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Genealogy Places of Interest

THE WELSH KING ARTHUR

There would appear to be a very sound argument in assuming that Arthur was of Welsh descent. This seems to be the conclusion of Blackett and Wilson, who, by 1983, had spent eight years and a considerable amount of money in investigating Arthur. With this and other reading the following list is suggested.

  1. Two Arthurs existed in the dark ages. The first died about 388 AD, which would normally discount him, but because nothing was written down until much later from tales handed down by mouth, it is distinctly possible that the stories were mixed. The second Arthur lived from about 465 to 535 AD, which is the right time scale for the majority of Arthurian stories. Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of Britain could well have confused the two in his mass of information and told of only one.
  2. Legends of Arthur established in Cornwall were probably associated with the misidentification of the area Cerniw and the fort of Gelly Wig, the main military camp where Arthur gathered his armies. Writers took Cerniw to mean Cornwall, so much so that as early as 1530 Leland guessed Cadbury Hill as Camelot and placed the battle of Camlan in Cornwall, with Arthur buried at Glastonbury. Cerniw can still be found on Ordinance Survey maps in south-east Wales on the border of Gwent and Glamorgan and took its name from St. Ceinwr, the great grandson of King Caradoc. Cerniw was later ruled by a minor king Glywys ap Tegid (450 AD and in the family tree) and it became Glywysswg, whose son Gwynlliw changed it to Gwynlliwg, subsequently corrupted to Wentlooge.
  3. In 1610 a Bishop Godwin discovered a stone coffin under Mathern Church near Chepstow containing the bones of Tewdrig. Mathern was derived from Merthyr Teyryn meaning 'martyr king'. Blackett and Wilson claim that King Tewdrig was Arthur's grandfather, who bore the title 'Uther Pendragon' meaning 'Wonderful Commander', a title later given to his son Meurig then his son Arthur. They also claim that Meurig (Maurice) is buried in Llandaff Cathedral, near Cardiff. St. Dyfrig, who is supposed to have crowned Arthur at Caerleon in 518 AD, is also buried here.
  4. Arthwyr (Arthur) is shown as the 37th king of Glamorgan and Gwent who later became 'high king' of Britain. Son of King Meurig and Queen Onbrawst he had brothers Idnerth and Frioc, an uncle St Dyfrig (Dubricious) and cousins St. Illtud and St. Cattwg, familiar names in south Wales, leading to St. Cadoc. In turn, he was the father of Ithael, Gwaednerth, Nowi and Morcant (Morgan). The latter son subsequently ruled the kingdom of Morgannwg comprising Gwent and Glamorgan and was known as Morcant Mwynvawr (Morgan the Courteous). This latter must have derived from Celtic or Latin as there was no 'v' in Welsh, which started forming only during the Roman era.
  5. It would seem that Arthur was a popular name in the Glamorgan region of that time with forms such as Arthwyr, Arthmael, Artorius and Antorius appearing on many stone carvings, with other relatives names endorsed. An example of this is a stone-engraved PVMPEIVS CAR ANTORIVS meaning 'Pompey the kinsman of Arthur'. This stone is now in the Margam museum but once stood two miles south of Kenfig, just north of the castle ruins.
  6. Camlann is said to be the site of Arthur’s last battle, at last, a point agreed by all. Some place it as Camaglanna, situated close to Adrian’s Wall, yet others close to the River Cam in Somerset. There is an actual Camlan on the A458 road east of Dolgellau and as Camlan is a good description of the Ochr-yr-Bwlch pass in the Afon Cerist valley being crooked in shape.
    The favourite, however, must be that Camlan is a Welsh word with the meaning of ‘ferocious battle’. Surely this says it all.
  7. We come finally to Arthur's death. Again many locations have been given for the cave in which he was first buried, ranging through Northumberland, Cumberland, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Somerset and at least four different locations in Wales. A poem in The Mabinogion gives details of sites for the burials of many important chieftains and warriors, but firmly states: 'But unknown is the grave of Arthur.' Blackett and Wilson are convinced that from stories and manuscripts they have worked out where this took place, mainly from a manuscript by Nennius entitled History of the Britons written in 822 AD. He says:- 'St. Illtud was praying in a cave, the mouth of which is towards the sea and he beheld a ship sailed towards him from the sea and two men sailing in it. And the body of the holy man was with them in the ship and an alter above his face……….. And the man of God went forth to meet them…….. And they said to St. Illtud "This man of God entrusted to us, that we should conduct him to thee and that we shall bury him with thee and that thou shouldst not reveal his name to any man, so that men should not swear by him" And they buried him and after the burial these two men returned to the ship and set sail.' This is an account of a secret burial in Glamorgan at the same time that Arthur disappears, and where his first cousin St. Illtud is the undertaker.
    Wilson says, "In a land where important burials were a matter of common knowledge and recorded in song and poetry, a secret burial is an extraordinary event. As we know where Tewdric (grandfather), Meurig (father) and Morgan his son are buried, we are left with Arthur as buried somewhere unknown."
    The secret cave is in Coed y Mwstwr wood, the body concealed in a tomb hewn out of solid rock in an east to west direction in accordance with Christian practice. Further investigation disclosed that the body was later moved to a more fitting location, including two medieval accounts of the burial of 'Uther Pendragon' at Caer Caradoc in the centre of Glamorgan, where a ruined church stands on a hilltop. Here they discovered a shoulder or sword shaped stone which when cleaned bore the inscription REX ARTORIUS FILI MAURICIUS which means BRENHIN ARTHWYR AP MEURIG in Welsh and translates as 'King Arthur son of Maurice (Meurig)' in English. The style of lettering ties in with other stones of the 6th century.
  8. Two of Arthur's knights were Kai and Bedwr.
  9. In conclusion, reference must be made to Blackett and Wilson who published substantial volumes on their theories and claims. They even sold their houses to help finance the project, so convinced were they in their beliefs.
    Tribute must also be paid to Paul Hoyland, who wrote an extensive article on this subject in The Guardian, 23rd July 1983, and to Chris Barber, whose book More Mysterious Wales is both fascinating and informative.