Cadwallon, King of Gwynedd
(Latin: Catuvellaunus; English: Catwald)

Cadwallon grew up at Aberffraw, traditionally in the shadow of King Edwin of Deira who Geoffrey of Monmouth says was his foster-brother. He further claims that, at a young age, his father, King Cadfan, sent him to the Royal Breton Court where received a fine British education. Perhaps Edwin may have gone with him. Traditionally a petty rivalry was born between them that, in manhood, turned to war.

Anglo-Saxon sources show that, after Edwin left Wales, he was able to recover a united Northumbrian crown with the help of the Anglo-Saxon Bretwalda, King Redwald of East Anglia in AD 616. He then appears to have turned to expansionism. First, Edwin conquered the British Kingdom of Elmet, killing its monarch, Ceretic. After Cadfan's death and Cadwallon's accession to the Throne, Edwin soon clashed with the latter. Although exactly how this came about is uncertain. Geoffrey of Monmouth gives considerable detail, some of which could originate in Welsh tradition.

An early battle north of the Humber, traditionally at Widdrington near Morpeth, is accpeted by some historians but not others. Edwin seems to have then turned on Gwynedd. Bede indicates that he attacked Ynys Manaw (Isle of Man) by Sea and, from there, spring-boarded to Ynys Mon (Anglesey) where Cadwallon underwent some crushing defeats. The King of Gwynedd was pushed back to the tiny Ynys Lannog (Isle of Priestholm) where, the Annales Cambriae say he was besieged for some time in AD 629 before escaping to Ireland. Geoffrey then claims that he moved on to Guernsey and then to the Breton Royal Court where he plotted revenge but Welsh sources indicate that he returned directly form Ireland.

The story goes that Cadwallon sent an advance party to Britain to rally his men and those of the other British kingdoms, while he prepared a Breton invasion force. The advance guard landed in Dumnonia, but were immediately caught up in a Mercian siege of Caer-Uisc (Exeter). King Clemen was, thus, in no position to help the Gwynedd cause. However, Cadwallon soon arrived with his army and crushed the Mercians, forcing their pagan King, Penda, into a mutual anti-Northumbrian alliance, sealed by Cadwallon's marriage to Penda's half-sister, Alcfritha. Ancient Welsh poetry certainly tells of fourteen battles between the two sides. The chief of these was the Battle of Cefn Digoll (Long Mountain at Forden just east of Welshpool) in AD 632. This probably enabled Cadwallon to regain his position in Wales.

Geoffrey continues his narrative with the Gwynedd-Mercian force hounding the Northumbrians back to their own kingdom. There they wreaked revenge on the Northern Angles, burning York, sacking Yeavering (Ad Gefrin) and butchering Northumbrians as they went. So savagely did Cadwallon treat them that the Northern Angles thought they were all to be exterminated. All sources then agree that Edwin was finally killed at the Battle of Meigen (Hatfield), possibly at High Hatfield near Cuckney in Nottinghamshire, in AD 633.

This did not, however, entice Cadwallon to leave Northumbria. Edwin's cousin, Osric, managed to rally the Nothumbrian troops and besieged the King of Gwynedd at York. Cadwallon, however, broke out, caught Osric unawares and destroyed his entire army. Aethelfrith of Bernicia's son, Enfrith, then returned from Pictland and tried to negotiate peace with Cadwallon. The King would have none of it though and Enfrith was also slain. Within a year, however, Enfrith's half-brother, Oswald, marched south from his exile in Scottish Dalriada and encountered Cadwallon at Catscaul or 'Cad-ys-gual', the Battle of the Wall (Heavenfield, near Hexham) in AD 634. There Cadwallon died.

Tradition says he was buried beneath the Ludgate of Caer Londein, where he had occasionally held court over both Britons and Anglo-Saxons. A mounted statue of him is said to have been raised upon its top. His son, Cadwaladr Fendigaid, being still a child, the throne was seized by one Cadfael ap Cynfeddw.

Records of King Cadwallon date back to the 8th century. He is an historic personage.


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