The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 9)

9 – THE BADON ANSWER

 

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We have now come to the final battle of the 12 attributed to Arthur by the HB. It was fought at a place called Mount Badon, which I believe to be Dumbarton. As I have already shown, Arthur’s battleS come in campaign-clusters, & I believe the two battles in Edinburgh & Dumbarton were fought in the same year (516 ad). After Edinburgh, Arthur & his men would have traveled 50 miles to the west, passing a then-tiny Glasgow, & following the ever widening waters of the River Clyde, until they reached the towering double-plug slab of sea-rock upon which Dumbarton castle stands. Knowing from Gildas that the battle was a siege – obsesio – we must presume that upon Mount Badon there once a castle or fortress of some sort. That allows us to give Badon a ‘dum,’ i.e. a fort. Let us now create a babel-chain, as in;

Dum Badon – Dum Bathon – Dum Barthon – Dum Barton

In Welsh, a ‘d’ was pronounced something like the ‘th’ sound in bathe. This element leads us back to the LG. Before the siege of Saxon Rock, the Saxons & the Irish laid siege to another castle in Scotland, called Aresbeth, as in; ‘At that point news reached the court that the Saxons & the Irish had entered Scotland & were destroying all the land & killing all the people & laying siege to the castle of Aresbeth. The king was dismayed at this news & summoned all his troops, near & far, to assemble in two weeks in the fields below Carduel (Carlisle), equipped in full armour in order to make a show of force.’

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In the Dream of Rhonabwy poem, the battlefield at Badon is described as being in the vicinity of a ford, as in; ‘for a mile around the ford on both sides of the road, they saw tents and encampments, and there was the clamour of a mighty host. And they came to the edge of the ford, and there they beheld Arthur sitting on a flat island below the ford.‘  With Dumbarton also being known as Alt Clud in former days, then the ford at Badon could well be the same as the place mentioned by the poet Taliesin, who sang of King Urien’s victories, one of which took place ‘in the ford of Alclud,‘ the ancient ford across the River Leven where the main Dumbarton Bridge now stands.

 

Another connection comes through a certain knight called Yder, who in the L-G, is seen fighting heroically at the siege of Edinburgh; ‘He outdid everyone, on both sides, & because he had said that all were to rally to his troop, he endured so much that day that he was maimed for the rest of his life, from the moment he entered the fray he never removed his helmet.’ The same man is also seen fighting at the Battle of Badon, with a  slight name change to Ederyn. The Dream of Rhonabwy poem tells in which we are told a certain Ederyn led a Scandinavian contingent at the battle of Badeu (Badon);

 “Iddawc,” said Rhonabwy, “who are the jet-black troop yonder?” “They are the men of Denmark, and Edeyrn the son of Nudd is their prince.”

Of course, I may be wrong about Dumbartion, but it kinda feels right, & with it thats the 12 battles more or less wrapped up. Before we progress, however, there is just one small matter that needs clearing up – i.e. ascertaining the correct date of the battle. Fortunately, Badon is also recorded in our second oldest historical document that mentions Arthur, a 10th century chronicle known as the Annales Cambraie also found in found in MS Harleian 3859h. It is full of brief entries which record the most memorable moments in Dark-Age Welsh history, with a few non-welsh bits chucked in for good measure. What concerns us are the entries for our newly revised Arthurian floruit (501-547), which read;

516 – The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors.

521St. Columba is born. The death of St. Brigid.

537The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland.

543 - The sleep [death] of Ciaran.

547The great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. Thus they say ‘The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos’. Then was the yellow plague.

 

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Arthur is mentioned twice in two separate entries, both of which place him at a battlefield; Badon & the battle of Camlann, in which Arthur copped a mortal wound.  At this point in the Grail Quest that many ‘non-believing‘ academics turn away from the path,  diverted forever by a piece of erroneus scholarship. It is bad enough trying to plot a way through the complex power structures & obscure sources for Dark Age Britain, but at this junction the so-called academics have thrown a real ‘erudite’ spanner into the works. That an ever-swelling tribe of anti-arthurianshas risen up in the last century is down to some rather dodgy scholarship at this point, the result of which is that many historians have been wandering about up a blind alley for years, scrambling in the dark & unable to get out for fear of being shouted at by their equally lost & dumbfounded peers.

The crux of the matter is that the date given by the AC for Badon has been plunged into a sea of disrepute by scores of modern scholars, which has seen them invalidate the AC & subsequently Arthur himself. The question of Badon’s date begins with a passage by the earliest British historian whose works are still extant, the cleric known as Saint Gildas. His seminal text, the De Excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain) mentions the ‘siege of Badon Hill’(obsessio montis Badonicus), as in;

From that time on now the citizens, now the enemy, were victorious … right up until the year of the siege of Badon Hill, almost the last, not the least, slaughter of the villains, and this the forty-fourth year begins (as I know) with one month already elapsed, which is also [that] of my birth.

Scholars have thought to ascertain Badon’s date by cross-referencing other clues in the De Excidio. A fertile bed for investigation is the admonishment by Gildas of five British kings, one of whom is a certain Maglocunus. Gildas writes;

And likewise, O thou dragon of the island, who hast deprived many tyrants, as well of their kingdoms as of their lives, and though the last-mentioned in my writing, the first in mischief, exceeding many in power, and also in malice, more liberal than others in giving, more licentiousin sinning, strong in arms, but stronger in working thine own soul’s destruction, Maglocune

Scholars then searched through the 6th century for a man who sounded like Maglocunus, & opted for the AC’s Maelwgyn;

547 The great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. Thus they say ‘The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos’. Then was the yellow plague.

The same scholars who identified Maelgwyn with Magloconus then declared that the date of Badon must have been obviously fought before 503, & by association confined the validity of the Annales Cambrae to the dust heap.  Instead of dismissing such a unique & valuable piece of historical evidence such as the AC, I have always believed that we broad-minded moderns must respect everything we inherit, & should say, ‘Alright, this is what we have got, this is what has been left to us.‘ Our sources have come from the minds of intelligent people, the intellectual elite of an age & we must remember that each of these clue-givers represents the tip of an iceberg, for beneath the surface they would have conducted their own research on the matter from now lost & long-forgotten sources. A great amount of these ice-berg tips have reached modernity – even so, they are but a scanty sample leaving great gaps in the Dark Age canvas like the spaces in a very difficult suduko square.

With that in mind, & trusting both Gildas & the AC (having no reason not to), I began to search for a Maglocunos 44 years after Badon’s date of 516 – i.e. c.560. Happily, this date fits in with what we know about Gildas. A 9th century vita by an anonymous the Monk of Ruys shows how Gildas took up Holy Orders at the age of fifteen, which would have been c.531 AD, six years before Arthur’s death;

From the fifteenth year of his age through the whole period of the present life which he lived in this world, up to the very last day on which he was called by the Lord, it was only three times in the week, as we have learnt from a trustworthy source, that he took a most scanty food for his body.

The Rhuys life describes how Ainmericus, the High King of Ireland (r.566-569), asked Gildas to restore church order, confirming the AC entries for Gildas, which are;

565 The voyage of Gildas to Ireland
570 Gildas wisest of Britons died.

The Rhuys life also connects the composition-period of the De Exidio with the existence of a Breton leader named Conomerus, as in;

Once more: the holy man, at the request of brother monks who had come to him from Britain, ten years after he had departed from the country, wrote a short epistolary book, in which he reproved five of the kings of that island who had been ensnared by various crimes and sins. Now there lived in these days, in the upper parts of that country, a certain tyrant whose name was Conomerus, a man allured by a perverse credulity and a diabolical crime.

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The death of Conomerus soon follows in the text, which connects him to French historical records which name a Count Conomor of Poher. According to the French historian Gregory of Tours, he died c.560, the very year that Gildas launched his literary diatribe against Maglocune. Philologically, the two names match, for the name Conomorus is a simple inversion of Maglocune, both of which translate as ‘Majestic Hound.’ There is also a very significant factual match, for both Conomorus & Maglocune are said to have committed what appears to be an identical crime. According to the ‘Life of St Samson of Dol,’ Conomorus killed his own wife & then murdered a certain King Jonas in order to marry the man’s widow, an exact sequence of events attributed to Maglocune by Gildas, as in;

For contempt is thrown upon thy first marriage, though after thy violated vow as a monk it was illicit, yet was to be assumed as the marriage of thine own proper wife; another marriage is sought after, not with anybody’s widow, but with the beloved wife of a living man; and he not a stranger, but thy brother’s son. On this account, that stiff neck, already weighted with many burdens of sins (to wit, a double daring murder, the killing of the husband above named, and the wife that was for a time regarded by thee as thine), is bent down through the extreme excess of thy sacrilegious deed, from lowest crimes to still lower.

The Life of St Samson of Dol describes the excommunication of Maglocunos by the Bishops of Brittany, among whose number must have been Gildas, giving us the perfect back story for the admonishing-atmosphere of the De Excidio. Cunomoros is an excellent fit for Maglocunos, & if they are indeed the same man let us restore the Annales Cambrae to their former reputation, which I am sure the chronicle’s original compilers would be rather happy about.

A possible stumbling block would be the description by Gildas of Maglocunos being the ‘dragon of the island, who hast deprived many tyrants, as well of their kingdoms as of their lives.’ Brittany is definitely not an island, & we must assume that Britain is intended. Luckily, another text places Cunomerus across the English Channel at Cornwall. The Breton monk Wromnoc, in his ‘Life of Paul Aurelian’ (884) tells us that King Mark of Cornwall, otherwise known as ‘Quonomorius,’ ruled over peoples who spoke four different languages. These four languages would be;

Gallo- The Latinized language of Brittany in the sixth century Geoffrey of Monmouth identified Cunomorus  as Chinmarchocus, & had him ruling Treguier, near Lannion in Brittany, where stands the hill-fort of Ruvarq, which translates as ‘Mark’s Hill.’

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Brythonic – A Celtic language spoken by the native Britons in Cornwall. Excellent extra evidence comes from the discovery of a 6th century memorial stone at Fowey in Cornwall, near Castle Dore, said to be the fortress of King Mark. Indeed, Castle Dore, is said to be sited on the lands of Lancien by the Prose Tristan, a match to the medieval manor of Lantyan on which the stone was found. Upon the stone is inscribed ‘Drustanus son of Conomori,’ a relationship confirmed by the medieval Welsh Triads which consider a ‘Drystan son of March as one of the ‘Three Peers of Arthur’s Court’. Meanwhile, across the Bristol Channel in south wales, an ancient Welsh tale places Mark in Castellmarch, Lleyn, where he appears as March ab Merichion & grows a pair of horses’ ears.

Old Norwegian - The Dream of Rhonabwy tells us that Prince Mark led a group of men from Llychlyn – i.e. Scandinavia – at the Battle of Badon, as in; ‘The men of Norway, led by March, son of Meirchyawn, Arthur’s first cousin.‘ Big Geoff also places him among the Nordic lands (& Ireland), as in; ‘Malgo, one of the comeliest men in the whole of Britain, the driver-out of many tyrants, redoubted in arms, more bountiful than others and renowned for prowess beyond compare, yet hateful in the sight of God for his secret vices. He obtained the sovereignty of the whole island, and after many exceeding deadly battles did add unto his dominions the six neighbour islands of the Ocean, to wit, Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway and Denmark.’

 

Bruide son of Máelchú receiving the 'Word' from Saint Colomba
Bruide son of Máelchú receiving the ‘Word’ from Saint Colomba

Pictish - The last of the four languages should now be Pictish, for we can see the name Maglocunus in Mailchon, the latter being given as the father of the great Pictish King Bridei by the Pictish Chronicle. A date & slightly different spelling appears in the Irish chronicles, where the Annals of Tigernach record, ‘558 The flight of the Scots before Bruide son of Máelchú. ‘ With Pictish regal succession being of a matrilineal nature, we can assume that Mark / Cunomorus / Maelchon / Maglocunos married a Pict. His powerful status is reflected through his daughter, Domlech, who married Aedan, King of Dalriada. There are also Pictish symbol stones found at Trusty’s Hill in Dumfries & Galloway, whose name should be derived from Trystan , for only a few miels away stands a Dark-Age hillfort called The Mote of Mark.

Gildas also says of Maglocune, ‘But warnings are certainly not wanting to thee, since thou hast had as instructor the refined teacher of almost the whole of Britain.’ The only saint that fits the bill as a pan-british teacher would have been Saint Kentigern, which leads us to a certain Morken, king of Cumbria as found in the vita of St Kentigern. Morken was at first a pupil of Kentigern, but later drove him from Scotland. After this the saint travelled throughout Britain founding churches, connecting with Gildas’s account of Maglocunus’s teacher reaching ‘almost the whole o fBritain.’ The Scottish ‘Morken’ should then be the Pictish version of Mark.

Saint Kentigern
Saint Kentigern

The conquest of these widely scattered regions neatly connects to Gildas’ descripton of Maglocune of him being the ‘dragon of the island,’ who dispossesed ‘tyrants’ of their kingdoms,& also to Lifris, who wrote, ‘Maelgon the Great was king of the Britons, and governed all Britain.‘ To conclude, it seems that Maglocunus was not Maelgwyn Gwynned, but was instead the famous King Mark of Cornwall, otherwise known as Cunomorus, who ruled a pan-ocean empire from Norway to Brittany. This fits in perfectly with his being named alongside Prince Geraint as one of the three great seafarers of the Welsh Triads.

 And of course, his existence completely validates the Annales Cambraie as a historical document , which as a lover of history rather pleases me no end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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