King of the Britons

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The title King of the Britons (Welsh: Brenin y Brythoniaid, Latin: Rex Britannorum) was used (often retrospectively) to refer to the most powerful ruler among the Celtic Britons, both before[1] and after[2] the period of Roman Britain up until the Norman invasion of Wales and the Norman conquest of England. Britons were the Brittonic-speaking (ancestral language of Welsh) peoples of what is now Wales, England and southern Scotland. The Britons are the ethnic ancestors of the Welsh in addition to the Cornish and Bretons.[3]

During the Norman and Plantagenet periods, only Wales (or parts thereof) remained under Brittonic rule in Britain and the term "Britons" (Brythoniaid, Britaniaid, Brutaniaid) was used in Britain to mean the Welsh people (Cymry in modern Welsh). 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.[2]

List of the Kings of the Britons, Kings of Wales, Princes of Wales[edit]

Name Depiction Reign Regional power base Recorded title or description Source Notes
Kings prior to this period are generally regarded as fictional Legendary Kings of Britain

(Welsh: Caswallawn fab Beli)

Tasciovanus 20 BC – 9 AD

(Welsh: Cynfelyn)

Cymbeline Lithograph.jpg 9 – 40 lands of the Trinovantes and Catuvellauni King of the Britons Suetonius perhaps retrospective
Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus / Togodumnus 40–43 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

(Welsh: Caradog)

Caradog (5227657).jpg 43–50
(Roman rule from 50 to 383 AD)

(Welsh: Gwrtheyrn)

Vortigern-Dragons.jpg mid-5th century unknown, but traditionally Powys 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

(Welsh: Emrys Wledig)

History of the Kings (f.66) Emrys Wledig.jpg 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 History of the Kings (f.96.v) Maelgwn Gwynedd Detail.jpg ?–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
Ceretic of Elmet

(Welsh: Ceredig ap Gwallon)

c. 614 – 617 Elmet King of the Britons (in 614) Bede may refer only to Britons in Elmet
Cadwallon ap Cadfan History of the Kings (f.99.v) Cadwallon fab Cadfan.jpg ?–634 Gwynedd (Cadwalla,) King of the Britons (in 633) Bede
Idris ap Gwyddno ?–635 unknown. perhaps Meirionnydd King of the Britons (in 635) Annals of Ulster (sub anno 633)[5] perhaps Idris Gawr
Eugein I of Alt Clut c. 642 Strathclyde King of the Britons (in 642) Annals of Ulster
Cadwaladr History of the Kings (f.104.v) Cadwaladr Fendigaid.jpg c. 654 – c. 664 Gwynedd [King who] reigned among the Britons Historia Brittonum retrospective
Ifor 683–698 Llydaw (Brittanny) "Sovereignty of the Britons" Brut y Tywysogion[6]
Rhodri Molwynog c. 712 – 754 Gwynedd King of the Britons (in 754) Annales Cambriae perhaps retrospective
Cynan Dindaethwy 798–816 Gwynedd (insecurely from 754) King of the Britons (in 816); The King (in 816) Annals of Ulster; Annales Cambriae
Merfyn Frych 825–844 Gwynedd King of the Britons (in 829); Glorious King of the Britons Historia Brittonum; Bamberg Cryptogram contemporary
Rhodri the Great (Welsh: Rhodri Fawr)
Rhodri Mawr.png
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) Annales Cambriae
Idwal Foel ap Anarawd 916–942 Gwynedd King of the Britons (in 927) William of Malmesbury
Hywel Dda
Hywel Dda.jpg
942–950 Deheubarth (from 920), from 942 also Gwynedd and Powys King of the Britons (in 950) Annals of Ulster and Annales Cambriae
Dyfnwal ab Owain 930s–970s 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
Gruffydd 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
Prince of Wales (or King of Wales)
Gruffudd ap Cynan Gruffydd ap Cynan.jpg 1136–1137 Gwynedd (insecurely from 1081) King of all the Welsh (in 1137) Brut y Tywysogion
Owain Gwynedd Owain Gwynedd (PB02299).jpg 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[7]
Rhys ap Gruffydd Rice ap Gryffydd, Prince of Wales.jpg 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 the Great

(Welsh: Llywelyn Fawr)

Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr) 1176-1240 (5227658).jpg 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 Llywelyn the Great detail.jpg 1240–1246 Gwynedd Prince of Wales (from 1220) treaty with England
Llywelyn ap Gruffudd Llywelyn the Last at Cardiff City Hall.jpg 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 Gruffydd 1282–1283 Gwynedd Prince of Wales (in 1283) letters[8]
Interregnum (English rule)
Madog ap Llywelyn Cofeb memorial to Madoc Madog ap Llywelyn Eglwys Gresford Church Cymru Wales 12.jpg 1294–1295 Gwynedd Prince of Wales (in 1294) Penmachno Document
Owain Lawgoch
Mortagne siege.jpg
  • Prince of Wales (proclaimed before 1372)
Contemporary records[9]
Owain Glyndŵr All or nothing - Owain Glyndwr statue, Corwen - - 1862001.jpg 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)

Other uses[edit]

Geraint ?670–c. 710 Dumnonia King of the Welsh (=Britons) (in 710) Anglo-Saxon Chronicle May refer only to Britons in Dumnonia

(Not mentioned by Brut y Tywysogion, so possibly a King of the Welsh in Dumnonia only)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stuart Laycock (2008). Britannia: The Failed State. Tempus. ISBN 978-0-7524-4614-1.
  2. ^ a b Kari Maund (2000). The Welsh Kings: The Medieval Rulers of Wales. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-2321-5.
  3. ^ C. A. Snyder (2003). The Britons. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-22260-X.
  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. ^ "Archaeologia Cambrensis (1846–1899) | BRUT Y TYWYSOGION: GWENTIAN CHRONICLE 1863 | 1863 | Welsh Journals – The National Library of Wales". p. 5. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  7. ^ Carpenter, David (2003). The struggle for mastery: Britain 1066–1284. ISBN 9780140148244.
  8. ^ Pierce, Thomas Jones (1959). "Dafydd (David) ap Gruffydd". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  9. ^ GJ, Brough (2012). France and the Welsh (PDF).