List of legendary kings of Britain
The following list of legendary kings of Britain derives predominantly from Geoffrey of Monmouth's circa 1136 work Historia Regum Britanniae ("the History of the Kings of Britain"). Geoffrey constructed a largely fictional history for the Britons (ancestors of the Welsh, the Cornish and the Bretons), partly based on the work of earlier medieval historians like Gildas, Nennius and Bede, partly from Welsh genealogies and saints' lives, partly from sources now lost and unidentifiable, and partly from his own imagination (see bibliography). Several of his kings are based on genuine historical figures, but appear in unhistorical narratives. A number of Middle Welsh versions of Geoffrey's Historia exist. All post-date Geoffrey's text, but may give us some insight into any native traditions Geoffrey may have drawn on.
Geoffrey's narrative begins with the exiled Trojan prince Brutus, after whom Britain is supposedly named, a tradition previously recorded in less elaborate form in the 9th century Historia Brittonum. Brutus is a descendant of Aeneas, the legendary Trojan ancestor of the founders of Rome, and his story is evidently related to Roman foundation legends.
The kings before Brutus come from a document purporting to trace the travels of Noah and his offspring in Europe, and once attributed to the Chaldean historian Berossus, but now considered to have been a fabrication by the 15th-century Italian monk Annio da Viterbo, who first published it. Renaissance historians like John Bale and Raphael Holinshed took the list of kings of "Celtica" given by pseudo-Berossus and made them into kings of Britain as well as Gaul. John Milton records these traditions in his History of Britain, although he gives them little credence.
- 1 First kings derived from pseudo-Berossus
- 2 Des grantz geanz
- 3 Scota
- 4 Kings derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth
- 5 Iolo Morganwg's Welsh Kings
- 6 Tea Tephi
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Sources
- 10 Bibliography
First kings derived from pseudo-Berossus
Annius of Viterbo in the late 15th century claimed to have found fragments from Berossus detailing the earliest settlement of "Celtica" after the flood by Samothes, a son of Japheth, son of Noah. These he published in his Antiquitatum (1498). Samothes' realm was described as the part of Europe between the Pyrrenees and the Rhine. The first five kings of Celtica or Samothea from Viterbo's fragments were also named as the first kings of Britain after the flood by Raphael Holinshed in his Chronicles (1577), with the addition of Albion and Brutus, as follows:
- Samothes, also known as Dis: son of Japheth, son of Noah.
- Magus, son of Samothes
- Saron, son of Magus
- Druis, son of Saron (founder of the Druids)
- Bardus, son of Druis (founder of the bards)
- Albion, son of Neptune, a giant, who overthrows Bardus but is then slain by Hercules.
- A long gap of no king, until Brutus of Troy arrives in Britain.
Viterbo's fragments were later however revealed to be forgeries or fabrications, hence his work has become known as pseudo-Berossus. His list of kings, though, was considered to have a small substratum of truth, since several of the kings' names were already known in literature (e.g. Albion and Brutus) before the publication of Antiquitatum (1498) and many chroniclers accepted his Biblical king figures (e.g. Samothes, son of Japheth) as being rooted in some partial truth based on their preference for Mosaic history. Viterbo's king list later appeared in John Bale's Illustrium majoris Britanniae scriptorum (1548), John Caius' Historia Cantabrigiensis Academiae (1574), William Harrison's Description of England (pp. 3–5, 1577), Holinshed's Chronicles (vol. 2, p. 2, 1587) and Anthony Munday's A briefe chronicle (p. 467, 1611). By the 17th century however Viterbo's king list was no longer popular amongst chroniclers, antiquarians or historians. John Speed, William Camden and Walter Raleigh (The Historie of the World, pp. 112–15, 1614) were among those that rejected Viterbo's king list. John Milton in his The History of Britain (p. 3, 1670) briefly refers to Viterbo's king Samothes, but concludes him to be from a counterfeit or untrustworthy source. A more detailed description and chronology of Viterbo's (pseudo-Berossus') kings can be found just below.
Early historians on the history of Britain who took the Mosaic or Biblical view of history all agreed that Britain was never inhabited before the flood. Holinshed's Chronicles (vol. 2, p. 1, 1587) for example notes that Britain was never occupied before the deluge and cites Polydore Vergil, amongst other notable authorities. Viterbo was no exception in claiming that Samothes was the first post-flood settler and first king of Celtica. According to Viterbo, Samothes arrived in Celtica 143 years after the flood, while 200 years is found cited in Milton's The History of Britain (p. 3, 1670). Other early chroniclers refer to 310 years, as reported by George William Lemon who compiled many of these sources. Aylett Sammes according to Lemon in his Britannia Antiqua Illustrata (1676) dated the arrival of Samothes in Britain to 2068 BC. Viterbo, John Bale and William Harrison all agreed that the "Samothean dynasty ruled for 335 years". In his Illustrium majoris Britanniae scriptorum (1548) Bale wrote that the reign of the Samotheans (including all kings before Albion) ended in 1736 BC, so adding 335 years = 2071 BC for Samothes arriving in Britain and the start of the Samothean dynasty. Bales' figure (2071 BC) is very close to Sammes' (2068 BC) and Anthony Munday in his A briefe chronicle (pp. 467–469, 1611) calculated a similar figure (2075 BC).
Viterbo first claimed that Samothes was a son of Japheth, the son of Noah. Later chroniclers (such as Raphael Holinshed) identified Samothes as Meshech, a descendant of Japheth (Genesis 10: 2). Viterbo, John Bale and Raphael Holinshed all wrote that Samothes gave his name first to Britain as Samothea, the first inhabitants were therefore the Samotheans. Some Renaissance legends later attempted to link the Samotheans to having their origin in Samothrace.
Magus, Saron, Druis and Bardus
Magus, Saron, Druis and Bardus were all according to Viterbo founders or pioneers, for example Druis of the Druids and Bardus of the Bards. Magus is connected in variant sources to the Magi. John Bale attempted to connect him to placenames in Britain with the suffix magus (e.g. Noviomagus Reginorum).
Aylett Sammes claimed Saron was the founder of a cult of priests called the Saronites.
Albion is not mentioned in Viterbo's Antiquitatum (1498), but in other sources he is stated to have been a descendant of Neptune. He is described as being a giant who invaded the Samothean dynasty, who overthrows the Samothean king Bardus, but he and his brother Bergion (who rules in Ireland and Orkney) are defeated and slain by Hercules in the Rhone Valley. John Bale dated Albion's overthrow of Bardus to 1736 BC. The legend of Albion the giant appears in far earlier literature, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth (1136), and is the oldest recorded known name of the island of Great Britain. There is also some borrowing from the far older Greek myth of Alebion, who was also called Albion.
Additional kings of Celtica in Pseudo-Berossus
Annio's list of kings of Celtica in Pseudo-Berossus continues with an altogether different line following Bardus I. This separate line of kings allegedly continued to rule the Celtic peoples on the continent, if not in Britain. The complete list in Annio is as follows:
- Samothes or Dis (son of Japheth, son of Noah)
- Bardus Junior
- Galates II
Des grantz geanz
Des grantz geanz ("Of the Great Giants") a 14th-century AD Anglo-Norman poem contains a variant story regarding the oldest recorded name Albion for Britain and also contains a slightly different legendary king list. The poem states that a colony of exiled Greek royals led by a Queen called Albina first founded Britain but before their settlement "no one dwelt there". Albina subsequently gave her name first to Britain, which was later renamed Britain after Brutus. The poem also attempts by euhemerism to rationalize the legends of giants, Albina is described thus as being "very tall", but is presented as being a human queen, a descendant of a Greek king, not a mythological creature.
Scota, in Scottish mythology, and pseudohistory, is the name given to the mythological daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh to whom the Gaels and Scots traced their ancestry. Scota first appeared in literature from the 11th or 12th century and most modern scholars interpret the legends surrounding her to have emerged to rival Geoffrey of Monmouth's claims that the descendants of Brutus (through Albanactus) founded Scotland. However some early Irish sources also refer to the Scota legends and not all scholars regard the legends as fabrications or as political constructions. In the Scottish origin myths, Albanactus had little place and Scottish chroniclers (e.g. John of Fordun and Walter Bower) claimed that Scota was the eponymous founder of Scotland and the Scots long before Albanactus, during the time of Moses.
Kings derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey synchronises some of his kings with figures and events from the Bible, Greek, Roman and Irish legends, and recorded history. These are given in the "Synchronisation" column of the table below. Geoffrey dated Brutus' arrival in Britain (and subsequent founding of the Trojan-British monarchy) to 1115 BC.
After the death of Cadwallader, the kings of the Brythons were reduced to such a small domain that they ceased to be kings of the whole Brythonic-speaking area. Two of his relatives, Yvor and Yni, led the exiles back from Brittany, but were unable to re-establish a united kingship. The Anglo-Saxon invaders ruled the south-eastern part of the island of Great Britain, which would become England, after that point in time under the Bretwaldas and later the kings of England. The heirs to the Celtic-British throne continued through the Welsh kings of Gwynedd until that line was forced to submit itself to the Plantagenets in the 13th century. Princes and lords of Gwynedd ruled until the reign of Dafydd III, who ruled from 1282 to 1283. His death marked the end of the house of Brutus. Owen Tudor, grandfather of Henry VII of England, was a maternal descendant of the kings of Gwynedd; Henry's marriage with Elizabeth of York thus signified the merging of the two royal houses (as well as the feuding houses of York and Lancaster).
Iolo Morganwg's Welsh Kings
Iolo Morganwg between 1801 and 1807 published a series of Welsh Triads he claimed to have discovered in manuscript form, with the help of the antiquarian William Owen Pughe. These were later revealed to be a mixture of forgeries by Morganwg and Williams' alterations to authentic traids. Exactly how much "authentic" content there is of Morganwg's published work remains disputed by scholars today. Morganwg's traids describe the earliest occupation of Britain (Prydain) and contain a pseudo-historical reign of kings, beginning with Hu Gadarn, the "Plough King".
Hu Gadarn is described by Morganwg in his triads as being the earliest inhabitant of Britain having traveled from the "Summerland, called Deffrobani, where Constantinople now stands" in 1788 BC. He is credited as having founded the first civilization in Britain and introduced agriculture. Morganwg's Barddas (1862, p. 348) further states that king is descended from Hu, but that after a huge flood (see Afanc) only two people, Dwyfan and Dwyfach, survived from whom the later inhabitants of Britain descended. The Welsh clergmen Edward Davies included this myth in his Celtic Researches on the Origin, Traditions and Languages of the Ancient Britons (1804):
Several 19th-century Christian authors, for example Henry Hoyle Howorth, interpreted this myth to be evidence for the Biblical flood of Noah, yet in Morganwg's chronology Dwyfan and Dwyfach are dated to the 18th or 17th century BC, which does not fit the Biblical estimate for the Noachian deluge.
Tea Tephi is a legendary princess found described in British Israelite literature from the 19th century. Revd F. R. A. Glover, M.A., of London in 1861 published England, the Remnant of Judah, and the Israel of Ephraim in which he claimed Tea Tephi was one of Zedekiah's daughters. Since King Zedekiah of Judah had all his sons killed during the Babylonian Captivity no male successors could continue the throne of King David, but as Glover noted Zedekiah had daughters who escaped death (Jeremiah 43: 6). Glover believed that Tea Tephi was a surviving Judahite princess who had escaped and traveled to Ireland, and who married a local High King of Ireland in the 6th century BC who subsequently became blood linked to the British Monarchy. This theory was later expanded upon by Rev. A.B. Grimaldi who published in 1877 a successful chart entitled Pedigree of Queen Victoria from the Bible Kings and later by W.M.H. Milner in his booklet The Royal House of Britain an Enduring Dynasty' (1902, revised 1909). Charles Fox Parham also authored an article tracing Queen Victoria's linage back to King David (through Tea Tephi) entitled Queen Victoria: Heir to King David's Royal Throne.
The Tea Tephi British-monarchy link is also found in J. H. Allen's Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright (1902, p. 251). A central tenet of British Israelism is that the British monarchy is from the Davidic line and the legend of Tea Tephi from the 19th century attempted to legitimise this claim. Tea Tephi however has never been traced to an extant Irish source before the 19th century and critics assert she was purely a British Israelite invention. A collection of alleged bardic traditions and Irish manuscripts which detail Tea Tephi were published by J. A. Goodchild in 1897 as The Book of Tephi, the work is however considered pseudo-historical or a forgery. There is though a queen called Tea (singular) in Irish mythology who appears in the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland. She is described as the wife of Érimón a Míl Espáine (Milesian) and dated to 1700 BC (Geoffrey Keating: 1287 BC). These dates are inconsistent with the British Israelite literature which date Tea Tephi to the 6th century BC, but later British Israelites such as Herman Hoeh (Compendium of World History, 1970) claimed that the Milesian Royal House (including Tea) was from an earlier blood descendant of the Davidic Line who entered Britain around 1000 BC (citing Ruaidhrí Ó Flaithbheartaigh's reduced chronology). Linked to Glover's original claims of Tea Tephi, are Grimaldi and Milner's theory that Jeremiah himself in the company of his scribe Baruch ben Neriah traveled to Ireland with Tea Tephi and that they are found described in Irish folklore and old Irish manuscripts. Some British Israelites identify Baruch ben Neriah with a figure called Simon Berac or Berak in Irish myth, while Jeremiah with Ollom Fotla (or Ollam, Ollamh Fodhla). However like Tea Tephi there has long been controversy about these identifications, mainly because of conflicting or inconsistent dates. In 2001, the British-Israel-World Federation wrote an article claiming they no longer subscribed to these two identifications, but still strongly stick to the belief that the British monarchy is of Judahite origin. In an earlier publication Covenant Publishing Co. in 1982 admitted that Tea Tephi could not be traced in Irish literature or myth and may have been fabricated by Revd F. R. A. Glover, however they clarified they still believed in the Milesian Royal House Davidic Line bloodline connection (popularised by Hoeh). Herbert Armstrong (1986) also took up this legendary connection. Nonetheless there are still proponents of the Tea-Tephi legend first tracable to Glover.
- These fragments are translated in Asher, R.E., National Myths in Renaissance France; Francus, Samothes and the Druids, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1993, pp. 196-227.
- Fake?: the art of deception, Mark Jones, British Museum, University of California Press, 1990, p. 64.
- Charles Lethbridge Kingsford for example in his Chronicles of London (1905) disgarded most of Viterbo's list, but included Albion and Brutus as historically factual since they appeared in earlier sources such as Geoffrey of Monmouth (Tudor historical thought, F. J. Levy, Fred Jacob Levy, University of Toronto Press, 2004, p. 189).
- British identities before nationalism: ethnicity and nationhood in the Atlantic world, 1600-1800, Colin Kidd, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 28.
- Berosus and the Protestants: Reconstructing Protestant Myth, Glyn Parry Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 1/2 (2001), pp. 1-21.
- The Description of England: Classic Contemporary Account of Tudor Social Life, William Harrison, Dover Publications Inc.; New edition (1 Feb 1995), p. 163.
- See T. D. Kendrick in his British Antiquity, pp.69-76 (1950) for a list of chroniclers who supported Viterbo's king list.
- Parry, 2001, pp. 10-15.
- English etymology, George William Lemon, 1783, preface, p. xvii.
- Harrison, 1994, p. 163.
- The curse of Ham in the early modern era, David Mark Whitford, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2009, p. 75.
- Introduction and notes to Milton's History of Britain, Constance Nicholas, University of Illinois Press, 1957, p. 20.
- Asher, R.E., National Myths in Renaissance France; Francus, Samothes and the Druids, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1993
- The Comprehensive History of England, Charles MacFarlane, Thomas Napier Thomson, 1876: "...founder of schools and colleges ; Druis, the originator of the order of Druids ; and Bardus, the father of the Bards".
- The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, Vol. 3, John Macculloch, 1824, p. 250
- Harrison, 1994, p. 205.
- English etymology, George William Lemon, 1783, preface, p. xvii.
- History of the Kings of Britain
- For a modern edition see Des Grantz Geanz: An Anglo-Norman Poem, edited by Georgine E. Brereton (Oxford, 1937), a translation can also be found in Myths and Legends of the British Isles, Richard Barber. Boydell, 1999, p. 3-8.
- Arthurian Literature XIII, Volume 13, James P. Carley, Felicity Riddy, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1995, pp. 45-60.
- Barber, 1999, p. 5.
- Carley, 1995, pp. 50 ff.
- Restoration Scotland, 1660-1690: royalist politics, religion and ideas, Clare Jackson, Boydell Press, 2003, pp.46-47.
- W. Matthews, "The Egyptians in Scotland: the Political History of a Myth", Viator 1 (1970), pp.289-306.
- Myth and Identity in Early Medieval Scotland, EJ Cowan, Scottish Historical Review lxiii, No. 176 (Oct. 1984) pp.111-35.
- Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, Penguin Classics, "Time Chart", p. 286.
- Iolo manuscripts, Iolo Morganwg, Owen Jones, Society for the Publication of Ancient Welsh Manuscripts, Abergavenny, W. Rees; Longman and co., London, 1848.
- The traditionary annals of the Cymry, John Williams, R. Mason, 1867, p. 27.
- The mammoth and the flood: an attempt to confront the theory of uniformity with the facts of recent geology, Sir Henry Hoyle Howorth, S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1887.
- The flood of Noah is placed in the 3rd millennium BC, not the 2nd millennium BC, by the Masoretic and Septuagint.
- Encyclopedia of American religions, J. Gordon Melton, Gale, 2003, pp.124-140.
- Reprinted in Truth in History, Tract #54, 2003.
- "Ireland", Britannica (11th ed.); O' Curry, Manners and Customs, II, 3.
- Several other genealogical links are claimed by British Israelites to connect the bloodline of King David to the British monarchy, one identifies Dara (or Darda) the son of Zerah of Judah as Dardanus, an early ancestor of the Trojans in Greek mythology.
- "Tea-Tephi or Scota", The Message, Issue 5 (London: Covenant Publishing Co., c. 1982).
- Herbert Armstrong, The United States and Britain in Propecy, 9th ed. Worldwide Church of God, 1986, pp.98-102
- In Jacob’s Pillar, Stone of Destiny E. Raymond Capt notes that old Irish manuscripts refer to an 'eastern king's daughter' (e.g. in Capt's view Tea Tephi of Zedekiah). Such manuscripts or sources which mention this are The chronicles of Eri.
- Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae (1136) - online at Wikisource
- Pseudo-Berossus, The Travels of Noah into Europe - online at Annomundi.com
- Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles: "The History of England" Vol 1 - online at Project Gutenberg
- John Milton, "The History of Britain", Prose Works Vol 2 - online at The Online Library of Liberty
- Charles W. Dunn, in a revised translation of Sebastian Evans, History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth. E.P. Dutton: New York. 1958. ISBN 0-525-47014-X
- John Morris. The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650. Barnes & Noble Books: New York. 1996 (originally 1973). ISBN 0-7607-0243-8
- John Jay Parry and Robert Caldwell. Geoffrey of Monmouth in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1
- Brynley F. Roberts, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Welsh Historical Tradition, Nottingham Medieval Studies, 20 (1976), 29-40.
- J.S.P. Tatlock. The Legendary History of Britain: Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and its early vernacular versions. University of California Press. Berkeley. 1950.