Marc, King of Kernow
(Born c.AD 460)
(Welsh: March; Latin: Marcus; English: Mark)

Marc is supposed to have been a son of King Merion of Kernow (Cornwall) but there are different verions of his origins and even the kingdom he ruled. Breton legend also makes him Cornish but a son of Teudar Mawr, the King of Penwith. This character has been transformed into the evil King Mark of Cornwall, infamous in popular tradition for the ill-treatment of his nephew, Tristan. The story was outlined in detail by the Breton poet, Béroul, in the 12th century. It may include some local folklore. Tristan was said to have become the lover of Marc's wife, Iseult (or Isolde) of Ireland, so it was little wonder that the two didn't get on. However, in the earliest Arthurian tradition, Marc was a man of honour. He traditionally lived at Tintagel Castle and Castle Dore near Lancien (Lantyan).

Welsh tradition calls him March ap Meirchion but says that he ruled the area around Llys Meirchion at Henllan in Gwynedd (North Wales). Like King Midas of Greek myth, Marc was said to have horse's ears: a fact that was revealed every time he had a hair-cut. To keep this secret, he therefore murdered each of his barbers. That is until a local man made a set of pipes from reeds growing on one of the barbers' graves. Whenever he played them, they would sing, "March ap Meirchion has horse's ears". According to Welsh folklore, March is also said to have fought against the pagans (probably the Irish) in Gwynedd and to have been captured by them. During his imprisonment, he trained two griffins for the enemy leader and eventually used them to escape. This story seems to encompass better known mythology surrounding Alexander the Great.

The Welsh legends may possibly refer to another evil Welsh King Marc, alias Merchwyn the Mad, although he is said to have ruled in Western Glamorgan in South Wales. The 'Life of St. Paul Aurelian' identifies King Marc with the unscrupulous Prince Conomor of Poher in Brittany, but this is now generally considered erroneous. Marc probably did, however, play host to this saint at Caer Banned (unidentified) from where he firmly established the Christian faith in Cornwall. The King wished Paul to become Bishop of Cerniw (Cornwall), but he declined and their relations further soured when Marc refused him his fine Celtic bell. Paul then left for Brittany.

After Mark died, his Dumnonian overlord may have given his Cornish throne to his cousin,  St. Salom.

Records of Marc date back to the 11th century. He is generally considered legendary.


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