Tag Archives: Gwynedd

Cunedda and the foundation of Gwynedd

Welsh history is something that so far has escaped my attention but this all changed recently when coming across the Annals Cambriae recently transcribed online.


After reading the transcription it defiantly peaked my interest and I quickly found one person that caught my eye with his movement from one troubled area to another.

Cunedda ap Edern or Cunedda Wledig was an important 5th Century early Welsh leader and pivitol to the royal dynasty of Gwynedd. The name Cunedda derives from the Brythonic kunodagos meaning good hound. Cunedda’s genealogy can be traced back to Padarn Beisrudd which translates as Paternus of the Scarlet robe. This would imply a possibly Roman connection.

One tradition places Padarn as a Roman or Romano-British official of reasonably high rank who had been placed in command of Votadini troops in the Clackmannanshire area in Scotland in the 380’s or possibly slightly earlier. Alternatively he may have been a chieftain who was granted military rank for fighting across the frontier. Padarn’s command after his death passed to his, Edern and then to Edern’s son Cunedda.

According to Old Welsh traditions Cunedda came from Manaw Gododdin, the modern Clackmannanshire in Scotland. The Manaw Godd was a sub branch from the main Goutodin. They occupied the land just beyond the Antonine Wall around the River Forth. Cunedda’s ancestors more and likely formed part of the Venicones tribe in the 1st and 2nd centuries.

Cunedda and his ancestors led the Votadini against the Picts and Irish raids south of Hadrian’s wall and from here they migrated and settled in North Wales to defend the area against the Irish, specifically the Ui Liathain as mentioned in the Historia Brittonum. Cunedda established himself in the area and this went on to become the kingdom of Gwynedd.

There are two theories of how this happened. The first was that he was acting on instructions from the Roamans or Vortigern, the high king of the British immediately after the Roman period in Britain. Arguments have been given why the instructions could not have come from Rome. The political state in sub-Roamno Britain at the time would of meant that a centralised government giving orders for a foederati moving from Scotland to Wales as unlikely. Magnus Maximus died in 388 and Constantine III departed from Britain in 407. With the date range for Cunedda’s move south from 370 to 440 it can be seen that it would only be the early part of this that would have been Roman in command.

Maximus or his successors may have handed control of Britain frontiers over to local chieftains at an earlier date. In the 370’s the Chester was evacuated (believed to possibly be Cunedda’s base in the region) and archaeological evidence showing Irish settlement on the Llyn Peninsular and possible raids as west as Wroxeter by the late 4th Century it is difficult to believe that either Roman or British forces presented any affective defence of Wales at this time.

Some say that Vortigern could have given the orders for Cunedda to move further south and assist with the defence of Wales. We have seen with the establishment of Kent that Vortigern had form for requesting others to come to his aid with the invite of the Saxon’s to assist with defending his territories. It could be that the same welcome was extended to Cunedda. This would then place Cunedda and his Votadini’s move no later than 442 when Vortigern’s former Saxon allies started rebelling.

Cunedda’s said grandson Maelgwn Gwynedd was a contemporary of Gildas and according to the Annals Cambriae died in 547. Working this back it would support the suggestion that Cunedda’s intervention to the Irish raids would have been the middle of the 5th Century.

Cunedda secured a very good political marriage to Gwawl, who was the daughter of Coel Hen, the Romano –British ruler of Eboracum (York) and it is claimed they had nine sons. These were, Osmail, Rumanus, Dunautus, Eternus, Ceretic, Abloyc, Enniaun Girt, Docmail and Typiaun. It is said that the early kingdoms of Ceredigion and Meirionnydd were named after Ceredig and Meirion.

For a starting point into reading about early Welsh history I do believe I have picked a good character in Cunedda and with nine sons forming some of the early Welsh kingdoms there will be plenty more to learn about.

The map below shows the position of Gwynedd at the time of Gildas.

Map at Gildas time