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Early British Saints and Kings

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Ian Topham
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Re: Early British Saints and Kings

I have just posted an article covering the early years of St Moling.  I don't think you'll get people sucking the snot from the nose of leper these days.

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Re: Early British Saints and Kings

Very nice one Ian. These early Saints were really an interesting lot.

In Distortion We Trust


"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-

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Urien of Rheged

One from my blog on Cumbrian history and folklore!

Sometime in the early 6th century, Urien was born. He was one of the old-Welsh-speaking Britons, and he ruled over a small kingdom called Rheged. Urien had a court bard, Taliesin, who recorded Urien’s wars in a series of poems which became very popular in Wales in succeeding centuries.
Urien and other nearby warlords including Rydderch Hael of Strathclyde, Gwallawg of Elmet and Morcant Bwlch combined to defend their territories against the Angles of Bernicia during the third quarter of the 6th century, culminating in a three-day siege at Lindisfarne. Here, a jealous Morcant sent a hired hand by the name of Llofan Llaw Difro to kill Urien.
Urien’s death at the height of his military success sent Rheged into disarray; it limped on for another few decades until his great-granddaughter Rieinmelth’s marriage to Oswy of Northumbria effectively handed Rheged into Urien’s enemy’s hands. Rheged was no more.
From these few facts, some enthusiastic Cumbrian and Welsh sources were appropriated and stirred by Geoffrey of Monmouth into something quite different. Urien of Rheged becomes Uriens of Gore, a knight of King Arthur's round table with a city (possibly) at Sedbergh, and a wife called – wait for it – Morgan le Fay. That’s right – Uriens is married to the sorceress sister of King Arthur. Uriens and Morgan have a son called Yvain who has adventures of his own, and is also a knight of the round table.
It some ways, it’s not as bonkers as it at first seems. Urien of Rheged was a famous warlord and near-contemporary of Arthur, and there’s nothing odd about cementing relationships by marrying your sister to your allies in this period. Taliesin’s Urien has a son called Owain – a name with the same linguistic root as Yvain – and it wouldn’t have been strange for a warlord to send his son to an allied king’s court in his youth. Where the theory all falls down is Taliesin’s silence on the subject and a closer examination of dates.
The historical Urien’s death is reasonably securely dated to 580-590CE, and we know from Taliesin that he lived to be a white-haired old man, so we can guess a birth date of 510-520CE. Arthur is traditionally said to have been born in around 465CE, and to have died at the Battle of Camlann in 537 CE. Morgan lef Fay, Uriens of Gore’s supposed wife, is Arthur’s older half-sister, so she would have been around 45 when Urien was born. If Uriens had his son, Yvain, when he was 20, the oldest that Yvain could have been at Arthur’s death in 537CE is seven. This Yvain could not have been one of Arthur’s knights.
These dates do not exclude the possibility that a young Urien was at the Battle of Camlann in 537CE. Perhaps he did marry a female relation of Arthur; some sources say that Morgan was actually Arthur’s niece, although even that extra generation stretches likelihoods; other sources suggest another candidate for Urien’s wife.
So where does that leave us? Urien was a real person, and probably a famously heroic one, and he probably did rule much of Cumbria from 535-c580CE. As for the rest? Well, that's up to you.



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