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For other people of the same name, see Cadwallader.

Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon (English: Cadwaladr son of Cadwallon, also Cadwallader or Cadwalader) was King of Gwynedd (reigned c. 655 – 682). Two devastating plagues happened during his reign, one in 664 and the other in 682, with himself a victim of the second one. Little else is known of his reign.

Cadwaladr is most widely recognised as a prominent character in the romantic stories of Geoffrey of Monmouth, where he is portrayed as the last in an ancient line of kings of Britain. He renouces his throne to become a pilgrim, in response to a prophecy that his sacrifice of personal power will bring about a future victory of the Britons over the Saxons. For later Welsh commentators, the myth "provided a messianic hope for the future deliverance of Britain from the dominion of the Saxons".[1]

Y Ddraig Goch (English: The Red Dragon) has long been known as a Welsh symbol, appearing in the Mabinogion, the Historia Brittonum, and the stories of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It has commonly been referred to as 'The Red Dragon of Cadwaladr', and since the accession of Henry VII to the English throne, it has often been referred to as 'The Red Dragon of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon'. The association with Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon is a traditional one, without a firm historical provenance.

Historical record[edit]

A general map of Gwynedd showing the cantrefi.

Cadwaladr's name appears in passing in serious historical works, such as those by Davies[2] and Lloyd,[3] and then only to mention that he was the son of a famous father, Cadwallon ap Cadfan, and the successor to King Cadafael. His name appears in the pedigrees of the Jesus College MS. 20[4] (as "Kadwaladyr vendigeit", or "Cadwaladr the Blessed"). Cadwaladr's name appears as 'Catgualart' in a section of the Historia Brittonum, where it says he died of a dreadful mortality while he was king.[5] Cadwaladr's name appears without the identifying patronymic 'ap Cadwallon' in a number of historical and literary works, such as in the Armes Prydein. Without additional corroborating information it cannot be assumed that Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon is the person referred to, rather than a different person with the same name.

The great plague of 664 is not noted in the Annales Cambriae, but Bede's description[6] makes clear its impact in both Britain and Ireland, where its occurrence is also noted in the Irish Annals.[7]

The plague of 682 is not noted by Bede, but the Annales Cambriae note its occurrence in Britain and that Cadwaladr was one of its victims.[8] Both the Annales Cambriae and the Irish Annals note the plague's impact in Ireland in 683,[9][10] as do other sources.[11]

The genealogies in Jesus College MS. 20[12][13] and the Harleian genealogies[14][15] give Cadwaladr as the son of Cadwallon and the father of Idwal Iwrch. Idwal, who fathered the later king Rhodri Molwynog, may have been his successor.

Geoffrey of Monmouth[edit]

The name of the historical Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon figures prominently in Geoffrey of Monmouth's romantic account of the Historia Regum Britanniae (English: History of the Kings of Britain). As such, the Cadwaladr of Geoffrey is a literary invention that used the name of a historical person in order to advance the plot of the story. In Book XII, Chapter XIV of the Historia, Cadwaladr is given as the last in a line of kings that began with Brutus of Troy. Chapters XV – XVIII have him leaving a depopulated Britain for Brittany, then travelling to Rome, where he dies after meeting the pope. In doing so, he renounced his claim to the British throne, but only in response to a prophetic voice which told him that his personal sacrifice would eventually lead to the restoration of British control of the island in the future: "the Voice added that, as a reward for its faithfulness, the British people would occupy the island again at some time in the future, once the appointed moment should come".[1][16]

Also traced to Geoffrey's fertile imagination are stories of Ivor ap Alan and Ynyr traveling from Brittany to Britain.[17] The choice of names for Ivor and Ynyr in the stories may be a consequence of spurious additions to the Laws of Edward the Confessor, which inaccurately speak of good relations between Wessex and the Welsh in the reign of King Ine of Wessex (reigned 688 – 726). From there emerges a conflation of Cadwaladr or Cadwallon with Cædwalla of Wessex (reigned 685 – 688), and a conflation of Cadwaladr's son Ivor with Cædwalla's son Ine.[18]

The argument that Geoffrey confused Cadwaladr with Cædwalla dates to the late 1570s. At that time, when St. Peter's in Rome was being rebuilt, an ancient tombstone was found which was said to bear the name of Caedwalla, who, according to Bede, had died in Rome. Welshmen in Rome, seeking to validate Geoffrey, claimed that the tomb was that of Cadwaladr. The English critics stated that Geoffrey had simply mixed up the two kings, and that Cadwaladr's pilgimage was thus pure fiction.[1] According to Jason Nice, the Welsh "attempt to 'prove' the legend of Cadwaladr in Rome belonged to a longstanding tradition that held that Wales' special relationship with Rome could reinforce Welsh identity and protect Welshmen from English aggression", a belief that was grounded in the supposed prophecy given to Cadwaladr.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Nice, Jason A., "Being 'British' in Rome: The Welsh at the English College, 1578-1584", The Catholic Historical Review, Volume: 92, Issue: 1, January 2006, p.1
  2. ^ Davies 1990:63, A History of Wales
  3. ^ Lloyd 1911:230, A History of Wales, Vol I
  4. ^ Phillimore 1887:87 — he is in his descendant's pedigree, given as: ... Cynan tintaeth6y. M. Rodri mol6yna6c. M. Idwal I6rch. M. Kadwaladyr vendigeit. M. Katwalla6n. M. Kad6ga6n. M. Iago. M. Beli. M. Run hir. M. Maelg6n g6yned ..., and from there back to Cunedda.
  5. ^ Giles, J. A. (translator), ed. (1841), "III. The History", Nennius's History of the Britons, London: James Bohn , in Chapter 64.
  6. ^ Bede (731), Giles, John Allen, ed., The Miscellaneous Works of Venerable Bede: Ecclesiastical History, Books I, II, and III II, London: Whittaker and Co (published 1843), p. 381 , Book III, Chapter XXVII
  7. ^ Reeves, William, ed. (1857), "Additional Notes (Chronicon Hyense)", The Life of St. Columba, to which are added Copious Notes and Dissertations, Dublin: Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, p. 376  — year 664, "Mortalitas magna in Hiberniam pervenit"
  8. ^ Phillimore 1888:159, Annales Cambriae, year 682, "Mortalitas magna fuit in brittannia. n qua catgualart filius catguolaum obiit."
  9. ^ Phillimore 1888:159, Annales Cambriae, year 683, "Mortalitas in hibernia."
  10. ^ Reeves, William, ed. (1857), "Additional Notes (Chronicon Hyense)", The Life of St. Columba, to which are added Copious Notes and Dissertations, Dublin: Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, p. 376  — year 683, "Initium tertiae mortalitatis"
  11. ^ Plummer, Charles (1896), "Notes to the Ecclesiastical History (The plague in Ireland)", Venerabilis Baedae, Oxford: Oxford University, p. 196 
  12. ^ Phillimore 1887:87 — his pedigree is given as: ... Cynan tintaeth6y. M. Rodri mol6yna6c. M. Idwal I6rch. M. Kadwaladyr vendigeit. M. Katwalla6n. M. Kad6ga6n. M. Iago. M. Beli. M. Run hir. M. Maelg6n g6yned ..., and from there back to Cunedda.
  13. ^ Genealogies from Jesus College MS 20, Gwynedd 1.
  14. ^ Owen 1841:xiv, Pedigree of Ywain Son of Hywel, in the Preface of Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales — his pedigree is given as: ... Rotri Map Mermin Map Ethil Merch Cinnan Map Rotri M. Tutgual M. Catgualart M. Catman M. Jacob ..., and from there back through Maelgwn Gwynedd to Cunedda and his ancestors.
  15. ^ Harleian genealogy 1: Gwynedd 1
  16. ^ Giles, J. A.; Thompson, A., eds. (1842), The British History of Geoffrey of Monmouth: In Twelve Books (New ed.), London: James Bohn 
  17. ^ Stephens, Thomas (12 November 1857), "The Book of Aberpergwm, Improperly Called the Chronicle of Caradoc", Archaeologia Cambrensis, Third IV, London: Cambrian Archaeological Association (published 1858), pp. 81–82 
  18. ^ Haddan, Arthur West; Stubbs, William, eds. (1868), Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents Relating to Great Britain and Ireland I, Oxford (published 1869), p. 202 , in the footnote explanations.


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Cadafael Cadomedd
King of Gwynedd
c. 655 – 682
Succeeded by
Idwal Iwrch?
Legendary titles
Preceded by
King of Britain Last king of Britain