11 – DUX PICTORUM
In my last post I showed how Arthur fought his biggest, baddest & ultimate battle in the heart of the Pictish sphere, at Dunnichen in Forfarshire. That he found himself embroiled in warfare this far north is down to one lovely & previously unexplored fact, Arthur was actually a Pictish King. An early mention came in the 12th century, when Lambert of St Omer wrote; ‘Arthur, Dux Pictorum, ruling realms of the interior of Britain, resolute in his strength, a very fierce warrior, seeing that England was being assaulted from all sides, and that property was being stolen away, and many people taken hostage and redeemed, and expelled from their inherited lands, attacks the Saxons in a ferocious onslaught along with the kings of Britain.’
This then leads us to what is known as the Pictish King-List, which is essentially just a list of monarchs with their reign-lengths given in years. Using the Annals of Tigernach, which states that in the year 581 AD King Bridei died, we gain an accurate map of the Pictish Kings in the Arthurian period;
Nechtan Morbet son of Eriop (448-472)
Drest Gurthinmoch (472-502)
Galan Erilic (502-517)
Drest son of Gygurn (517-530)
Garthnach son of Gygurn (530-537)
Cailtaine son of Gygurn (537-538)
Talorc son of Muircholaich (538-549)
Drest son of Munait (549-550)
Galam Cennelath (550-551)
Bridei son of Mailcon (551-581)
It has been over a thousand years since anyone spoke Pictish, the phonetic rules of which language are forgotten forever. However, just as I added an s to Artognou to unlock the whole mystery behind Arthur’s in-laws, I’d now like to drop a guttural ‘g’ from a couple of names, giving us.
Arthnach son of Ygurn
When we see that Arthnach died in the same year as King Arthur (537), & that one of his parents had the same name as Arthur’s mother, we are surely onto something! Pictish kingship was matrilineal in nature, so inheriting the throne through his mother would have been a normal thing. It seems Arthur had a brother, for before him a certain Drest ruled for 13 years, from the very time of the battle of Badon. Now then, several versions of the King List give us;
Drest son of Gygurn (517-522)
Drest son of Uudrost (517-530)
We can infer from this that Uudrost was actually Drest’s father, & thus Ygurn’s husband. That his name is a clear match for Uther, adds further weight to Garthnach being King Arthur. Lambert of St Omer adds; ‘There is a palace, in Britain in the Picts’ land, of Arthur the soldier, built with wondrous art and variety, in which may be seen sculpted all his acts both of construction and in battle,’ while an alternate name for Pictland, Prydyn, appears attached to Arthur through a poem by a 14th century bard from Anglesey, Gruffudd ap Meredudd, who writes;
My painful lot, Arthur of the highlands
Hill country of Prydyn
The very fine and generous man -
Symbol of the difficulty in honoring
The snowy complexion of the daughter of Garwy Hir
Garwy Hir appears in Welsh tradition as a notable wise man, whose daughter Indeg, according to the Triads, was one of Arthur’s mistresses. Coincidence or not, a fortification at Cairn Conan in Carmyllie was known as Castle Gory.
That Arthur’s mother, Ygraine, was a Pictish Princess is supported through a wee spot of genealogical investigation. A couple of posts back, I showed how Mierchyawn, the father of King Mark, was also the father of the same King Bridei of the Picts who died in 581. This means that Mierchyawn’s wife would have been a Pict. We also saw how King Mark was considered to be Arthur’s first cousin. Now let us return once again to the sons of Glois as given by the Jesus College manuscript;
Ewein vab keredic. Pedroc sant. Kynvarch. Edelic. Luip. Clesoeph. Sant. Perun. Saul. Peder.Katwaladyr. Meirchyawn. Gwrrai. Mur. Margam Amroeth. Gwher. Cornuill.Catwall. Cetweli.
In the tale Tristan & Isolde, March mab Meirchion is seen ruling over Glywysing, the very kingdom which Gorlois lent his name to. The tale reads, ‘Thus it came about that under Arthur’s urging Tallwch ap Cuch who was Arthur’s cousin journeyed from his own realms in the land of Prydyn to aid his cousin March mab Meirchion, ruler of Glywysing in the land of the Kymry.’ The only way to make all the dots join up neatly is to say that a young Gorlois sired Meirchyawn with an un-named first wife. Twenty years or so later he then got it on with Ygraine while his son, Mark, married Ygraine’s sister. Such a possibility is not beyond the realms of reason, & its sounds like a political move to forge alliances between Brythons & Picts in face of the Saxon onslaught.
A four hour opera by Wagner on Tristan & Iseult
This familial relationship also explains why a clearly Pictish name – Drostan – is considered to be the son of King Mark, as it appears on the memorial stone at Fowey in Cornwall; for Mark was himself half-Pictish. Droston appears in the great tale of Trystan & Iseult, whilet he Triads also state that Iseult’s father, Culvanawt , was Pictish. These two star-crossed lovers sought refuge in ‘Léoneis’ (the French name for Lothian) & the forest of ‘Morrois’ (Moray), while the ‘Tale of Trystan’, says that Trystan and Iseult were in exile in Ceod Celyddon. Beroul also places Trystan in Dumfries & Galloway, which links him to the dark-age ‘Trustys Hill’ found in that county. Also found at Trusty’s Hill was a Pictish symbol stone which has parallels to similar stones found at Rhynie, in Aberdeenshire. Another link between Arthurian Cornwall & Pictland comes through the discovery in the same place of a possible timber hall like the one found at South Cadbury, alongside large fragments of Tintagelware.
Rhynie was clearly a high status capital, & I’d like to suggest that it was Trystan’s personal capital. In certain Tristan tales, such as that composed by the 12th century authors Gottfried von Strassburg & Thomas of Britain, we come across a ‘Hall of Statues.’ It makes sense, then, that the Timber Hall that stood at Rhynie once contained the great many statues/symbol stones that are found in the area.
The purpose of this post has been to confirm Arthur’s presence in the 10th century Pictish King -List. I believe that this list should be admitted as the third main exhibit into the ‘court of history’ when we are judging the historicity of King Arthur, & for any doubters out there just watch what happens in the next few posts.