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Posts Tagged ‘Cerdic’

At least one attempt in recent years has been made to show that Prince William may be descended from King Arthur (Le Morte D’Arthur). Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, in Royal Highness, a study of the ancestors of the future King of England, Prince William, conveniently states that it is very probable for King Arthur to be among the warrior chieftains of fifth and sixth century Britain from whom the Royal Family is descended (Moncreiffe 12). Finally, as Geoffrey Ashe has pointed out, Prince William’s middle name is Arthur, and should Prince William choose to use his middle name rather than William when he is crowned, he will be the next King Arthur (199).

            Still, no direct or indisputable genealogical line connects the British royal family to King Arthur. One other possibility may exist in the theory that the King Arthur of legend is the historical Riothamus. Riothamus had a son David who then had a son Budic. This Budic lived in Britain as an exile for some time. It is possible that Budic might be an ancestor of the Tudors, and a closer look at Welsh and Breton genealogies could then give us a connection between Riothamus and the British royal family (Ashe 196).

            Of course, if Cerdic is Arthur’s son, as Geoffrey Ashe has also suggested, then the British royalty would also be descended from Arthur because Cerdic was the ancestor of Alfred the Great, and through him, the British royal family. The fact that Debrett’s Peerage, the official heraldic society in Britain, backed Ashe’s book suggests that the British, if not the royal family itself, still wish to make this link between their present day monarch and King Arthur.

            If there is a link between King Arthur and Prince William, it may be years, if ever, before it will be discovered or researched thoroughly enough to be convincing. It also seems unlikely that a tradition of descent that does not seem to have begun until Henry II in the twelfth century is any more than a convenient forgery. If there is a connection, it is probably through the Welsh Tudor family, and it is there that the greatest scrutiny may need to be used.

For more about the British royal family’s many attempts over the last thousand years to claim descent from King Arthur, be sure to read my book King Arthur’s Children available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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This final volume of Helen Hollick’s trilogy took me a little while to get into, and I thought it dragged a bit in the middle, but while reading the last couple of hundred pages, I didn’t want to put it down as I waited to find out how it would all turn out, and despite my not being crazy about the writing style, overall, I felt satisfied with the ending, and it certainly fulfilled my interest in depictions of King Arthur’s children.

When the previous volume, Pendragon’s Banner, ended, Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s three sons were all dead but Gwenhwyfar was pregnant. When this novel opens, Arthur and Gwenhwyfar have a little girl, Archfedd.

Arthur has two other children (not counting all the bastards he apparently has who don’t figure in the story): Medraut, who lives with his mother, Morgaine, and is just a small child; and Cerdic, son to Winifred (Arthur’s divorced first wife), who is entering his teen years.

Arthur goes to Gaul to fight for Rome, and in the process, gets involved with a woman named Mathild. He is then believed to have been killed in battle, and his own men believe him dead, but some women realize the king is still breathing so they bring him to Morgaine, who cares for him but then also drugs him so he stays with her. Arthur has no desire to leave her anyway because just before his battle, he had heard in a letter from his uncle Ambrosius that Gwenhyyfar had died. He doesn’t know that Gwenhwyfar recovered from her illness, so his spirit is broken and he has no desire to return to Britain to reclaim his throne. Everyone in Britain assumes he has died and Ambrosius rules the country now.

Meanwhile, Mathild, whom Arthur had an affair with, returns to Britain and immediately marries Arthur’s son, Cerdic. She soon after has a child named Cynric, whom it is believed is really Arthur’s, not Cerdic’s. When Cerdic’s mother, Winifred, accuses Mathild of the child being Arthur’s and not Cerdic’s, Mathild reveals that Arthur is not dead. This news spreads to Gwenhwyfar, who travels to Gaul to find her husband and try to understand why he has never returned to Britain. She, in the meanwhile, has taken Bedwyr as her lover because she has believed Arthur to be dead.

This section of the story where Arthur doesn’t return home and they search for him drags on for a couple of hundred pages, and although it is revealed Morgaine is drugging Arthur, I still found it hard to understand why he has no desire to return home. Of course, once Arthur and Gwenhwyfar meet, he decides to return to Britain and being king, taking his son Medraut with him.

What interested me from this point was how everything would turn out and whether Arthur’s children would outlive and succeed him. Cerdic has by this time turned against Arthur and they end up waging war against each other. Meanwhile, Archfedd taunts Medraut that he will never be king, and even when he marries, he doesn’t have any children. Archfedd marries a man named Natanlius, by whom she has first a son named Constantine and then other children. While the text doesn’t state so at the end, obviously Constantine is the successor taken from most endings of the story although his role is never stated to be significant in this novel.

Meanwhile, Cynric also grows up and has three bastard daughters as well as a wife who gets pregnant. He and Cerdic have a falling out in regards to waging war on Arthur, but nevertheless, it is obvious that Hollick intends them to be depictions of the historical Cerdic and Cynric, founders of the royal house of Wessex.

Hollick ends the novel with a Battle of Camlann. While she changes around some things, in the end, Arthur dies and his descendants do live on. (I have left out a lot of the story details here so as not to give it all away but simply to discuss how Hollick treats Arthur’s children.)

Significantly, this novel makes Arthur’s descendants the future royalty of England. The royal family of England has, at least since the twelfth century, tried to claim descent from King Arthur (I have an entire chapter about these claims in my book King Arthur’s Children). Geoffrey Ashe proposed more than a quarter century ago that Cerdic might be the son of Arthur-Riothamus (a contender for the historical King Arthur). Cerdic’s Celtic rather than Saxon name has been a reason for such suggestions. Cerdic doesn’t appear in the early versions of the legend, but he is of the correct historical period so such suggestions are plausible. Hollick is the first novelist to take these suggestions and apply them to her fiction.

Because King Arthur’s descendants become the established royal family of Britain, I think Hollick’s trilogy is significant for that reason. In addition, while I didn’t care for the writing style, the characters are quite interesting and well-developed. Hollick’s versions of Winifred and Cerdic are two of the strongest villains I have encountered in Arthurian literature, and while Arthur is not very likeable—really Gwenhwyfar was the only character in all the books I did like—she creates some very interesting characters and twists upon traditional characters. It probably isn’t a series I would read again, but it is worth reading.

For more information about Helen Hollick and her Arthurian novels, visit www.HelenHollick.net

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Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Pendragon’s Banner: Book Two of The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy by Helen Hollick

(published by Sourcebooks Landmark 2009; ISBN 978-1402218897)

In this second volume of The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, Helen Hollick continues her historical portrayal of the Arthurian legend. Arthur is now firmly established as King of Britain, although he has plenty of opposition, including his ex-wife Winifred, who seeks what is best for her son by him, Cerdic, as well as his own people who oppose his making peace with various of the Saxon peoples.

But in my interest in how modern fiction writers treat King Arthur’s children, I think the results here are fairly predictable for his children based on Welsh tradition, all of whom are Arthur’s children by Gwenhywfar in this novel, namely Gwydre, Amr, and Llacheu. Hollick, following their traditional stories, more or less, has each of them die before Arthur.

In legend, Amr usually dies in battle with Arthur—he is believed to have been the original version of Mordred, but Hollick has other plans for Mordred, named “Medraut” in her story, she can’t allow Amr to have the same ending as Medraut so she has him fall into the river and drown when he’s about two years old (p. 98-102). Amr’s death causes hostility between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar, who blames Arthur for not watching him closely.

During Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s time fighting following Amr’s death, Arthur ends up bedding his cousin, Elen, the daughter of one of Uthr’s sisters. She is demanding and manipulative and claims she is pregnant with Arthur’s child. She also wants more from him than just a fling on the side. When they have a disagreement, Elen pulls a knife on Arthur, resulting in his kicking her in the stomach in defense. It’s unclear whether he’s caused her to miscarry their child, and if so whether intentionally, but it does not matter since she becomes despondent and soon after slips off a cliff. However, as I said in my earlier blog about The Kingmaking, Hollick’s Arthur has few if any qualities that make him likeable.

Arthur and Gwenhwyfar soon after reconcile, but then she loses a son of Arthur’s in childbirth.

The fate of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s sons continues to be ill. When Hueil of Alclud, a lover to Morgause, accuses Gwenhwyfar and Bedwyr of adultery, Arthur does battle with Hueil, and in the battle, Llacheu is accidentally stabbed by Hueil. He manages to recover, but soon after eight-year old Gwydre is gored to death during a boar hunt, leaving only Llacheu alive of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s children.

When Llacheu becomes deathly ill, Arthur seeks out the Lady of the Lake, Morgaine, desperate not to lose his and Gwenhwyfar’s last son. Morgaine uses her skills to keep the child alive, but Arthur has no idea she is Morgause’s daughter, or that Morgause has ordered her to hurt Arthur. Neither Morgaine nor Arthur know she is also Uthr’s daughter, and therefore, Arthur’s half-sister. Morgaine tells Arthur her mother orders her to sleep with him, although Arthur interprets what she says to mean the Mother Goddess. They sleep together and Morgaine soon after gives birth to Medraut.

Despite Arthur’s bargain with Morgaine, Llacheu ends up being killed in battle when Morgause is involved in a plot to overthrow Arthur. The novel ends with all of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s children dead, but Gwenhwyfar pregnant.

Arthur is left with two living sons, Cerdic, by his first wife, Winifred, and Medraut, by his half-sister Morgaine.

Doubtless, Medraut will be a key player, and perhaps the traditional villain in the final book of the trilogy Shadow of the King, but what about Cerdic? My guess is he’ll end up ruling the kingdom when all is said and done and being ancestor to the Wessex royalty that will eventually rule all of England, but I’ll have to read the third book to find out how it all actually turns out.

For more information about Helen Hollick and her Arthurian novels, visit www.HelenHollick.net

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Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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