of the kingdom of Ceint, aided by the many older foederati settlements in key areas of the land, especially along the Saxon Shore forts and at Canterbury (see feature link).

fl c.465

Mor ap Rhwfon


fl c.495

Aidan ap Mor



FeatureThe British battle leader - Artorius, whatever the lack of confirmation of his existence - probably commands the defence of Mons Badonicus against a confederation of Saxon and Jutish warriors which is most likely led by Ælle of the Suth Saxe (see feature link).

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.

Map of Gwynedd
Despite, or because of, the very fringe involvement with Rome of the Votadini British, Venedotia looked very heavily to Roman influences until well into the sixth century, with it being here that one of the last signs of the concept of Roman citizenship could be found, on a gravestone where a 'cousin' of Maelgwn Gwynedd proudly proclaimed himself a 'Venedotis Cives', a citizen of Venedotia

fl c.520

Moreith ap Aidan


fl c.540

Mor ap Moreith

Son. No heir? Last prince. Passed back to Venedotia.


Maelgwyn Gwynedd of Venedotia probably draws the sub-kingdom back under his direct control during his lifetime (which ends in 549 during the widespread mid-sixth century plague). This period forms the end point for any remaining notion of 'Roman-ness' which may have remained in the office of a ruler of any territory in the west and north of Britain (and that of magistrate in the south and east).

In the later medieval period much of Rhufoniog's territory falls under the control of the bishops of Bangor and Llanelwy. Following the end of Welsh independence it is taken into the lordship of Denbigh. In the modern age it and neighbouring Rhos are part of the Welsh county of Denbighshire.

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