Genealogies in Camelot Myths

A Hero from the Dark Ages

The subjugation of the Celtic Britains (Brythonic race) by the Roman Empire was resisted at first, most notably by Boadicea, Warrior Queen of Iceni, but eventually led to a Golden Age in the history of England. (The comfort of the well-to-do Briton in this period, writes Winston Churchill, was unmatched until the late 19th century, as measured by amenities like hot baths.) The Celtic Britons and British Romans became entwined by kinship and formed a military alliance against Irish Scots to the West, Picts to the North, Saxons to the East, and other Roman military elements to the South.

This era culminated in a great victory in 400 A.D. by the Roman general Stilicho in defense of Hadrian's Wall. Immediately afterward, however, Rome itself came under attack from Visigoths and other invaders, and the Empire could no longer afford to maintain an army in distant Britain.

Without their Imperial defenders, this proud people, who now combined their ancient Druidic and military traditions with the civilizing and Christianizing influences of the Roman Empire, resisted for centuries a continual invasion by Saxons and other Germanic tribes. Although other pre-Roman languages have disappeared with little or no trace, the Brythonic language survived, and is still spoken today in Wales and Brittany.

The war between Britons and Anglo-Saxons was at its peak in the sixth century and although the Britons eventually lost (England speaks English today, not Welsh), the horse-riding Brythonic warriors became a major source for the great traditions of chivalry. Among these brave knights, no name shines brighter than Arthur of Camelot. Here are some of Sir Winston Churchill's thoughts on this famous warrior:

... Somewhere in the Island a great captain gathered the forces of Roman Britain and fought the barbarian invaders to the death. Around him, around his name and his deeds, shine all that romance and poetry can bestow.... True or false, [the tales of Arthurian chivalry] have gained an immortal hold upon the thoughts of men....

... Timidly but resolutely the latest and best-informed writers unite to proclaim [Arthur's] reality. They cannot tell when in this dark period he lived, or where he held sway and fought his battles. They are ready to believe however that there was a great British warrior who kept the light of civilisation burning against all the swords that beat, and that behind his sword there sheltered a faithful following of which the memory did not fail.... It is all true, or it ought to be; and more and better besides. And wherever men are fighting ... for freedom, law, and honour, let them remember that the fame of their deeds, even though they themselves be exterminated, may perhaps be celebrated as long as the world rolls round....

... Against [unarmored Saxon infantry] a small force of Roman cavalry might well prove invincible. If a chief like Arthur had gathered a band of mail-clad cavalry he could have moved freely about Britain, everywhere heading the local resistance and gaining repeated victories. The memory of Arthur carried with it the hope that a deliverer would return one day.... ``The heritage of Rome,'' Professor Collingwood says, ``lives on in many shapes, but of the men who created that heritage Arthur was the last, and the story of Roman Britain ends with him.''

-- A History of the English-Speaking Peoples

From Historia Brittonum by Nennius, 8th century

``Then it was, that the magnanimous Arthur, with all the kings and military force of Britain, fought against the Saxons. And though there were many more noble than himself, yet he was twelve times chosen their commander, and was as often conqueror. The first battle in which he was engaged, was at the mouth of the river Gleni. The second, third, fourth, and fifth, were on another river, by the Britons called Duglas, in the region Linuis. The sixth, on the river Bassas. The seventh in the wood Celidon, which the Britons call Cat Coit Celidon. The eighth was near Gurnion castle, where Arthur bore the image of the Holy Virgin, mother of God, upon his shoulders, and through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the holy Mary, put the Saxons to flight, and pursued them the whole day with great slaughter. The ninth was at the City of Legion, which is called Cair Lion. The tenth was on the banks of the river Trat Treuroit. The eleventh was on the mountain Breguoin, which we call Cat Bregion. The twelfth was a most severe contest, when Arthur penetrated to the hill of Badon. In this engagement, nine hundred and forty fell by his hand alone, no one but the Lord affording him assistance. In all these engagements the Britons were successful. For no strength can avail against the will of the Almighty.''

``King'' Arthur -- Who Was He?

Stories of Britain's great warrior Prince are ancient, but there is much disagreement about his identity. There are several early Princes or Kings named Arthur (or something similar); some may have been named after the famous Arthur, with their own deeds perhaps enhancing the legends.

There isn't even agreement on where his Kingdom and Capital were located. Some traditions put him near the Channel where the Kings of Brittany and Cornwall ruled; others put him to the North of Hadrian's Wall, where the Kings of Rheged and Goddodin ruled. Some traditions put him as far North as Orkney. (Like Brittany and Cornwall, Rheged and Goddodin were of the Brythonic race, rather than the Gaelics and Picts in Scotland's north.) In some traditions he was a great Emperor who ruled all the British Isles and much of Scandinavia and France, but it is doubtful that any such empire ever existed.

As shown on his pedigree, King Henry VII Tudor was supposedly an agnatic descendant of Arthur, fulfilling the prophecy about ``once and future King.'' (Take the alternate pedigree for Henry's 26-great grandfather, Enir Fardd.)

Websites about King Arthur of the Round Table

There are many sites on the 'Net that give histories of early Britain and information about Camelot fact and legend. Here I've just tried to extract the genealogical information.

David Hughes has provided much useful information about King Arthur, some of which will soon be published as a book. One of the many provocative suggestions Mr. Hughes makes is that Alfred the Great was descended from a Celtic rather than Germanic dynasty with The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles being a deliberate fraud to give his reign political legitimacy. (Indeed Alfred may have been an agnatic descendant of High-King Arthur himself.) This seems consistent with recent Y-chromosome studies which show southern England to be populated by ancient Celts rather than Germanics. (And even those who think Cerdic of Wessex was of Anglo-Saxon blood, acknowledge that Cerdic appears to be a Celtic name.)

I have borrowed David Hughes' comment on the first historic mention of King Arthur:

The earliest mention of Arthur by name appears in the Annales Cambriae [``Welsh Annals''], which is a chronicle of early British History written in Latin by medieval Welsh monks as an on-going record of events from the 5th-century to the 10th-century.... There are two entries in the chronicle that refer to Arthur by name: the first is for Year 72 of the Easter Cycle, which may be reckoned to be Year 517 (New Style) (516 Old Style), and reads that Arthur won the Battle of Mount Badon [or Badon Hill, which temporarily halted the Anglo-Saxon advance]; and, the second entry is for Year 93, that is, Year 538 (NS) (537 OS), and reads that Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) fell in the Battle of Camlan. The entry Year 72 (Year 517) refers to the 2nd Battle of Mount Badon, or Bad on Hill, between Arthur and Osla ``Big-Knife'', the Angle king, Seaxa, the Saxon king, and Aesc, the Jute King of Kent, who had joined forces with Arthur's arch-nemesis Cerdic of Wessex, who considered himself the rightful king.... The point here is that the Annales Cambriae mentions other people who are known to have been historical persons, so that the view that Arthur was a fictitious figure would be contrary with the character of the Annales Cambriae, hence Arthur must have been a real-life person.

Here is A discussion about Vivianne del Acqs, the famous Lady of the Lake who seduced Merlin. In some versions of the myth she is the grandmother of King Arthur. In the pedigree for Vivianne that I found on the Internet, she is shown as descendant of Jesus Christ!

Here is a web page devoted to the genealogy of Arthur and his relations. is a good site. Here is their page about Owein ap Urien, an historic King who supposedly married Arthur's half-sister Morgan le Fey.

Was Arthur from Northern Britain?

It is not just by accident that dates and places can get muddled in ancient legends. When Geoffrey Monmouth wrote his famous stories about Camelot, the Brythonic language (Welsh) was associated only with Wales, Southwest England and Brittany, but the historians of that day were well aware that in Arthur's time Brythonic Kings had ruled at least as far north as Strathclyde and Lothian. The legends of the northern Brythonic kings might be preserved, if at all, mostly in the chronicles of Wales, since in the North the Britons were supplanted by Gaelic Scots.

In Arthur's time, the northern Brythonic Kings were allied temporarily with the Gaelic Scots to fight against Picts and Saxons; while in Monmouth's time, both Scotland and the Gaelic Irish were England's enemies. Thus, if Arthur ruled in present-day Scotland, those who recited stories of a legendary Welsh-English hero would have had excellent reasons to transplant him farther south. If Arthur really lived in the late sixth century, when the history of southern Britain is well known and includes no ``Camelot,'' it would be natural to transplant him to the early sixth century, a ``Dark Age'' where there is room for unrecorded Kings.

Since the Scots also revere Arthur as their ancient warrior, the possibility that Arthur's domain was in the North must be considered. Those who say Arthur never existed, say so because history records no King Arthur in Southern Britain with the appropriate qualities. David Carroll makes a very persuasive case that Arthur lived in the North of Britain, and wasn't a King at all, but a Prince who commanded the joint armies of several Kings.

David Carroll's Theory

Recently, David F. Carroll has made his book Arturius -- A Quest for Camelot available for free download on the Internet.

This book makes a strong case that Arthur was the son of King Aidan the Treacherous, who ruled near Manau Gododdin, in the South of present-day Scotland. (Aidan's paternal ancestry was Gaelic Scots, but his mother and wife were both Brythonic, so it isn't farfetched to think of him as a Brythonic leader.) Mr. Carroll apparently succeeds in identifying places and persons in the legends, including Camelot, Camallan, Avalon, Guinevere, Morgan, Mordred, and Merlin.

I can't summarize all of Carroll's book, but will mention a few of his ideas:

If the son of Aidan MacGabran, a King of Scots Dalriada, was indeed the famous warrior Arthur, it will answer two otherwise very puzzling questions:

However convincing Carroll's theory may be, my site documents ``Fabulous Pedigrees,'' so I show the traditional Monmouthian genealogy for Arthur, with Carroll's theory as an alternate. (In any case, the way my site combines conflicting genealogical theories will lead to nonsensical relationships.)

Arthur of Camelot -- Candidate Genealogies

(It is widely agreed that tales of multiple people, whether named Arthur or not, were combined by some story-tellers. Obviously this confuses any search for the ``One True Arthur of Camelot.'')

Here is a list of several candidates for the famous High-King Arthur. (You can also link to these names, and a few more, by looking up CAMELOT in the surname index.) I am pleased that my database is so extensive that most of the candidates (or their fathers) were already in my database before I began preparing this section. The candidates are listed very roughly in order of likelihood with the most popular or promising candidates listed first:

  1. Artur of Manann, Dux Bellorum (war duke), and son of King Aidan the Treacherous.
  2. Lucius Artorius Castus, a late 2nd-century Romano-Britain commander (prefect of 6th Legion) in northern Britain, whose Sarmatian Knights had ancient customs (e.g. Sword in the Stone) similar to those in chivalric tales. See Wikipedia>/a>
  3. Riothamus, another descendant of Kings of Brittany.
  4. Arthwys ap Meurig, King of Glywyssing.
  5. Anwn Dynod, son of Magnus Maximus.
  6. Ambrosius Aurelianius (5th century Roman who did command Britons to victory against Saxons), sometimes shown as son of Constantine ap Solomon.
  7. The famous story by Geoffrey Monmouth shows Arthur Pendragon as a grandson of King Custennin of Brittany.
  8. Arthuis ap Masgwid Gloff, a descendant of King Coel Hen.
  9. Owain Ddantgwyn ap Einon, King of Rhos (son of Einion the Impetuous), or his son.
  10. Arthur may have been a Prince of Dumnonia, making him a descendant of a different King Custennin.
  11. The progenitor of the Campbell's is shown as a descendant of Arthur according to Campbell legends.
  12. Arthur ap Pedr, King of Dyfed.
  13. Arthwys ap Mor, grandson of St. Ceneu.
  14. Pasgen ap Gwrtheyrn, or his son Riocatus
  15. Cadell Ddyrnllwg ap Cadeyrn
  16. Dyfnwal Hen of Strathclyde
  17. Urien of Rheged
  18. Arthfael ap Einydd
  19. Arthfoddw ap Boddw
  20. Saint Arthmael (482 - 552)

Arthur's legendary tutor Merlin may be based on a real descendant of Coel Hen.

Fabulous Genealogies

The fictional genealogies involving Arthur get pretty wild. Taliesin was an historic bard, probably serving in the court of Rheged's King Urien, but nothing is known of his genealogy. Nevertheless, a pedigree can be found for him which makes him grandfather of Arthur, and a descendant of Frankish Kings! (As if that weren't enough, in the same fabulous genealogy, his ``wife,'' the Lady of the Lake, is shown as descended from Jesus Christ!)

Go back to the Pedigree Start Page.