Arthur, Cerdic, and the Formation of Wessex
APPENDIX A: A Summary of Geoffrey of Monmouth's "The History of the Kings of
In the twelfth century a cleric named Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote "The History of
the Kings of Britain", which attempted to relate the history of the British Isles
from pre-Roman times to the completed establishment of England. A major part of this
history involved the transition from Roman to Saxon Britain, and related and account of
Arthur's life, military campaigns, and rule, according to the historical standards of
Geoffrey's time. Much of what Geoffrey wrote was unhistorical by modern standards, but his
account is the earliest surviving extensive description. We will briefly summarize
Geoffrey's account of Arthur in this appendix.
In the "History", Arthur was the son of King Uther and Igrain, the wife of
Duke Gorlois of Cornwall, whom Uther seduced with the aid of Merlin's enchantments. Upon
the death of Uther, Arthur became king, and began his reign by campaigning against Saxons
in Yorkshire. After receiving reinforcements from Brittany, he drove the Saxons from
Lincolnshire into the Caledonian Wood. Here he trapped the Saxons in the forest, and
blockaded them by felling trees to make a fence. He then permitted them to leave Briton,
but when they sailed away, they turned and landed at the Severn, and besieged Bath. Arthur
marched from Dunbarton to Bath, and there, with his lance, Ron, and his sword, Caliburn,
slew four hundred seventy men, winning the victory. Ordering Cador, Duke of Cornwall, to
pursue the enemy, Arthur returned to Dunbarton, which was being besieged by Picts and
Scots under Badulf, Colgren, and Cheldric.
Meanwhile, Cador seized the ships of the Saxons, drove them to Thanet, and slew their
leader Cheldrec. Cador then joined Arthur in harrying the Scots & Picts in Scotland.
Driving off the King of Ireland, who had come to the aid of the Scots, Arthur embarked on
a campaign of extermination against the Picts and Scots, which he abandoned in the face of
entreaties by the clergy.
Arthur withdrew to York for the winter, where he appointed Angusel king of Scotland,
Urien ruler of Moray, and restored his sister's husband, Lot, to the Dukedom of Lothian.
He married Guenevere, who was born of a noble Roman family and raised in the household of
The next summer Arthur fitted out a fleet and conquered the defenseless islands of
Ireland and Iceland. Kings of other lands did homage to him and he reigned in peace twelve
years. After this, he conquered Norway and Denmark, and invaded Gaul, which he subdued
over the next nine years, granting various provinces to his nobility, and holding court in
Paris. For the next five years he held court in Glamorgan, and vassals came to him from
all over his empire.
A letter arrived from Lucius, Procurator of the Roman republic, demanding Arthur's
submission. With Cador's encouragement, Arthur decided to fight Lucius, and gathered a
huge army from all over his empire, while emperor Lucius gathered the kings of the orient.
Leaving his nephew Modred and Queen Guenevere in Britain, he embarked for Gaul. At Mount
St. Michael he slew a giant from Spain. Following this the armies of Arthur met those of
the Roman emperor Lucius, and after a great slaughter on both sides, Arthur slew Lucius
with his own hand. After attending to the dead, and beseiging the cities of the Allobroges
during the following winter, Arthur was marching on Rome when he heard that his nephew
Modred had married his wife Guenevere and seized the throne of Britain.
Modred gathered a great army and met Arthur at Winchester, winning a victory. Arthur
renewed his attack, and Modred withdrew to the river Camel. There Arthur and Modred fell
in battle. The wounded Arthur gave up his crown to Cador's son Constantine, and was
carried off to Avalon in the year 542.
John C. Rudmin, 864 Chicago Av, Harrisonburg, VA, 22801
Joseph W. Rudmin, Physics Dept., James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA, 22807
(First submitted for publication in Oct 1993)
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