Chronology of the Kings of Gwynedd in the seventh century



[O]uen map [H]iguel map catell map Rotri map mermin map etthil merch cinnan map rotri map Iutguaul map Catgualart map Catgollaun map Catman map Iacob map Beli map Run map Mailcun map Catgolaun Iauhir map Eniaun girt map Cuneda

-- Harleian genealogy


Rodri M Meruyn M Ethellt Merch Cynan tintaeth6y M Rodri mol6yna6c M Idwal I6rch M Kadwaladyr vendigeit M Katwalla6n M Kad6ga6n M Iago M Beli M Run hir M Maelg6n g6yned M Kadwalla6n lla6hir M Einya6n yrth M Kuneda wledic

--Jesus College MS 20


Apart from variations in the spelling, the two geneaologies are identical (the Harleian genealogy has three more generations than the Jesus College manuscript; the two coincide from Rodri back to Cunedda). 'M' and 'map' mean 'son of', 'merch' means 'daughter of'.

Annales Cambriae

547 The great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died.

613 The battle of Caer Legion [Chester]. And there died Selyf son of Cynan. And Iago son of Beli slept [died].

629 The beseiging of king Cadwallon in the island of Glannauc.

631 The battle of Cantscaul in which Cadwallon fell.

656 The slaughter of Campus Gaius.

657 Penda died.

682 A great plague in Britain, in which Cadwaladr son of Cadwallon dies.

--Annales Cambriae

Welsh Triads

Three Fair Princes of the Island of Britain:

Owain son of Urien, Rhun son of Maelgwn, Rhufawn the Radiant son of Dewrarth Wledig.

Three Frivolous Bards of the Island of Britain:

Arthur, and Cadwallawn son of Cadfan, and Rahawd son of Morgant.

And that was one of the Three Hatchet-Blows.

The second (was) a woodcutter of Aberffraw who struck Golydan with a hatchet, on the head. And the third, one of his own men struck upon Iago, son of Beli, with a hatchet, on the head.

--Red Book of Hergest Triads

Historia Brittonum

62. The great king, Mailcun, reigned among the Britons, i.e. in the district of Guenedota, because his great-great-grandfather, Cunedda, with his twelve sons, had come before from the left-hand part, i.e. from the country which is called Manau Gustodin, one hundred and forty-six years before Mailcun reigned, and expelled the Scots with much slaughter from those countries, and they never returned again to inhabit them.

64. Oswald son of Ethelfrid, reigned nine years; the same is Oswald Llauiguin; he slew Catgublaun (Cadwalla), king of Guenedot, in the battle of Catscaul, with much loss to his own army. Oswy, son of Ethelfrid, reigned twenty-eight years and six months. During his reign, there was a dreadful mortality among his subjects, when Catgualart (Cadwallader) was king among the Britons, succeeding his father, and he himself died amongst the rest.

--Historia Brittonum


Mailcun is a variant spelling of Maelgwn.


Cadwallon King of Gwynedd was killed by Oswald of Northumbria at the battle of Hefenfelth in 633 or 634 (Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book III Ch. 1.


Maelgwn is usually considered to be the same as the "Maglocune" who was one of the kings denounced by Gildas in On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain, written around 540 AD. Maelgwn/Maglocune was evidently still alive at the time of writing, after a vigorous, colourful and (by Gildas' lights) not entirely honourable career (ch. 33-36).


"Catamanus rex sapientisimus opinatisimus omnium regum"

--Inscription on a memorial stone at the church of Llangadwaladr in Anglesey [See Wikipedia article]


This translates as "King Catman wisest and most renowned of all kings".


The kings of interest for the purposes of this article are those from Maelgwn Gwynedd to Cadwalader, i.e. the kings who reigned in the seventh century and their immediate ancestors.

The first point to note is that all of them are also mentioned in sources other than the genealogies. Maelgwn Gwynedd is in Gildas, Historia Brittonum, Annales Cambriae and the Triads. Rhun ap Maelgwn is in the Triads. Beli is given as the patronymic of Iago ap Beli (in the Triads and Annales Cambriae). Iago ap Beli is in the Triads and Annales Cambriae. Cadfan is given as the patronymic of Cadwallon in the Triads, and (uniquely) his name is recorded in a surviving stone inscription. Cadwallon ap Cadfan is in Bede, Historia Brittonum, the Triads and Annales Cambriae. Cadwaladr ap Cadfan is in the Annales Cambriae and Historia Brittonum.

It's worth remembering the caveat that the geneaologies are late, constructed no earlier than the time of Rhodri King of Gwynedd in the ninth century. The relationships between the seventh-century kings may have been more complex than the unbroken father-to-son succession claimed by the genealogies, or the genealogists may have borrowed unrelated names from earlier sources to construct a suitable pedigree. Historia Brittonum is supposed to have been written in around 829, and the Triads survive in medieval manuscripts. So these are not necessarily independent sources, and it is possible that the agreement between them is because they all copied from each other. Nevertheless, it is impressive to find a near-complete set of corroboration like this, and I would hesitate to dismiss it out of hand.

Annales Cambriae and Bede between them helpfully contribute some dates. Moreover, there are two events dated in both sources:

They agree within 2-3 years, which is easily within the margin of error for a much-copied manuscript. This being so, I would be inclined to take the dates that occur in only one of the two sources seriously too, with the same sort of margin of error.

From Maelgwn's death in 547 to Iago's death in 613 is 66 years, give or take a few. As Iago was Maelgwn's great-grandson according to the genealogy, this spans 3 generations, thus averaging about 22 years per generation.

From Iago's death in 613 to Cadwaladr's death in 682 is 69 years. This also spans 3 generations, as Cadwaladr was Iago's great-grandson, and averages 23 years per generation.

For comparison, Bede tells us that Eadwine of Deira/Northumbria was a grandfather when he was killed at the age of 48 (Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book II Ch. 20), which works out to a maximum of 24 years per generation if the grandson was born in the same year Eadwine died, and possibly rather less if the grandson was a few years old. So this is consistent with the generational span implied by the Gwynedd genealogy.

Dating by counting generations is a highly inexact process in any case, as human males are capable of fathering offspring from puberty to old age. For example, Eadwine of Deira had children by his second marriage who were of comparable age with his grandson from his son by his first marriage, and his great-niece was of comparable age with his sons by his first marriage. This sort of thing is not uncommon, and can make a terrible mix-up of the generations. So the most that can be said is that the number of generations in the Gwynedd genealogy and the dates in Annales Cambriae are not incompatible.

From Iago's death in 613 to Cadwallon's death in 631 to 634 is 18-21 years. This is a bit more problematic, as it spans two generations (Cadwallon was Iago's grandson). However, as argued above, dating by counting generations is far from exact. If Iago lived to a ripe old age (which is consistent with Annales Cambriae's phrase 'slept' to describe his death), his grandson Cadwallon may already have been adult when Iago died. Furthermore, the sources agree that Cadwallon was killed in battle, and therefore he may have been only middle-aged when he died.

Cadwaladr died in 682, according to Annales Cambriae. This is about 50 years after his father Cadwallon was killed in battle, and may indicate that Cadwaladr was quite young, perhaps only a child, when his father was killed. In turn, this would be consistent with the statement in Historia Brittonum that the King of Gwynedd in 655 was a man called Cadafael ap Cynfeddw (more about Cadafael in a separate article), who is not part of the genealogy of the Gwynedd kings. Whether Cadafael was a caretaker or a usurper is not known, but the temporary presence of a king from a different lineage is consistent with Cadwaladr being too young to rule when his father was killed. If he was born in, say, 625, he would have been aged only 5-9 when Cadwallon was killed, and aged 57 at his own death in 682, neither of which is unreasonable.

Conjectural dates for the kings of Gwynedd (bold text indicates documented dates, plain text indicates my conjecture):

It should go without saying that these conjectural dates are highly approximate, and several different schemes can be constructed to fit the scanty available evidence. It is also entirely possible that the genealogies contain mistakes, misinterpretations or downright fictions invented to support the claims of an incoming dynasty. However, I think it is fair to say that the genealogy as extant is not incompatible with the other dates and events in the sources.


Annales Cambriae, available online

Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price, Penguin Classics, 1968, ISBN 0-14-044565-X

Gildas, On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain, available online

Harleian genealogy, available online

Historia Brittonum, available online

Jesus College MS 20, available online

Red Book of Hergest Triads, available online