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Legendary History Prior to 1st Century BC
Beli Mawr and Llyr Llediath in Welsh Pedigrees
The Bartrum "Welsh Genealogies"
Bartrum's "Pedigrees of the Welsh Tribal Patriarchs"
A study in charting medieval citations
The Evolution of the "Padriarc Brenin" Pedigree
Generational Gaps and the Welsh Laws
Minimum Age for Welsh Kingship in the Eleventh Century
The Lands of the Silures
Catel Durnluc aka Cadell Ddyrnllwg
Ancient Powys
The Royal Family of Powys
The Royal Family of Gwynedd
The 5 Plebian Tribes of Wales
Maxen Wledig of Welsh Legend
Maxen Wledig and the Welsh Genealogies
Anwn Dynod ap Maxen Wledig
Constans I and his 343 Visit to Britain
Glast and the Glastening
Composite Lives of St Beuno
Rethinking the Gwent Pedigrees
The Father of Tewdrig of Gwent
Another Look at Teithfallt of Gwent
Ynyr Gwent and Caradog Freich Fras
Llowarch ap Bran, Lord of Menai
Rulers of Brycheiniog - The Unanswered Questions
Lluan ferch Brychan
The Herbert Family Pedigree
Edwin of Tegeingl and his Family
Angharad, Heiress of Mostyn
Ithel of Bryn in Powys
Idnerth Benfras of Maesbrook
Henry, the Forgotten Son of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn
The Muddled Pedigree of Sir John Wynn of Gwydir
The Mysterious Peverel Family
The Clan of Tudor Trevor
The Other "Sir Roger of Powys"
Ancestry of Ieuaf ap Adda ap Awr of Trevor
The Retaking of Northeast Wales
Hedd Molwynog or Hedd ap Alunog of Llanfair Talhearn
"Meuter Fawr" son of Hedd ap Alunog
The Medieval "redating" of Braint Hir
Aaron Paen ap Y Paen Hen
Welsh Claims to Ceri after 1179
The Battle of Mynydd Carn
Trahaearn ap Caradog of Arwystli
Cadafael Ynfyd of Cydewain
Maredudd ap Robert, Lord of Cedewain
Cadwgan of Nannau
Maredudd ap Owain, King of Deheubarth
What Really Happened in Deheubarth in 1022?
Two Families headed by a Rhydderch ap Iestyn
The Era of Llewelyn ap Seisyll
Cynfyn ap Gwerystan, the Interim King
The Consorts and Children of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn
The 1039 Battle at Rhyd y Groes
The First Wife of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn
Hywel ap Gronwy of Deheubarth
The Brief Life of Gruffudd ap Maredudd
The Other Gwenwynwyn
Eunydd son of Gwenllian
Sandde Hardd of Mortyn
The Floruit of Einion ap Seisyllt
The Enigmatic Elystan Glodrydd
Cowryd ap Cadfan of Dyffryn Clwyd
Owain ap Cadwgan and Nest ferch Rhys - An Historic Fiction?
The "sons" of Owain ap Cadwgan ap Bleddyn
The Betrayal by Meirion Goch Revisited
Gwyn Ddistain, seneschal for Llewelyn Fawr
The Men of Lleyn - How They Got There
Trahaearn Goch of Lleyn
Einion vs Iestyn ap Gwrgan - The Conquest of Glamorgan
Dafydd Goch ap Dafydd - His Real Ancestry
Thomas ap Rhodri - Father of Owain "Lawgoch"
The "Malpas" Family in Cheshire
Einion ap Celynin of Llwydiarth
Marchweithian, Lord of Is Aled, Rhufoniog
Osbwrn Wyddel of Cors Gedol
Bradwen of Llys Bradwen in Meirionydd
Ednowain ap Bradwen
Sorting out the Gwaithfoeds
Three Men called Iorwerth Goch "ap Maredudd"
The Caradog of Gwynedd With 3 Fathers
Who Was Sir Robert Pounderling?
Eidio Wyllt - What Was His Birthname?
The Legendary Kingdom of Seisyllwg
The Royal Family of Ceredigion
Llewelyn ap Hoedliw, Lord of Is Cerdin
The Ancestry of Owain Glyndwr
Welsh Ancestry of the Tudor Dynasty
Gruffudd ap Rhys, the Homeless Prince
The Children of Lord Rhys
Maredudd Gethin ap Lord Rhys
The 'Next Heir' of Morgan of Caerleon
Pedigree of the ancient Lords of Ial
The Shropshire Walcot Family
Pedigree of "Ednowain Bendew II"
Pedigree of Cynddelw Gam

NOTE:  If you have accessed this page via web search, it is an incomplete draft of research still in progress and is subject to much revision.  It cannot be accessed from our website, but web search engines are unable to distinguish between "published" pages and those "off-site" notes stored by the site author for possible future use.
                             THE ELECTION OF CYMRY OVERKINGS
                                           By Darrell Wolcott
 
       It is believed that from the earliest times Celtic kings were elected by the leading men or elders of the tribe,[1] and that while this often simply promoted the prior king's eldest son to the crown, that was not a foregone conclusion.  It is reasonable to think a similar process was used to chose an "overking" in the era after Rome withdrew from the Isle of Britain and its citizens had to "look to its own resources" for defense against outside invaders.[2]
 
       After more than three centuries of Roman rule, a large element of its population had become accustomed to a central authority. Yet virtually none of that group, primarily city-dwellers, had any training or experience in self-defence much less in waging war.  They elected a series of former Roman soldiers to lead them, but soon found those men had little interest in governing Britain...they wanted to go to Gaul and battle for the right to be the Roman Emperor.  When the last of those was slain by the Romans as a usurper in 411, these citizens were forced to turn to the "barbarians" of the island...the mountainous tribes of north and west Britian who had never become "citified".  Their lifestyle had changed little during the Roman occupation of the island; prevented from waging actual wars, they had maintained their skill with weapons by hunting in their thick forests while their city cousins in the flatlands were luxurating in their steam baths.
 
        In the year 411, the leaders of those tribes were summoned to a meeting and asked to help choose a man who could assemble an army capable of defending the island from outside invasions.  We suspect the city folks were mainly looking for able-bodied soldiers and unwilling to turn over governmental rule to any of these "wild men".  Instead, they installed as their "overall king" a son of Magnus Maximus...the Maxen Wledig who had been slain in 388.  Blessed Custinnen, as he is known, was probably a man in his mid-30's whose pacificist nature made him a poor military leader.  Whether or not he had trained for the clergy as Geoffrey of Monmouth described him[3], he proved ineffective in defending Britain from outside invasions.  The Picts in the north remained a viable threat and the Irish invaded and settled in north Wales.  We doubt the claim that Vortigern arranged his death[4], but in 425 the civitas of Britain needed a new king.
 
         A new convocation was held and this time one of the "less civilized" element was elected king.  Hailing from the area around Gloucester, Vortigern was probably considered only "part barbarian" and not a complete atavistic Celtic warrior.  And he was a son-in-law of Custennin, having taken to wife his daughter Seferys[3] . This was likely meant as an interim appointment until the young son of Custinnen attained the required age for Celtic kingship.  Once crowned, Vortigern began by choosing sub-rulers for various distant parts of Britain....men called Gwledig or "rural lords".  He sent one to northeast Wales[4] to reclaim that land from Irish squatters, and later another to northwest Wales[5] for the same purpose.  Yet another was given overall command of the effort to expel the Picts from between the great Roman walls in the north[6].  His leadership made the cities of mid-Britain safer from outside attacks, but not everyone was pleased.  Ambrosius ap Blessed Custinnen (also called Emrys Wledig) had heartily joined the military efforts as a young man, but when he attained kingship age and asked Vortigern to step aside he was rebuffed.  No doubt Vortigern thought it was a poor time to change leadership; the defensive measures he'd put in place were working but the job of totally expelling the Irish and Picts would require more time.  And perhaps the power had gone to his head much like politicians of today and he wasn't about to resign. 
 
        So in 437 at about age 28, Ambrosius launched a military strike against Vortigern.  While it did not result in a victory for Ambrosius, it did remind the people of Britain that there was a man with better credentials (read proper breeding) to be the king.  As the fervor of the people grew from the first inklings of hopefulness, to unrest, to outright opposition to Vortigern's decision to stay in office, he employed a new tactic to prop up his regime.  He invited merceniaries from Gaul into England, not so much to aid in the battle against the Picts, but to help him suppress a growing rebellion by his own subjects.  Ninnius dates the arrival of the first Saxon contingent to the year 428, while the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles says Hengest and Horsa first came to Britain in 449.  Vortigern would have been nearly 60 by then; we suspect it was nearer 440.  Quickly realizing Vortigern was an old man who had lost most of his popular support, the Saxon brothers told their friends in Gaul that all Britain was ripe for the taking and thousands began streaming to the island.  The tale told by Ninnius that Vortigern lusted after the daughter of Hergest, married her and gave her father all of Kent for this privilege is chronologically suspect. We suggest it was a son of Vortigern who married the Saxon girl, following a standard practice of cementing an alliance between allies.
 
          By the time old age finally overtook Vortigern, fears of the Picts and Irish had been replaced by the rampagaging Saxons who were burning cities and stamping out all vestiges of the Roman civilization.  A new convocation of the leading men quickly elected Ambrosius the new king and he was supported militarily by the mountain tribes by his agreement to return to atavistic Celtic traditions and abandon the Roman citified lifestyle.  The "wild" tribes from the mountains were permitted self-rule and so agreed to a unified defense under Ambrosius as the new Vortigern or overking.  But the die had been cast; the Saxons were in Britain to stay.  However, the Celtic forces were able to contain them to the eastern and southern areas of the island for a long time and Ambrosius proved to be an able commander.
 
       When he died in the 470's, it appears the leading men chose the king of Gwynedd[7] as their new overking.  In the Celtic tradition, we should expect a family connection with the former king.  If Ambrosius had a son, he would have been the logical successor and we assume he did not.  Perhaps he had a daughter and the convocation selected her son as the logical successor as overking[8].  In any event, the wars against the Saxons raged on during most of that man's life; in the words of Gildas "from then on, victory went now to our countrymen, now to their enemies.  This lasted right up till the year of the seige of Badon Hill".  In our scenerio, the Battle of Badon occurred about the year 505 when the overking was a man near 60 and perhaps 5 years from death or retirement.  The fight was led by a man called Arthur, a skilled warrior and tactician about age 30. That man remains an enigma today; many theories have been advanced to both identify him and to guess where he called home.  Some say he was native to Gwent, others place him in the far north of Britain and still others say Brittany. The legends which have grown up around the man call him King Arthur but never get specific about what traditional Celtic kingdom he ruled, leaving him as perhaps the overking of Britain but without local ties anywhere but the mythical Camelot.
 
         It is far from our purpose here to suggest the identity of Arthur, nor to even mention him except in the overall discussion of how the Celtics went about selecting an overking in the century following Rome's withdrawal from Britain.  We spoke earlier of a meeting of leading men called whenever it was necessary to chose a new king.  It is the nature of those meetings we seek to understand.
 
         Our first suggestion is that these "convocations" involved more than simply getting a handful of tribal elders around the table for a couple hours of nominations and voting.  We see some evidence the event lasted several days and that the "voting electors" brought members of their families with them.  While early mentions are scarce, we find no fewer than 10 cited marriages occurred near the year 510, between men and ladies of families who lived in widely different parts of Britain.  Was the "convocation" which supposedly elected Arthur overking held in 510 and used as an occasion for the leading men to meet young men and women of similiar breeding whom they might match with their own sons and daughters? One looks at this list of c. 510 marriages and wonders why so many traveled to distant lands, and why then, to seek a spouse:
 
        1.  Gwrgant Barbtruch ap Cadwaladr of Meirionydd married Marchell ferch Brychan II of Brycheiniog
        2.  Cynfarch Oer ap Meirchion Gul of far north Britain married Nefyn ferch Brychan II of Brychieniog
        3.  Elidyr Lydanwyn ap Meirchion Gul of far north Britain married Gwawr ferch Brychan II of Brychieniog
        4.  Cyngen ap Cynwar of Powys married Tudglid ap Brychan II of Brychieniog
        5.  Sandde ap Cedig of Ceredigion married Non ferch Cynyr of Dyfed
        6.  Selyf ap Gerient of Gwent married Gwen ap Cynyr of Dyfed
        7.  Dyngad ap Nudd Hael of Gwent married Thenoi ferch Llawdden Llyddog of Edinburg
        8.  Bugi ap Gwynlliw of Powys married Perfferen ferch Llawdden Llyddog of Edinburg
        9.  Gwynlliw ap Glywys of Glywysing married Gwladus ferch Brychan II of Brycheiniog
       10.  Fracas ap Selyf of Gwent married Gwen Tierbron ferch Budic of Brittany
 
         If we posit that the father of each of these spouses took their eligible sons and daughters with them to the convocation called to choose a new overking, we no longer have to imagine separate spouse-hunting trips for each of the men nor be surprised to find the weddings all took place near the same year.  And weddings between dynasties had the salutary effect of refreshing the stock following several years of marriages between "cousins" of the same tribe, the latter being the norm due to the difficulty of travel through mountainous regions.  Obviously, many other marriages were arranged as either an alliance with a neighboring kingdom or to signal an end to hostilities.  (Few if any resulted from romances initiated by the couple themselves, but were arranged by the lady's father.)