[From the archives with a new title: a little bit of folklore for the first Friday in June.]
Cadwaladr the blessed is one of my favorite Old British folklore figures so I can’t leave 2007 behind without one long post on him. A paraphrase translation follows of some matrilinear notes on Cadwaladr in the Bonedd y Arwyr (pedigrees of the heroes) taken from PC Bartun, Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, Cardiff, U of Wales Press, 1966. I can’t read Old Welsh so this paraphrase is based off the little Welsh I can figure out in the pedigree and translations I’ve seen elsewhere for these names.
These are the mothers of Cadwaladr and most of his paternal ancestors. This list of mothers assumes that you know Cadwaladr’s paternal lineage (given further below).
The Mothers of Cadwaladr o Gogail
- Mother of Cadwaladr the blessed, daughter of Pybba, sister of Penda son of Pybba.
- Mother of Cadwallon son of Cadfan, Tandreg the black, daughter of Cynan Garwen [of Powys]
- Mother of Beli son of Rhun, Perwar daughter of Rhun of Great Wealh son of Einian son of Mar son of Keneu son of Coel [Hen]
- Mother of Rhun ap Maelgwn, Gwallwenn daughter of Avallach
- Mother of Maelgwn Gwynedd, Meddyf daughter of Faeldaf son of Dylan Draws of Nan Conway
- Mother of Meddyf, daughter of Tallwch son of March/Mark son of Meirchiawn, sister of Tristain [Drystann, Drustain]
- Mother Cadwallon Long Arm, Prawst daughter of Tithlyn Britain [Prydain]
“Catwaladyr vendigeit [ap Kadwallawn ap Catuan] m. Yago m. Beli m. Rhun m. Maelgwn m Catwallawn llawhir m. Einyawn yrth m. Cuneda weldic” (Bartrum, p. 56)
Cadwaladr the blessed [son of Cadwallon son of Cadfan] son of Iago son of Beli son of Rhun son of Maelgwn (Gwynedd) son of Cadwallon Long Arm son of Einian yrth son of Cunedda the Chieftain/ruler.
Cadwaladr became an immensely important ancestor to later kings of Gwynedd because they all traced their descent from him. The remainder of the First Dynasty of Gwynedd were his son and grandsons and the Second Dynasty of Gywnedd legitimated itself through a matrilinear linkage to Cadwaladr’s dynasty. As Cadwallon was universally said to be Cadwaladr’s father, thus the Cadwallon who was slain by King Oswald at Denisesburna close to Heavenfield was the ancestor of all later kings of North Wales.
I should point out that the patrilinear genealogy above probably has at least incorrect link. The ancestry of Iago ap Beli is given differently in different genealogical tracts. There seems to have been claims that Rhun ap Maelgwn was a bastard or died childless. Anyway, Iago ap Beli was related to Maelgwn but probably not his great grandson.
Getting back to this massive matrilinear genealogy… the whole point is to link Cadwaladr to as many Old British heroes and genealogical tales as possible. One of the oddest and most common tales of Cadwaladr is that his mother was the sister of Penda of Mercia. This is also found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. Notably, it is not improbable, even if it is too late to rely on. Heroes whom Cadwaladr is said to descend from include Cynan Garwen of Powys (such a marriage, again, is not improbable), a fabulously wealthy descedant of the northern Coel Hen (Ole King Coel was a merry ole soul…), King Mark and Tristain of Arthurian fame, and then some sovereignty type tales. Both Coel Hen and King Mark-Tristain link Cadwaladr to the stories of the Gwyr y Gogledd [Men of the North- British heroes whose land later became Northumbria].
These extended genealogies give us a peek into all of the folklore and oral ‘history’ that has been lost and some of the material that Geoffrey of Monmouth and other twelfth century authors drew upon.