Home » History » The second battle of Badon
The soil of Ercal is on courageous men,
On the progeny of Moryal,
And after Rys great lamentation.
This suggestion is based on a number of presumptions. First is that the battle described is associated with the following entry, which records the death of one Morcant. The second is that this individual can be identified in the much later genealogical material contained in the same manuscript, known as the Harleian genealogies. The third premise is that this "Second Badon" can be placed within a specific context which also features heavily in a Welsh poetic cycle.
2. Bellum badonis secundo.
3. Morcant moritur.
The standard explanation of the description of the battle as the "Second Battle of Badon" is a location suggested by the battle between Wulfhere of Mercia and Æscwine of the Gewisse, which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle places at Biedanheafde: -
A: 675. Her Wulfhere Pending 7 Æscwine gefuhton æt Biedanheafde; 7 þy ilcan geare Wulfhere forþferde, 7 Ęþelręd feng to rice.
C: 675. Her Wulfhere Pending 7 Æscwine gefuhton æt Biedanheafde, 7 þy ilcan geare forðferde Wulfhere, 7 Æþelred feng to rice.
However, the Harleian genealogy gives the ancestry of the later rulers of Glastenic, which contains a reference to their descent from a certain Glast: -
Harleian MS. 3859 25. [I]udnerth map [Morgen] map Catgur map Catmor map Merguid map Moriutned map Morhen map Morcant map Botan map Morgen map Mormayl map Glast unum sunt glastenic qui uenerunt [per villam] que uocatur loyt coyt.
This genealogy associates Glast with Loyt Coyt, a name which appears in the Historia Brittonum as Caer Luit Coyt (Luiti Coyt, Luit Coit, Luit Coith), a place identified with the Roman-era Letocetum which is commonly ascribed to Wall-by-Lichfield. Lichfield, interestingly enough, became an important Mercian site - and home to that kingdom's bishop - at about the same time as the AC ascribes to this battle.
Furthermore, a battle at Caer Lwytgoed is recorded in the heroic elegy Marwnad Cynddylan, which describes the feats of Cynddylan of the post-Roman kingdom of Pengwern and his brothers, whose number includes a certain Moriael, of whom it is said: -
Morial bore off from in front of Lichfield.
Fifteen hundred cattle from the front of battle;
four twenties of stallions and equal harness.
While Cynddylan and Moriael are said to be sons of Cyndrwyn rather than Glas or Glast, they are certainly associated with a milieu in which Mercia features prominently: Cynddylan was an ally or tributary of Penda of Mercia ("When the son of Pyd requested, he was so ready!") who fought alongside Penda and Caswallon, usually made the ruler of Gwynedd, at Maes Cogwy or Maserfelth and also presumably led a contingent from Pengwern against the Northumbrians at Winwæd, which resulted in the death of Penda and a brief period of Northumbrian control over north-western Mercia.
The genealogy of one Meuruc in the Jesus College MS. 20 genealogy records his ancestry thus: -
[M]euruc. m. Elaed. m. Elud. m. Glas. m. Elno. m. docuael. m. Cuneda wledic.
This further associates Glas[t] with the genealogy of Cynddylan, Moriael and Morcant, as the Marwnad Cynddylan twice names the hero as the king of the Dogfeiling.
Additionally, the poem makes mention of "Cynddylan, of the fame of Caradoc," which may be associated with an alternate pedigree for Dogfael which appears in the Bonedd y Saint 2: -
Harleian MSS. 4181. Dogvael, was the son of Ithael, the son of Ceredig, the son of Cunedda Wledig.
Hengwrt Ms. 202. Doguael ap Ithael ap Keredic ap Kuneda Wledic.
Peniarth MS. 16. Docuael. m. Ithael. m. Keredic. m. Kuneda Wledic.
A further association between the Dogfeiling and this St. Dogfael perhaps underlies the statement "I love those of the land of Cemais who give me welcome," as P.C. Bartrum, in the Welsh Classical Dictionary, notes that St. Dogfael "was the founder of St. Dogmael's in Cemais, Dyfed, also called Llandudoch," though Cemais in Anglesey may better fit the context, which mentions Menai. Additionally, a subsequent verse mentions Aberffraw, the seat of the rulers of Gwynedd (and putative overlords of Dogfeiling in Dyffryn Clwyd) in the place of Cemais.
One other genealogy, however, provides a different ancestry for the family of Cynddylan: this is the Bonedd yr Arwyr, which makes this family descendants of the great hero of the Hen Ogledd Urien Rheged: -
1. Plant Kyndrwyn ap Ywain ap Vrien ap Kynvarch
sons: Eluan Pywys, Kynon, Gwiawn, Riadaf, Haearnllen, Pasgen, Gwyn, Kynwraidd, Ehedyn, Kynan, Gwenalogid, Morvael.
daughters: Ffevur, Meduyl, Medlan, Gwledyr, Meisir, Keynvrit, Heledd, Gwladus, Gwenddwyn.
The Bonedd yr Arwyr is, however, very late indeed and can thus perhaps be discounted, though its use of the name Morvael, rather than Moriael, is significant in that it furnishes a closer match to that of the father of Morgen or Morcant from the Harleian MS. 3859. Also, the Bonedd yr Arwyr's supposed descent of Cyndrwyn and his sons from Urien and Owain most likely represents an error, with Cyndrwyn confused with the famous northern saint Kentigern. There are, however, one or two other hints for the presence of Urien in north east Wales, of which more below.
St. Bede [4.3] notes that St. Chad, newly installed as bishop of the Mercians and the Lindisware, was based at Lyccidfelth, mention of which might represent a new foundation. Certainly, the earlier bishops of the Mercians seem to be more closely associated with Repton. The existence of a bishop's seat in Lichfield appears to be confirmed in the Marwnad Cynddylan, in the description of Morial's bold deeds: -
Morial bore off from in front of Lichfield.
The chief bishop wretched in his four-cornered house (?),
the book-keeping monks did not protect.
Those who fell in the blood before the splendid warrior
no brother escaped from the entrenchment to his sister.
Thus, there appears to have been a breakdown in the earlier cordial relationship between Mercia and the Dogfeiling-Pengwern dynasty which resulted in the extension of Mercian control over Luytcoyt (perhaps inherited from Oswiu of Northumbria's expansion into the West Midlands) during the reign of Penda's son Wulfhere, which resulted in the attempt by Cynddylan, along with his brothers and allies, to retake the region in or shortly after St. Chad's translation of the see in 669, after which the generation of Morcant and Cynddylan's son Caranfael engaged in a further engagement at the AC's "Badon," the disastrous results of which are outlined in the section of the Canu Heledd which names Ercal (modern Ercall in Shropshire) as the burial place of Morfael's progeny, as well as the exile of the Dogfeiling clan to Glastening.
Further to the earlier noting of the Bonedd yr Arwyr's statement that Cyndrwyn was the son of Owain ap Urien, despite the probability that this is an error, there are traditions which associate Urien and Owain with north-eastern Wales. Of particular interest is a brief tale related in the Peniarth MS. 147, which, despite its clear mythological nature, does locate Urien in Llanberris on the Alun, where he encounters a washer woman at a ford, who reveals that she is the daughter of the king of Annwfn, and was fated to remain at the ford until she met a Christian man. The offspring of this liaison are Owain and his sister Morfudd. Urien's wife is given elsewhere as Modron ferch Afallach, which agrees with her characterisation in this relation.
Further evidence associating the family of Urien with the Dogfeiling clan might be inferred from the genealogies, in which Pasgen ap Urien is the father of a Rhirid, a name which also occurs in the Marwnad Cynddylan. There is also a persistent tradition which associates the family of Urien, as well as other northern heroes, with the region around the Clwyd, as well as Powys, where many of the northern nobility went into exile after the losses of their homelands.
Between Ruthin and Llanberris stand the heights of the Clwydian Mountains, a region which boasts a number of significant hill-forts, one of which has potential connections to the origin myth of the Dogfeiling's opponents the Cadelling clan.
Foel Fenlli is the supposed stronghold of the pagan Irish raider Benlli Gawr, a figure who appears in chapters 32 to 35 of the Historia Brittonum, in which St. Germanus, prior to his calling down of divine fire to consume Benlli and his retinue, meets a poor man, Catel Drunluc, to whom he promises the rule of the land in Benlli's stead: -
The following day, the hospitable man who had been converted by the preaching of St. Germanus, was baptized, with his sons, and all the inhabitants of that part of the country; and St. Germanus blessed him, saying, "a king shall not be wanting of thy seed for ever." The name of this person is Cadel Drunluc: "from henceforth thou shalt be a king all the days of thy life." Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Psalmist: "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the needy out of the dunghill." And agreeably to the prediction of St. Germanus, from a servant he became a king: all his sons were kings, and from their offspring the whole country of Powys has been governed to this day.
Cynddylan in particular is singled out as the "oppressor of the Cadelling" and "terror to the Cadelling," and a look at the Cadelling genealogies and the feats ascribed to the members of the clan does suggest that, during the mid-7th century, this particular group had fallen somewhat on hard times. A century earlier, Cynan Garwyn was celebrated in a parody from the Llyfr Taliesin, and quite possibly written by the eponymous Taliesin, a bard most closely associated with the court of our old friend Urien Rheged. His son was Solomon or Selyf Sarffgadau, who is said to have fought against the Bernicians at Chester. Chester was, at that time, under the rule of Brocmail (A: Scrocmail; E: Scromail) according to the ASC and St. Bede, and this name is common among the Cadelling clan. The AC does seem to confuse the identity of Brochmail Ysgythrog, who is elsewhere identified as Cynan Garwyn's father, placing his demise instead only three years prior to the "Second Badon": -
A: broc mail moritur.
B: brochwail eschitrauc obiit.
The editor of the "A" text, H.W. Gough-Cooper, notes that "Brochwel Ysgythrog, whose grandson Selyf was killed in 613 [...] cannot possibly be meant, if the date 662 is right," and suggests as an alternative "Brochwel ap Sualda, of Meirionydd." Another possibility is a Brochwael who appears in the Eryr Eli section of the Canu Heledd: -
The eagle of Eli, let him afflict
To-night the vale of illustrious Meissir,
Brochwael's land, long let him affront it!
Meissir is, of course, a sister of Heledd and Cynddylan according to the Bonedd yr Arwyr and this particular verse might be seen as suggestive of a marital alliance between the Dogfeiling and Cadelling lines, with an otherwise obscure Brochwael marrying Cyndrwyn's daughter in an attempt at pacifying the situation and consolidating Dogfeiling control over the Pengwern district at least.
There are a few tantalising hints in Taliesin's work which suggest a state of tension existing between Urien and the presumably Cadelling rulers of Powys: -
The blades gleamed on the glittering helmets,
Against Brochwel of Powys, that loved my Awen.
A battle in the pleasant course early against Urien,
There falls about our feet blood on destruction.
He was not an agressor, there appeared not
The uplifted front of Urien before Powys.
In the beginning of May in Powys, in battle array,
He is one, coming when he visits his people.
Meanwhile, while the poet notes that Brochfael "loved my Awen," Cynan Garwyn is depicted menacing a variety of his neighbours, fighting in Môn (Anglesey), on the River Wye, in Dyfed and against Gwent, and most notably campaigning in Brycheiniog. In a similar vein, the Vita Sancti Cadoci presents him as planning an expedition against Morgannwg, which is aborted due to the saint's intervention. His association with Cadell's dynasty is explicit in his being named as Brochfael's son, while another ancestor, Cyngan, and a "Cadelig ystrat" are also mentioned.
Thus, I propose that it may be possible to place this "Second Badon" within the context of the re-emergence of Mercia as a significant power after Oswiu was forced out of the West Midlands. It was during this time that Lichfield became a significant Mercian centre of power, while Pengwern - a probably Mercian satellite since the death of Caswallon - was reorganised as the Wreocensæte which appears in the Tribal Hidage, after the emigration (or expulsion) of the ruling Dogfeiling lineage to Glastening. Mercia was also exerting its influence to the south of the heartland of Pengwern, and it is around this time that the earliest notices of kings bearing Anglo-Saxon names appear in the subkingdoms of Magonsæte and Hwicce. Another possible Mercian satellite which appears in the Tribal Hidage is Westerne, which, if it is not identical with Magonsæte, possibly represents the Cheshire plain (perhaps extending as far north as the River Ribble in Lancashire), formerly in the hands of the Northumbrians.
Of course, this little discussion is also intended to serve as a warning to others that the sparse records at the disposal of the researcher can be interpreted in such a way as to support any particular thesis being developed. This must be borne in mind when reading any theories about this period which are not explicitly supported by contemporary or near-contemporary records, which rubric by necessity includes any and all theories as the the identity of the "real" king Arthur and the locations of his battles.