King of the Britons

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For legendary Kings of Britain, many of whom are found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, see List of legendary kings of Britain.

The Britons or Brythons were the Brythonic-Celtic-speaking people of what is now England, Wales and southern Scotland, whose ethnic identity is today maintained by the Welsh, Cornish and Bretons.[1] The title Rex Britannorum (King of the Britons) was used (often retrospectively) to refer to the most powerful ruler among the insular Britons, both before[2] and after[3] the Roman occupation up until the Norman Conquest of England. The same title was also used to refer to some of the rulers of Brittany in the 9th century, but there it is best translated as King of the Bretons. This page concerns only rulers in Britain (with the exception of Riothamus, who may have ruled both in Britain and on the Continent.)

At least twenty kings among the insular Britons were referred to as 'King of the Britons', while others were given related titles or descriptions. The table below also contains the paramount native Welsh rulers in the Norman and Plantagenet periods – by this time only Wales (or parts thereof) remained under Brythonic rule in Britain, and the term 'Briton[s]' (Brython[iaid], Brutaniaid) was used synonymously with Welsh (Cymry). This, and the diminishing power of the Welsh rulers relative to the Kings of England, is reflected in the gradual evolution of the titles by which these rulers were known from "King of the Britons" in the 11th century to "Prince of Wales" in the 13th[3] (see table).

Although the majority of the rulers listed below had their power base in Gwynedd in north Wales, most insular Brythonic areas from the 7th century on are to be found in the list below, from Dumnonia in southwest England, to Strathclyde in southwest Scotland.

Historical rulers referred to as King of the Britons (or a related title)[edit]

Name Reign Regional power base Recorded title or description Source Notes
Cunobelinus c. 9 – c. 41 lands of the Trinovantes and Catuvellauni King of the Britons Suetonius perhaps retrospective
Cogidubnus mid- to late 1st century lands of the Regni, Atrebates, and Belgae Great King of the Britons (or perhaps: Great King of Britain) marble inscription at Chichester contemporary, self-description
(Roman rule)
Vortigern mid-5th century unknown King of the Britons (in c. 449) Bede probably retrospective
Riothamus c. 469 unknown, but active in Gaul King of the Britons (in c. 469) Jordanes may refer only to Britons in Gaul
Ambrosius Aurelianus late 5th century probably in the south Leader [of the Britons] Gildas near contemporary
unnamed c. 545 unknown King over them [the Britons] Procopius[4] contemporary but distant
Maelgwn Gwynedd ?–549? Gwynedd King [who] reigned among the Britons Historia Brittonum retrospective
Selyf ap Cynan ?–c. 613 Powys King of the Britons (in c. 613) Annals of Ulster near contemporary
Ceredig ap Gwallog c. 614 – 617 Elmet King of the Britons (in 614) Bede may refer only to Britons in Elmet
Cadwallon ap Cadfan ?–634 Gwynedd (Cadwalla,) King of the Britons (in 633) Bede
Idris ?–635 unknown. perhaps Meirionydd King of the Britons (in 635) Annals of Ulster (sub anno 633)[5]
Owain ap Beli c. 642 Strathclyde King of the Britons (in 642) Annals of Ulster
Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon c. 654 – c. 664 Gwynedd [King who] reigned among the Britons Historia Britonum retrospective
Geraint ?670–c. 710 Dumnonia King of the Welsh (=Britons) (in 710) Anglo-Saxon Chronicle may refer only to Britons in Dumnonia
Rhodri Molwynog c. 712 – 754 Gwynedd King of the Britons (in 754) Annals of Wales perhaps retrospective
Cynan ap Rhodri 798–816 Gwynedd (insecurely from 754) King of the Britons (in 816); The King (in 816) Annals of Ulster; Annals of Wales
Merfyn Frych ap Gwriad 825–844 Gwynedd King of the Britons (in 829); Glorious King of the Britons Historia Britonum; Bamberg Cryptogram contemporary
Rhodri Mawr ap Merfyn 844–878 Gwynedd, from 855 also Powys, from 872 also Seisyllwg King of the Britons (in 878) Annals of Ulster
Anarawd ap Rhodri 878–916 Gwynedd King of the Britons (in 916) Annals of Wales
Idwal Foel ap Anarawd 916–942 Gwynedd King of the Britons (in 927) William of Malmesbury
Hywel Dda 942–950 Deheubarth (from 920), from 942 also Gwynedd and Powys King of the Britons (in 950) Annals of Ulster and Annals of Wales
Domnall mac Eogain 962–975 Strathclyde King of the Britons (in 973) Annals of Ulster
Maredudd ab Owain 986–999 Deheubarth and Gwynedd and Powys King of the Britons (in 999) Brut y Tywysogion
Llywelyn ap Seisyll 1018–1023 Gwynedd and Powys; from 1022 also Deheubarth King of the Britons (in 1023) Annals of Ulster
Iago ab Idwal 1023–1039 Gwynedd and Powys King of the Britons (in 1039) Annals of Ulster
Gruffudd ap Llywelyn 1039–1063 Gwynedd and Powys, from 1057 also the rest of Wales King of the Britons (in 1063; in 1058) Annals of Ulster; Brut y Tywysogion
Bleddyn ap Cynfyn 1063–1075 Gwynedd and Powys and Seisyllwg Support[er of] the whole Kingdom of the Britons (in 1075); Chiefest of the Britons Brut y Tywysogion (sub anno 1173; sub anno 1113)
Rhys ap Tewdwr 1079–1093 Deheubarth (insecurely until 1081) [Upholder of the] Kingdom of the Britons (in 1093) Brut y Tywysogion
Gruffudd ap Cynan 1136–1137 Gwynedd (insecurely from 1081) King of all the Welsh (in 1137) Brut y Tywysogion
Owain Gwynedd 1137–1170 Gwynedd Prince over the British nation (in 1146); King of Wales, King of the Welsh, Prince of the Welsh Brut y Tywysogion; contemporary charters[6]
Rhys ap Gruffydd 1171–1197 Deheubarth (from 1155) Head of all Wales (in 1197); Prince of the Welsh (in 1184), Prince of Wales Brut y Tywysogion; contemporary charters
Llywelyn Fawr 1208–1240 Gwynedd (from 1194), from 1208 also Powys, from 1216 also Deheubarth Prince of the Welsh (in 1228); Prince of Wales (in 1240) Brut y Tywysogion; contemporary charters probably retrospective;
Dafydd ap Llywelyn 1240–1246 Gwynedd Prince of Wales (from 1220) treaty with England
Llywelyn ap Gruffudd 1258–1282 Gwynedd (from 1246), at times also Powys and Deheubarth Prince of Wales (in 1264; in 1258; in 1267; 1258–82) Brut y Tywysogion; treaty with Scotland; treaty with England; letters, charters etc.
Dafydd ap Gruffudd 1282–1283 Gwynedd Prince of Wales (in 1283) letters[7]
Madog ap Llywelyn 1294–1295 Gwynedd Prince of Wales (in 1294) Penmachno Document
Interregnum (English rule)
Owain Glyndŵr 1400 – c. 1410 Northern Powys, by 1404–5 all Wales, by 1409 only Gwynedd Prince of Wales (from 1400) contemporary records e.g. coronation ceremony (1404)

References[edit]

  1. ^ C. A. Snyder (2003). The Britons. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-22260-X. 
  2. ^ Stuart Laycock (2008). Britannia: The Failed State. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-4614-2. 
  3. ^ a b Kari Maund (2000). The Welsh Kings: The Medieval Rulers of Wales. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-2321-5. 
  4. ^ Procopius (2000). History of the Wars (book 8, chapter 20, verses 6–10). Translated by H. B. Dewing. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-99191-5. 
  5. ^ Annals of Ulster, 633.1 "Bellum Iudris regis Britonum"
  6. ^ Carpenter, David (2003). The struggle for mastery: Britain 1066–1284. 
  7. ^ Pierce, Thomas Jones. "Dafydd (David) ap Grufydd". Welsh Biography Online. The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 

See also[edit]