First, a disclaimer: these genealogies drive me nuts and I very often have trouble deciphering the various version. If anyone sees any glaring mistakes – and I’m sure there are some – please leave a comment, or send an email, to correct me!
I wondered if any of the (very dubious) Arthurian genealogies might help in search of an Hiberno-British Arthur? Well, there are the Campbell (more accurately MacArthur) genealogies, which, surprisingly don’t follow the Artúr mac Áedán line – or pretend not to - as I would first have imagined. They do indeed believe descent form our Arthur … or ‘Oor Arthur’ as they say. The oldest of all the clans apparently, the saying goes …
Cruic ‘is uillt ‘is Ailpainich, Ach cuin a thainig Artairich?
The hills and streams and MacAlpine, But whence came forth MacArthur?
The Clan Arthur website gives you:
“Although there may be controversy as to precise lineage, two schools of thought about MacArthur of Tirevadich are listed as such:
King Malcolm Canmore — Malcomb — Dubni mac Mal-colaim — Arthur Armdhearg — Arthur Andarian — MacArthurs of Darleith & Inistrynich (Tirevadich)
Norma Lorre Goodrich, an authority on the subject of King Arthur describes MacArthur lineage as:
King Arthur — Smerevie — Ferrither — Duibne Mor — Arthur Og — Ferrither — Duibne “Falt Dhearg” — Ferrither — Duibne Dearg — Duibne Donn — Diarmid O’Duibne — Arthur — Arthur Andarian — MacArthurs of Darleith & Inistrynich (Tirevadich).”
This last lineage is from the Campbell genealogies, which I’ll get to below.
This is how the Oor Arthur website opens:
“A sixth century red sandstone sarcophagus stands on display in Govan Old Parish Church, near Glasgow. It is claimed to have held the remains of St. Constantine, King of Cornwall, Christian martyr and founder of Govan in 565AD. Carved on the side of the sarcophagus is a sixth century Celtic-Romano warrior bearing the capital letter A branded cavalry style on the horse’s flank. God in Govan! Could this be a carving of “King” Arthur? Probably – At least, it is very probably a representation of OOR ARTHUR.”
It should first be pointed out that it isn’t certain this Constantine was from Cornwall, or, more correctly, Dumnonia. In the Life of Saint Kentigern, this St. Constantine is named as the son and successor to Riderch (Rhydderch) Hael, king of Strat Clut (Strathclyde). However, modern scholars now think this an insertion in Rhydderch’s genealogy.
To quote Tim Clarkson:
“If he is not an obscure Cornish namesake allegedly martyred in Kintyre, he might have been a North Briton, perhaps even a native of the Clyde. His association with Kentigern [...] is almost certainly a fiction devised later in Glasgow.” (Men of the North, 2010, p.62)
The confusion could be because this region was also once called Damnonia/Dumnonia. The Cornish saint may have been the emperor Constantine The Great. (More below).
It is interesting that some modern Scots make claim to Arthur (although they mainly claim Artúr mac Áedán) when their 14th and 15th century ancestors went to pains to paint him as an illegitimate tyrant and ‘whore’s son’. Of course, they had political reasons for doing so because the English throne used Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History and Arthur to claim sovereignty over Scotland.
To quote Juliette Woods:
“Equally interesting is The Roit or Quheill of Tyme, which denies Arthur’s claim to the throne, but retains his character as heroic leader. It notes “fabillis” (“fables”) written about him, but claims that these gave him “no domination of Scotland” (Alexander 1975: 21–2).” – Woods, 2009, p.104
Getting back to the MacArthur/Campbell genealogies, they are interesting. There are three, dating between ca 1467 and 1650. It is the earliest and latest versions that show a marked difference form Geoffrey of Monmouth. Both have Uthyr (Irish Iubhar/Iobhar/Iobhair) as the father of Arthur. The later Leabhar Geinealach/Book of Genealogies – Dubhaltach mac Fhirbhisigh, shows Arthur coming from the Coelings (Old King Coel), if Coiel is the same person. The earliest, NLS MS 72, only gives four names in total. Both versions have Iubhar or Iobhar as the father. The middle Killbride version NLS MS 72 has his line via Ambros (Ambrosius Aurelianus). What they give is an Artúr mac Iobhair.
(Many thanks for Chris Gwinn’s (of Arthurnet) amazing work on these genealogies to be found at http://christophergwinn.com/celticstudies/arthur/arthur_pedigree.html )
The Leabhar Geinealach and Killbride version NLS MS 72 have his grandson as Feradogh/Feradog and this must be Feradach hoa Artúr (discussed in Part Five) from the Cáin Adomnáin, which was written in Ireland in 697. However, if it is, then this Arthur would have to have lived in the first quartre of the 7th century. This may mean it could be Artúr mac Áedán (or Conaing) or even Arthur son Bicoir … or some other Arthur. If it is, then it could be showing us that, whether one of these was the ‘original’ or not, they had some fame themselves for Feradach to not call himself the ‘son of’ someone, but the grandson of Artúr. One thing’s for certain though, it wasn’t an Arthur of Badon fame.
As explained in the excellent paper ‘The ‘British’ Genealogy of the Campbells’ (W. Gillies, Celtica 23, 1999 – http://www.celt.dias.ie/publications/celtica/c23/c23-82.pdf), this clan did all they could to make their lineage more respectable, and British, in the 15th and 16th century, not only having Arthur but adding Ambrosius and Constantine to them for good measure. To quote the paper:
“[...] a genealogy like this must in effect be presumed bogus unless it can be proved genuine”.
It doesn’t mean there isn’t an element of ‘truth’ to them, it’s just almost impossible finding what that is.
I looked a little deeper into the Gaelicized version of Uthyr: Iobhar/Iuhbar/Iobhair (pronounced something like, *Ubr – http://www.hearnames.com/name-categories/irish-names/irish-maleboy-names/iobhar-m.html ) … if it is Gaelicized, and Uthyr isn’t a Brittonicized version of Iobhar/Iuhbar/Iobhair. ‘Iuhbar’ in modern Scottish Gaelic means ‘yew tree’, so they certainly don’t have the same meaning; British Uthyr/Uthr means ‘terrible‘ or ‘marvelous’. I also found Beinn Iobhair; a mountain on the Isle of Lewis, Craeg Iobhair near Loch Borrom and Stob an Iubhair north of Kinlochleven. There are many others, all probably relating to yew trees and not a person. In ogham script Iubhar can also be ‘ivy’. (It’s also worth throwing in that Ur is ‘heath’ or ‘heather’).
It does mean an Hiberno-British father isn’t out of the question. Is the name used elsewhere, I wondered? Yes. Cú Chulainn’s charioteer is called Iobhar, so it could take us back to that mythical aspect again. I’m not sure if these are the same Iobhars (or how accurate the information is) but there’s an Iobhar in the Finnian stories, who was father of the trí Fhían mBreatan (which sounds like the ‘leader of the warband of the Britons’) – which could just be Uthyr inserted – and an Iobhar whose sons were killed by the Clan Mhorna. Help!?
This one is a mine field and I’m not trained in bomb disposal, so I will mostly tread very carefully in the footsteps of others (as usual).
There are a number of genealogies who have Arthur’s grandfather as Kustenin, Kunstenhin, Custenin Gornev, Kwysdenin Gornev, Kustennin vendigeit , Kwstenin, Kusteni, Kwysdenin, Cwstenin, Kustein. As you can see, there are many different spelling variations.
Custennin Vendigeit (Fendigeid), who appears to be also Custennin Corneu (Gornev), is thought to be of Cornue/Cornow/Cernyw of Dumnonia … if this Corneu is indeed Cornwall and not Cornue/Cornow/Cernyw of the Midlands (from the Cornovii tribe) before it became Powys/Pengwern and later Powys and Shropshire. As discussed earlier, Cernyw (Cornwall) doesn’t appear until the Early-8th century.
These genealogies are thought suspect, mainly by association to Geoffrey of Monmouth, although those that mention Amlawd Guledig (see below) as Arthur’s maternal grandfather come from the Welsh version of his work, Brut Y Brenhinedd. Geoffrey, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (‘History of the Kings of Britain’) makes a Constantine Arthur’s grandfather. Geoffrey was just trying to make a narrative history so he changed things to suite his story. This Constantine appears to be the usurper emperor Constantine III, who met his demise in 411. If Arthur fought at Badon at one of the earlier dates put forward, say, 490, and he died 21 years later in 511 at the Battle of Camlann, possibly the earliest he could have been born is 455-460? This alone could make it very difficult for Constantine to be his grandfather … not that many people take Geoffrey’s Arthurian lineage seriously, although he may not have been the one who came up with it as Susan Pearce has observed …
“For Arthur’s paternal descent, MS Mostyn 11 simply pre-fixes the genealogy used by Geoffrey to the Dumnonian pedigree, and so arrives at ‘Arthur map Uthyr map Constantine map Kynvaur map Tutual map Morwaur map Eudaf map Kadur map Kynan map Karadauc‘. (Kynan has been mis-placed – he should be the son of Eudaf. Kadur looks like either a confusion with Cadwy, or a slip for Adeon, Cynan’s brother.) This paternal genealogy allows Cadwy son of Gereint to be Arthur’s cousin, as he is made to be in the Life of St Carantoc which was written before Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae, and so strengthens the supposition that Arthur’s descent on the Dumnonian line was known in Wales before Geoffrey wrote.” (Pearce, 1974, p.152)
(Of course, Geoffrey Ashe in his book ‘The Discovery of King Arthur‘ (1985) comes up with a much earlier floruit for Arthur … as well as saying he is Riothamus/Rigotamus)
The genealogical Constantine appears to be the one admonished by Gildas as one of the five 6th century ‘moral laxed’ kings of Britain (or Britannia Prima) in his polemic De excidio Britanniae. If, of course, this is the same man as Custennin Corneu, then Arthur could hardly be his grandson either, unless Constantine was an extremely old man (possibly over 100!) when Gildas was writing.
However, in the book, ‘The De excidio of Gildas: its authenticity and date’ by O’Sullivan, he writes:
“A. O. Anderson wrote that “probably two or three Constantines have been confused,” and it’s difficult to disagree with this judgement […]”
And, referring back to the St. Constantine mentioned earlier as well as the saint of the same name in Cornwall …
“[…] or with that [judgment] of Canon Doble: “… there is not the smallest evidence that Constantine of Gildas is the St. Constantine whom we find honoured in the five parishes of Devon and Cornwall, as some persons, forgetful of the fact that Constantine was a very common name at the time, have rashly assumed.” (p. 95)
O’Sullivan puts a floruit on Custennin Corneu of 520-23, which, as I mentioned above, gives a problem if Arthur was the victor of Badon c. 490. Which do we believe? There’s aways the options that Custennin Corneu is not Gildas’ or Geoffrey’s Constantine but someone else entirely and they’ve had their genealogies grafted together. (If it was the same person he, perhaps, should have been titled Custennin Dyfnient (Devon). It was certainly a popular name amongst the British, unlike the name Arthur.
I thought it might be worth looking deeper at the Cornue/Cernyw/Cornow/Cornovii/Cornwall question. I’ve always thought there could have been confusion in later years with two (or possibly more) areas having the same name, but the others being totally forgotten about, probably even by the 9th century. I discovered someone else having the same questions at the History Files website, and Edwin Hustwitt points out something that I hadn’t discovered myself:
A ‘Cornwall’ of the north?
“However, as the Medieval period developed and the name Cernyw [Corneu/Cornow] was finally forgotten, the tales began to be located in Cornwall as this was the only area known by that name. This memory of Cernyw lingers on in the collection known as the Thirteen Treasures of Britain. All of the treasures are thought to have belonged to leaders of North Britain.
In this list is ‘The Mantle of Arthur in Cornwall‘. Clearly modern Cornwall cannot be considered to be, in any way shape or form, in the north of Britain. This is circumstantially backed-up by genealogical evidence in old Welsh genealogical tracts where a certain leader, Tudfwlch Corneu [Constantine’s grandfather?], is described as one of the ‘Men of the North’ whilst also belonging to Cernyw. This mistaken belief in the location of Cornwall has then dramatically altered perceptions on the true origins of Arthur’s Cornish connections.
Why, however, did Geoffrey and Welsh tradition assert these Cornish links? Furthermore, if we are to reject their associations with the south-west where should we seek the true origins of the ‘Cornish’ Arthur?
… by the ninth century Cornovii had been adapted to Cernyw. The use of Cernyw appears in the poem in praise to Cynan Garwyn, a sixth century ruler of Powys where ‘Let Cernyw Greet‘ occurs.”
To deal first with Tudfwlch, here is his genealogy in the Bonedd Gwŷr y Gogledd (‘Descent of the Men of the North’).
Huallu m Tutuwlch Coreu tywyssavc o Kernyv. A Dywanw merch Amlavt Wledic y uam
This makes him Arthur’s uncle if Amlawd (Amlavt) is his maternal father, but this Amlawd gets inserted into all kinds of royal lines. It seems very odd for a Man of the North to be associated with Cornwall. However, it’s probably just as odd to be associated with the English western Midlands. In the end, it’s very hard to trust these genealogies.
Cynan Garwyn (ca 575-620) was the eldest son of Brochmail (Brochwael), a king of 6th century Powys (which, as this argument goes, was then called Cernyw). In the poem he defeats Gwynedd (on Anglesey), Dyfed and Brycheiniog and, because of the mention of Cernyw, it is thought Cornwall also. It’s not impossible, but the Taliesin poem doesn’t make it sound as if this is one of the conquests:
The Gwentians were slain,
With the gore-drenched blade.
A battle in Mona, great, fair,
Hovering over, and praised
Over the Menei, there went
Horses and confident ones.
A battle on the hill of Dyved.
Slaughter stings in motion.
Nor were seen
The kine before the countenance of any one.
Let the son of Brochwael boast,
He will declare his wish.
Let Cornwall [Cernyw] greet,
The younger will not praise fate.
The incomprehensible will depress
In the day that is praised by me,
My patron of Cynan.
If Arthur was from Cornish Corneu/Cornow/Cernyw, there are Hibernians attested there, mainly in what is now northeast Cornwall and southwest Devon. If he was of the Midland’s Cornue, well, this is were Cunorix was found. What this would mean, wherever he was from, is that Uthyr//Vthyr/Iobhar would have to have brought the Hibernian blood … IF he was his father. Whilst the genealogies might say Uthyr’s father was Custennin it could very well be that Uthyr followed him as ruler, and not because he was his son. If later 10th century Welsh laws are anything to go by, a nephew or cousin could be made heir. There could also have been a coup. It could also be bogus!
Judging by the archaeology of the area, Dumnonia appears to have been a very wealthy region … or parts of it at least. That wealth may have come through its local minerals, especially tin, but it also could have come from the slave trade to the Empire. Stuart Laycock points out something interesting when discussing Riothamus (not a connection with Arthur I might add) in his book Warlords (2010). Its hard to distill what he says, but he points to the connections of Dumnonia not only to Amorica but to the Empire; both Eastern and Western. Many of the amphorae found in the region come from the Emperor Anthemius who asked (or rather his general Aegidius asked) for British help in Gaul and got it in the form of Riothamus and, supposedly, 12,000 men in the late 460s/early 470s. What part of Britain were they likely to seek that help from but their trade partners of southwest Britain who may have also held kingdoms in Amorica too? This would be a good place for Riothamus to have originated from and it certainly points to a powerful region. If any region were to spawn a man with wealth and power to back him up – whether this be Riothamus or Arthur - then Dumnonia is it. However, if the southwest lost a great many men in Gaul during Riothamus’ defeat, it could have weakened them for a generation or so.
There may have been other Cernyws. In fact we know of one that briefly existed in mid-South Wales that gave us St. Glywys Cernyw. There is also the town of DVROCORNOVIVM (Wanborough, Wiltshire), which wasn’t in the Cornovii territory, but the Dobunni’s. I would also forward a (very tentative) hypothesis that the men of here or of what was the Cohorts Prima Cornoviorum based at Pons Aelius (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne) might have styled themselves with that name … if they all hadn’t gone ‘home’ to Cornovia, whichever one it was, after the fall of the empire. Keep in mind many of these had married local lasses, so they probably saw this region as their home now.
I was never a fan of the Cornish Arthur, simply because of the Geoffrey of Monmouth connection, but having look at this, it has its merits. This has nothing to do with the famous Tintagel stone describing one ‘Artognov’ (Arthnou/Arthnow). Even Gidlow wonders if this mentions Arthur. The meaning of the name has been put forward as ‘known as bear’, but I believe it could just likely be ‘bear renowned’. Even if it did mean ‘known as bear’ and therefore an epithet to another name, Arthur wasn’t known as ‘bear’, otherwise his name would simply be ‘Arth’.
Then there’s the line via Cunedda Wledig (Cunedag) and Anblaud/Amlawd Wledig according to Welsh tradition. Cunedda is said to have been brought down from Manau Gododdin (southeast Scotland) in the late 4th/early 5th century to fight off the Irish raiders of northwest and southwest Wales and later to set up the kingdom of Venedota (Gwynedd) in the north with his sons. Many read the evidence as a foundation myth but the jury is still out.
Amlawd Gwledig supposedly married Cunedda’s daughter Gwen, the mother of Eigr the mother of Arthur. However, in the Welsh version of Geoffrey’s work, Brut Y Brenhinedd, it only goes as far back as Amlawd.
It could be telling why the father is not mentioned in the Welsh tradition. Of course, it could simply be because it is purely a maternal line and everyone ‘knew’ his da was Uthyr? This could also be Gwynedd trying to find itself a piece of the Arthurian pie, and it knew it couldn’t do it through the male line?
Coming from the female line wouldn’t put Arthur in line for the Gwynedd ‘throne’. Cunedda’s daughter Gwen (who supposedly marries Amlawd), or their daughter Eigr, could have gone anywhere to be married to gain alliances. Amlawd my have been a great Gwledig, but it’s hard to tie him down geographically. Some online genealogies have him coming via a Cynwal, but I have not been able to find this anywhere else. (I’m hoping Dane or Chris can help me here!). None of this helps with the HIberno-British element however. It would still have to come from the mother or the father. The only father we have (and even he is disputed) is Uthyr.
This is the region of Wales where Steve Blake and Scott Lloyd in their book, Pendragon – The Origins of Arthur (2002) place their Arthur, with his court of Kelliwig (traditionally said to be in Cornue/Cornow/Cornwall) at the still existing Gelliwig (a farm and a manor) on the Llŷn Peninsular, and his final battle of Camlan at the not far away Afon Gamlan (River Camlan). Those could be two very good reason alone why to consider this theory. Two medieval Welsh bards certainly thought Celliwig/Gelliwig was here:
“Losing a hero of Gwynedd,
Wise and bold, swift his sword,
Lord of Cellan, terrible loss,
Poet’s chamber, court of Celliwig.
A prominent court below the land of Llŷn,
Wine cellar, fresh Celliwig”
(elegy by Iolo Goch to two sons of Tudur Fychan, 1382)
“We find Gelliweg in Gwynedd”
(poem by Gutun Owain to Huw Conwy of Bryn Euryn, ca 1480)
These are very late and possibly inadmissible as evidence. The poets could have known of this Gelliweg and simply thought it must be Arthur’s court. Steve and Scott also tell us:
“A charter from 1209 for the Cistercian abbey of Cummer near Dolgellau, founded in 1199, names several sites in or bordering the cantref of Neigwl on the Lleyn Peninsula, in which Gelliwig now stands. The name given to the site in the charter is ‘ynyskellywyc’ (‘ynys’ here being used to denote an isolated property). The charter is a reconfirmation of the lands given to the abbey, meaning that the name ‘ynyskellywyc’ existed before 1209. These references show that the bards of North Wales knew of Gelliwig as an important court on the Lleyn Peninsula: nowhere in the Welsh material is there any evidence to link the name to Cornwall, or anywhere else.”
They go on to forward the idea that the name ‘Cernyw’ could once of been applied to the Lleyn as the word ‘cern’ or ‘corn’ means ‘horn’ and can describe a peninsula. Steve and Scott believe their Arthur to have stayed in the area and probably not to have fought a Badon. They also argue that many characters of the Welsh Arthurian tradition are based in North Wales. What they don’t consider is that if he is associated with the area it could be because he either began or ended his ‘career’ here, or simply because of the Cunedda connection, whether that is true or not. It could also purely be through the developing storytelling, which would try and localise the figures it described.
It’s through this book that I got to know Steve and we eventually set up a company called Pastscapes together with my long time friend Peter Hurst, which, unfortunately no longer exists. (It’s this that created the CGI image of Arthur I use in these blogs, which Peter modeled and I textured and lit). Steve knows I don’t agree with many of his and Scott’s findings and theories but they do bring up some pertinent points.
The downside with Arthur being from this area is that one would think Gwynedd would try and capitalize on this and try and shoe-horn him into their genealogy. Having said that, maybe that’s what they did try and do with Cunedda and the other figures of the Arthurian stories. The same objections could also be made to him being from Powys/Pengwern as they too would have made the most of such an association. If there was a connection it would have to be on the eastern Pengwern side as Powys makes no claim to Arthur on the 9th century Pillar of Eliseg near Llangollen in Denbighshire, Wales. They claim their line from Magnus Maximus and Vortigern.
The Cornish connection may be the only one remaining, unless there’s some ‘truth’ held within the Campbell genealogies … or my crazy idea of the Cornovians on Hadrian’s Wall stands? (No, I thought not!).
What all this may have left us with is the possibility, at least, of an Artúr mac Iobhar, although personally I doubt it and think Uthyr only later connected to Arthur. What would be a mistake is to think such a person had to be from the Western Isles of Scotland; he could be from any of the Hiberno-British regions or even British regions .
It’s probable that all these genealogies are suspect for the various different reasons outlined above. All inclusions of Arthur were for political or prestigious reasons. If Geoffrey of Monmouth didn’t created the Dumnonia line, then we need to ask who did and why? Was there an actual Arthur or is this just the product of earlier storytelling? Does the poem mentioning Arthur’s men fighting alongside Gereint fab Erbin of Dyfnient (Devon) have anything to do with it? Lot’s more questions, no more answers.
In the next blog I’m going to look at the argued first mention of Arthur in the Late 6th/Early 7th century collection of poems, Y Gododdin.
Thanks for reading this very long blog,