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

Believed to be a son of King Merion, Mark's origins are shrouded in mystery. Breton legend makes him a son of Teudar Mawr, the King of Penwith. This is the evil King Mark of Cornwall, infamous in popular tradition for the ill-treatment of his nephew, Tristan. He may, however, have been dreadfully wronged in this episode of West Country history, for Tristan had become the lover of Marc's wife, the beautiful Iseult (or Isolde) of Ireland, and flaunted their relationship before the whole court. It was little wonder that the two didn't get on. Marc apparently lived at Tintagel Castle and Castle Dore near Lancien (Lantyan). In the earliest Arthurian tradition was a man of honour who had a troop of Norwegian guards amongst his army.

Some say that, like Pinocchio, Marc had 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, "Marc ap Merion has horse's ears"! This story appears to hail from Wales, where Marc is said to have ruled from Llys Meirchion at Henllan in Gwynedd (North Wales). He is also said to have fought against the pagans (probably the Irish) there and to have been captured by them. During his imprisonment, he trained two griffins for the enemy leader and eventually used them to escape. These stories may possibly refer to another evil Welsh King Marc, alias Merchwyn the Mad, although he 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 a mistake. Marc 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.

 

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