Late last year I serialised my discoveries as to Shakespeare’s so-called ‘lost years’ (18 parts) in which I showed how the bard toured Europe with William Stanley (1585-87), the latter being the Handsome Youth of the sonnets, in which a Turkish noblewoman they met in Constantinople was the Dark Lady. Throughout 2015 I have been working on Shakespeare’s earlier years, & made a number of other important discoveries which placed Shakespeare at the English College in Douay & also in East Lancashire, 1576. En route I have even found his handwriting on certain manuscripts hitherto unconnected to the bard. Having returned to Edinburgh & its wonderful National Library, I have embarked on my second Shakespearian series which begins the noo.
The problem with the Shakespearean problem is that there are too just many problems, & with these problems comes speculations & their inevitable academic cul-de-sacs. If a speculation is based on falsehood, then the trains of thought can only lead to nowhere, or the secluded maisonettes on said safe little cul-de-sacs where Shakespearean scholars sit & drink tea waffling on about their theories.
For me, one of the most glaringly obvious errors appertaining to Shakespereana is the juvenile handling of the ‘The Sacred Testament’ found in the rafters of Shakespeare’s dad’s roof on Henley Street, Stratford. Found in the 18th century, and transcribed by the scholar Edmond Malone, that our bard at some point in his life read the Testament can be of no doubt, based upon the strikingly similar parallels between Article I of the Testament and the Ghost’s words in Hamlet
I may be possibly cut off in the blossom of my sins, and called to render an accountof all my transgressions externally and internally, and that I may be unprepared for the dreadful trial either by sacrament, penance, fasting, or prayer, or any other purgation whatever
Cut off even inthe blossoms of my sin, Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d, No reckoning made, but sent to my account With all my imperfections on my head: O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
In Hamlet, the ghost is the main protaganist’s father, to whom Shakespeare may have been making some Freudian nod. But let us not drift into the metaphysics of Shakesperean composition just the noo.
After Malone handled the Testament, it went mysteriously missing, leading later scholars to announce it as a fake. Instead, several copies of the text to be found in the 20th century… one was in English, while a Spanish version was also found in the British Museum in 1923, drawn up by Carlo Borromeo, the cardinal of Milan who died in 1585. It is at this point that academia entered a cul-de-sac.
It has been presumed that the testament of Borromeo arrived in Britain in the hands of the Jesuit missionary Edmund Campion, who had visited Borromeo in 1580. It was also presumed that Campion had made a copy of the Testament, which he distributed on his return to Britain that same year, & that it came into the hands of Shakespeare’s father via Thomas Cottam. He was a missionary who travelled with Campion, & whose brother, John, was headmaster of the Kings School in Stratford in 1580….
There is no physical evidence at all for the Testament having been distributed by Campion. When in June 1581, William Allen, rector of the English College at Rheims wrote to Alphonsus Agazarri at the English College in Rome, reporting that Father Robert Parsons in England, ‘wants three or four thousand or more of the testaments, for many people desire to have them,’ it is incredible to not think that this would be the Douay-Rheims New Testament in English, which would be distributed throughout England en masse the next year. For these we have a definite physical presence.
Returning to John Shakespeare’s Testament, the English translation had been printed in 1635, with the Spanish version by Borromeo being printed in Mexico City in 1661. Analyzing this scanty evidence, I believe that the Testament drawn up by John Shakespeare, which was HANDWRITTEN, could well have been one of the earliest versions. The key section in the Testament reads
Item, I, John Shakspear, do in like manner pray and beseech all my dear friends, parents, and kinsfolks, by the bowels of our Saviour Jesus Christ, that since it is uncertain what lot will befall me, for fear notwithstanding lest by reason of my sins I be to pass and stay a long while in Purgatory, they will vouchsafe to assist and succour me with their holy prayers and satisfactory works, especially with the holy sacrifice of the mass, as being the most effectual means to deliver souls from their torments and pains; from the which, If I shall by God’s gracious goodness and by their virtuous works be delivered, I do promise that I will not be ungrateful unto them, for so great a benefit.
If we are to take this passage literally, & there is no reason to create a conspiracy theory as to not do, then when John Shakespeare pluralizes ‘parent’ we must assume the Testament was made before 1561. This was the year his father Richard, died; with his mother, Abigail nee Webb, passing away in 1595. This allows us to make the following timeline;
1557 – John Shakespeare marries into the pro-Catholic Arden family
1558 – Queen Elizabeth I comes to the throne – establishes the Protestant church
Early 1559 – Daughter, Joan, dies in infancy… possibly alluded to in the Testament’s, ‘calling to mind the uncertainty of life and certainty of death.‘
Before 1561 – John Shakespeare creates his Catholic Spiritual Testament
1580 – The Testament comes to Borromeo via Edmund Campion
1635 – An English version is printed
1661 – A Spanish version is printed
The only speculation I have made is that Campion gave a copy of John Shakespeare’s Testament to Borromeo in 1580, through whom it would be disseminated to Mexico a century later. What all this actually does really is to give us our first credible link between Shakespeare’s family & the Jesuit Edmund Campion,BEFORE 1580 - a decisive connection that is just about to open up the first two decades of Shakespeare’s life….
A few posts back I showed how King Coel, the patriarch of a number of Dark Age north-Brittanic dynasties, was originally a king of Norway. It is now time to look at his son & grand-son, an analysis of whom will help us fill in a few more gaps in the black-hole tapestry of the Dark Ages. According to the genealogy known as ‘Descent of the Men of the North,’ King Coel was followed by a certain Ceneu. Using chispology, we can start to see how this particular name was written in different places. For example Peniarth 75 MS gives us;
Enniawn ap Masgwic Kloff ap Kanaui ap Koel Godeboc
Here Ceneu is spelt ‘Kanaui,’ the Naui element of which is more or less given in the 12th century vita of Gildas by Caradoc of Llancarfan;
Nau, the king of Scotia, was the noblest of the kings of the north. He had twenty-four sons, victorious warriors. One of these was named Gildas, whom his parents engaged in the study of literature
In several Welsh Tales, such as ‘Culhwych & Olwen,‘ ‘The Dream of Rhonabway’ & ‘Gereint & Enid,‘ the same saint is known as ‘Gildas son of Caw.‘ Putting Caw & Nau together gives us something highly akin to Kanaui, as in
Caw Nau is also extremely similar to a certain ‘Cawr Nur’ who gets a couple of mentions in ancient Welsh poetry, each time appearing in an Arthurian context.
Did not he lead from Cawrnur Horses pale supporting burdens? The sovereign elder. The generous feeder. The third deep wise one, To bless Arthur, Arthur the blessed, In a compact song.
The Chair of the Sovereign
Have I not been accustomed to blood about the wrathful, A sword-stroke daring against the sons of Cawrnur? I shared my shelter, a ninth share in Arthur’s valour.
The Death Song of Uther Pendragon
In both poems we get a hint of a conflict between Arthur fought against Cawrnur himself & also his sons. Both the curious spelling of ‘Cawr’ & the fact that he had relatively famous sons can be connected to a certain King Caw, a famous king of Strathclyde. We have already seen how King Caw had 24 sons, while in the vita of St Cadog, we encounter the phantasm of Caw, who heralds from beyond Mount Bannog, i.e. the highlands to the north of Stirling where flows the famous Bannockburn. He tells us;
Beyond mount Bannog formerly I reigned for very many years. It happened that by devilish impulse I with troops of my plunderers arrived on these coasts for the sake of pillaging the same and wasting them. But the king who at that time reigned over this kingdom, pursuing us with his army, slew me and my host, when we had joined battle together… The man of the Lord asks by what name he was called. And he replies, ‘Caw Prydyn, or Cawr, was I called formerly
Combining all the evidence we can now assume that the son of King Cole was King Caw, whose name appears in variants such as Cawrnur & Ceneu. He had at least one famous son, Saint Gildas, but it is to another of his boys that we must now avert our attention. His name is Hueil, of whom the Welsh triads (#21) tell us was one of the, ‘Three-Battle Diademed Men of the Island of Britain’ alongside Cai and Drustan (but inferior to Bedwyr).
Just as changed the spelling of the name of King Caw & countless other Dark Age figures, so in the Breton Vita Gildae, Caw was succeeded as king by his warlike son Cuillus, which must surely be Hueil. The ‘Cuill’ element of Cuillus leads us neatly to the Cuillin hills of Skye, a range named after, as I have stated in an earlier post, a certain Herulo-Pictish king known as Galan Erilic. This now leads us to a certain Celin, who appears among Caw’s children, as recorded in Culhwch and Olwen, & seems to be the etymylogical root of Twrcelyn in Anglesey. This place was the site of a monastery of St Cadog himself, where three miles away once stood the oratories of Egreas, Alleccus & Peteova, three more of the children of Caw.
The idea is that Hueil, Cuilin, Celin and Galan Erilic are all the same person. This makes the son of King Caw a Herulian, which indicates that Caw, & his father King Cole, should have been Herulian also. The Cawr spelling of Caw actually translates as ‘giant’ which fits in perfectly with the description of the Herulians given in the 6th by Jordanes in his Geatica;
Now in the island of Scandza, whereof I speak, there dwell many and divers nations… the Dani, who trace their origin to the same stock, drove from their homes the Heruli, who lay claim to preëminence among all the nations of Scandza for their tallness.
To conclude this post, I would just like to highlight the connection between the name Cawrnur & the Njars, a Dark Age Swedish tribe. If Cawr means giant, then Cawr Nur would mean ‘Giant Nur.’ This leads is to the original ‘Ner’ used instead of Njar in the Old Norse sources. Their homelands were in the province of Närke, south-central Sweden, & their appearance in the ‘Lay of Weyland the smith,’ appears to be of interest to British history. It places a certain Níðuðr as a king in Sweden.
When the Lord of the Njars, Nidud, heard That Völund sat in Wolfdale alone, He sent warriors forth: white their shield-bosses In the waning moon, and their mail glittered.
For me, that the name Níðuðr contains the phonetics of places like Nithsdale in Galloway can be no coincidence…
There will not be found a match for the chief of the glittering west
The Death Song of Owain
I am currently sat in Preston library on my way back to Scotland. In front of me is the Shakespeare-connecting ‘History of the House of Stanley,’ of Seacome (1793) which has been clicking my history head back into shape & reminded me I had started this little series of investigative nuggets called Dark Age Candles. Getting back into the groove, then, I’d like to show you something I noticed only as recently as last week. The game begins earlier this year, when I managed to place Germanic tribes in East Lancashire, namely the Wends & the Rugii. I had shown that their possible arrival in Britain occured in the late 3rd century after their defeat upon mainland Europe the Romans & their subsequent resettlement in in the Lancashire wilderness. I showed how another name for the Wends – the Sorbs – appears in Sabden, to which we can also add the River Hodder in Bowland, a lovely match to the River Oder of the continental Wends. Also among the Wendish peoples were the Rugii, whose name appears in Roggerham near Burnley, & also – as I discovered last week on a drive round Pendle with my bird – at Roughlee – which was originally known as Rugelea.
The general dynamic of this series is that of showing the Gothic & Nordic roots to the British kingdoms that rose up in the wake of the Roman evacuations. I have already shown in the last post how the grand-daddy of them all – Old King Cole – was in fact a Norwegian sea-raider, & in the next post we shall be looking at his descendants in more detail. Before then, I would just like to examine this new placing of the Rugi in the Pendle area & check its ramifications for the rest of British history.
Through the chispological process, a natural babel-chain would appear as;
Rugi – Ruge (lea) – Rege
Rege then leads us quite neatly to Rheged- a famous dark-age kingdom whose territories are only suspected. The only place for certain we can connect to Rheged seems to be about the River Lyvennet near Penrith in Cumbria, for in the Book of Taleisin we read;
To me has been extended.
The lofty Llwyvenydd
(A Song for Urien Rheged)
Urien will not refuse me
The lands of Llwyvenydd
(The Satisfaction of Urien)
Like a wave that governs Llwyvenydd.
(The Spoils of Taliesin)
For me, Rheged is the kingdom carved out by the Wends / Rugi – which gives us an excellent explanation for the etymology of Windemere – the lake of the Wends – only a few miles from the River Llwyvenydd. Modern academical leanings have suggested that the kingdom stretched as far as Dunragit, in Galloway, & to Rochdale in the south which was originally ‘Recedham.’ (The River Roch was recorded in the 13th century as Rached or Rachet). With Rochdale being only a few miles from Roggerham & Roughlee, we gain some sort of sense that the core area of Rheged was between East Lancashire & north Cumbria. Support for this comes from the Taliesinian poem, ‘In praise of Rheged,’ which describes Urien fighting battles beyond his territories, in Ayrshire (Aeron) SE Scotland (Gododdin) & NE Wales, as in;
Urien came in his day to Aeron,
There was no warrior, was no welcome,
Noble-browed Urien, against Powys…
…Bold against Gododdin, bright leader.
Returning to the river Lyvennet, we see that its channel flows into the Eden & subsequently the Solway firth, at the northern sea-end of which stands Dunragit. Now, if Eden is etymologically drawn from Woden or Odin, as is likely, we can infer that the Rhegedians were Odin worshippers – which makes them either Teutonic or Nordi. In all likelihood, Rheged means – ‘place of the Rugii’, & in support we must acknowledge that the Rugii were based in both the German areas of central Europe & also believed to have inhabited Rogeland in Norway. The latter area is only a hundred miles south of Gulen, where I believe the name Guletic to come from, by the way, & was a core territory of King Cole.
It seems his territories covered major swathes of North Britain, & along two branches of his lineage we see two kings of Rheged; Urien & a king of South Rheged known as Llywarch Hen, the latter given in the 10th century Laws of Hywel Da. The division between North & South Rheged seems to have been made at the death of King Merchian, as in;
North Rheged South Rheged
Cynfarch Elidir Lydanwyn
Urien Llywarch Hen
That Urien was king of ‘North Rheged’ is supported by the ‘Mote of Mark’ hillfort in Galloway, named after Cynfarch, the Brythonic name for Mark. With Urien’s capital being near Penrith, then it makes sense that Llywarch Hen’s capital would have been to the south of here; perhaps Bowland but at least East Lancashire. The region about Rochdale contains a proliferation of connecting tribal names, including the River Win & Vinheath near Burnley. In support of Llywarch’s reign there, after being driven out of his kingdom by the invading Bernicians, he sought the safety of Powys – a neighbouring kingdom of North Wales.
To finish this post I’d like to speculate on the details of a battle I believe was fought near Burnley, in which Urien fought a slew a Welsh king in 534AD. We begin with a Taliesn poem, ‘In Praise of Rheged’ which places Urien at a battle site known as ‘Prysg Catleu.’ With Prysg meaning ‘brushwood,’ we get the idea of a funeral pyre for a certain Catleu. In the vita of Bishop Wilfrid, we gain another mention of Catleu, as in;
Iuxta rippel et ingaedyne et in regione dunitinga et incaetlaevum
This translates as, ‘they gave Wilfrid land round Ribble, Yeadon, Dent, and Catlow,’ which places Catlow in the central Pennines. The obvious choice is Catlow, near Burnley, where just underneath a dark-age ‘Walton’s’ monument on Shelfied hill, we have two tumului – a very large one, & a smaller mound to its side. Does the smalller mound mark the brushwood-pyre of Catleu, & the larger one the rest of that battle’s casualties? If so, the best candidate for Catleu is King Cadwallon Lauhir, the father of the famous Maelgwyn Gwynned, who according to the 12th century Annals of Redon made by Robert Torigny, died in 534. A variant name is Catgollaun, as given in the Gwynned king-list found in Harleian MSS, 3859.
Run map Mailcun map Catgolaun Lauhir map Eniaun girt
We now come to Saxo Grammaticus, in whose Danish History we come to the following extended account of a Scandinavian incursion, led by the famous Frodo, into Britain & Ireland.
This it was that chiefly led Frode to attack the West, for his one desire was the spread of peace. So he summoned Erik, and mustered a fleet of all the kingdoms that bid him allegiance, and sailed to Britain with numberless ships. But the king of that island, perceiving that he was unequal in force (for the ships seemed to cover the sea), went to Frode, affecting to surrender, and not only began to flatter his greatness, but also promised to the Danes, the conquerors of nations, the submission of himself and of his country; proffering taxes, assessment, tribute, what they would. Finally, he gave them a hospitable invitation. Frode was pleased with the courtesy of the Briton, though his suspicions of treachery were kept by so ready and unconstrained a promise of everything, so speedy a surrender of the enemy before fighting; such offers being seldom made in good faith. They were also troubled with alarm about the banquet, fearing that as drunkenness came on their sober wits might be entangled in it, and attacked by hidden treachery. So few guests were bidden, moreover, that it seemed unsafe for them to accept the invitation; and it was further thought foolish to trust their lives to the good faith of an enemy whom they did not know.
When the king found their minds thus wavering he again approached Frode, and invited him to the banquet with 2,400 men; having before bidden him to come to the feast with 1,200 nobles. Frode was encouraged by the increase in the number of guests, and was able to go to the banquet with greater inward confidence; but he could not yet lay aside his suspicions, and privily caused men to scour the interior and let him know quickly of any treachery which they might espy. On this errand they went into the forest, and, coming upon the array of an armed encampment belonging to the forces of the Britons, they halted in doubt, but hastily retraced their steps when the truth was apparent. For the tents were dusky in colour, and muffled in a sort of pitchy coverings, that they might not catch the eye of anyone who came near. When Frode learned this, he arranged a counter-ambuscade with a strong force of nobles, that he might not go heedlessly to the banquet, and be cheated of timely aid. They went into hiding, and he warned them that the note of the trumpet was the signal for them to bring assistance. Then with a select band, lightly armed, he went to the banquet. The hall was decked with regal splendour; it was covered all round with crimson hangings of marvellous rich handiwork. A curtain of purple dye adorned the propelled walls. The flooring was bestrewn with bright mantles, which a man would fear to trample on. Up above was to be seen the twinkle of many lanterns, the gleam of lamps lit with oil, and the censers poured forth fragrance whose sweet vapour was laden with the choicest perfumes. The whole way was blocked by the tables loaded with good things; and the places for reclining were decked with gold-embroidered couches; the seats were full of pillows. The majestic hall seemed to smile upon the guests, and nothing could be noticed in all that pomp either inharmonious to the eye or offensive to the smell. In the midst of the hall stood a great butt ready for refilling the goblets, and holding an enormous amount of liquor; enough could be drawn from it for the huge revel to drink its fill. Servants, dressed in purple, bore golden cups, and courteously did the office of serving the drink, pacing in ordered ranks. Nor did they fail to offer the draught in the horns of the wild ox.
The feast glittered with golden bowls, and was laden with shining goblets, many of them studded with flashing jewels. The place was filled with an immense luxury; the tables groaned with the dishes, and the bowls brimmed over with divers liquors. Nor did they use wine pure and simple, but, with juices sought far and wide, composed a nectar of many flavours. The dishes glistened with delicious foods, being filled mostly with the spoils of the chase; though the flesh of tame animals was not lacking either. The natives took care to drink more sparingly than the guests; for the latter felt safe, and were tempted to make an orgy; while the others, meditating treachery, had lost all temptations to be drunken. So the Danes, who, if I may say so with my country’s leave, were seasoned to drain the bowl against each other, took quantities of wine. The Britons, when they saw that the Danes were very drunk, began gradually to slip away from the banquet, and, leaving their guests within the hall, made immense efforts, first to block the doors of the palace by applying bars and all kinds of obstacles, and then to set fire to the house. The Danes were penned inside the hall, and when the fire began to spread, battered vainly at the doors; but they could not get out, and soon attempted to make a sally by assaulting the wall. And the Angles, when they saw that it was tottering under the stout attack of the Danes, began to shove against it on their side, and to prop the staggering pile by the application of large blocks on the outside, to prevent the wall being shattered and releasing the prisoners. But at last it yielded to the stronger hand of the Danes, whose efforts increased with their peril; and those pent within could sally out with ease. Then Frode bade the trumpet strike in, to summon the band that had been posted in ambush; and these, roused by the note of the clanging bugle, caught the enemy in their own trap; for the King of the Britons, with countless hosts of his men, was utterly destroyed. Thus the band helped Frode doubly, being both the salvation of his men and the destruction of his enemies.
That the King of the ‘Angles’ was Cadwallon is hinted at by his core territory in Gwynned (North Wales), where the island of Anglesey remembers the presence of the Angles. More support comes through a litological analysis of the rest of Frodo’s chevauchee through the British Isles.
Meantime the renown of the Danish bravery spread far, and moved the Irish to strew iron calthrops on the ground, in order to make their land harder to invade, and forbid access to their shores. Now the Irish use armour which is light and easy to procure. They crop the hair close with razors, and shave all the hair off the back of the head, that they may not be seized by it when they run away. They also turn the points of their spears towards the assailant, and deliberately point their sword against the pursuer; and they generally fling their lances behind their back, being more skilled at conquering by flight than by fighting. Hence, when you fancy that the victory is yours, then is the moment of danger. But Frode was wary and not rash in his pursuit of the foe who fled so treacherously, and he routed Kerwil, the leader of the nation, in battle. Kerwil’s brother survived, but lost heart for resistance, and surrendered his country to the king (Frode), who distributed among his soldiers the booty he had won, to show himself free from all covetousness and excessive love of wealth, and only ambitious to gain honour.
The obvious candidate for Kerwil would be the Irish king, Cairell mac Muiredaig Muinderg. According to the Annals of Tigernach, he was succeeded by Eochaidh son of Connlac, king of Ulaid in 532. In the year previously Tigernach tells us
531 – The battle of Éblenn won by Muircheartach son of Erc; the battle of Mag Ailbe gained over Leinster, and the battle of Aidhne over Connacht, and the battles of Almain and Cenn Eich over Leinster, and the plundering of the Cliu in one year
That the Irish Annals are slightly inaccurate & discrepant is widely recognized, each date is always open to movement a year or two in either direction , & only truly accepted if supported by other historical records. In this particular case, I would just like to point out that the events as described by Tigernach for 531, are given the date 533 by the Annals of Ulster, as in;
533The battle of Ebblenn won by Muirchertach; and the battle of Mag Ailbe won against the Laigin, and the battle of Aidne against the Connachta, and the battle of Almuin, and the battle of Cenn Eich against the Laigin, and the ravaging of Clui in one year.
According to the Ulster chronology, Eochaidh son of Connlac would have come to the throne of 534AD, meaning his father Cairell would have died in the same year. If he is the same man as Kerwill, then a king of the Angles also died in 534 – which must surely have been the Anglesey based Cadwallon Lauhir, king of Gwynned. One also suspects that the large mound under Walton’s spire contains the remains of the feasting hall burnt by Frodo. All this reinforces my slowly-building theorum that the British Isles were taken over almost completely by invading continentals, not only those in the south & east. This supports that long-unacknowledged reference by Procopius of the ‘Goths’ having partioned Britain by the 530s. The information is contained in a letter of negotiation between the Goths besieged in Rome by Belisarius in 538.
And the bararians said: “That everything which we have said is true no one of you can be unaware. But in order that we may not seem to be contentious, we give up to you Sicily, great as it is and of such wealth, seeing that without it you cannot possess Libya in security.” And Belisarius replied: “And we on our side permit the Goths to have the whole of Britain, which is much larger than Sicily and was subject to the Romans in early times. For it is only fair to make an equal return to those who first do a good deed or perform a kindness.”