Perhaps the most famous Briton and the one with whom we are the most familiar is King Arthur. His legendary tale is timeless. The son of Uther Pendragon, nephew of Ambrosius, husband of Guinivere, uncle of Mordred, friend of Merlin; names so familiar to us that they have almost become household names.
King Arthur, ecorded in every Celtic history of the period and claimed by every British Celtic culture and yet we still debate his existence. Yet, it is entirely plausible that Arthur would have not only blood ties with every British Celtic culture but also that every Celtic culture would have recorded his presence. As High King of Britain, he would have held sway over every British Celtic kingdom.
Ambrosius Aurelianus, father of King Arthur, was High King of the Britons following Vortigern. (That Vortigern was High King of the Britons is in dispute, see below). Ambrosius is mentioned in four primary texts, the oldest being De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, written in the sixth century by Gildas. Gildas reveals his disgust for the "lazy and apathetic" people of Britain in his work, though he praises Ambrosius for his leadership againt the Anglo-Saxons. Ambrosius continued the methods of Roman organization and operation militarily. It would seem that Ambrosius was raised in an upper class Romanized British environment. He thoroughly defeated the Anglo-Saxons at Mount Badon and won a generation of peace. The leader of the home forces at that battle was Arthur, who was perhaps High King by that time.
Bede mentions Ambrosius in A History of the English Church and People. Bede refers to Ambrosius as a man of Roman origin and further describes him as the sole survivor of the event in which his royal parents had died (the Saxon foederati revolt in the early 440's).
Nennius, in the early 9th century, compiler of Historia Brittonum, mentions Ambrosius as a fatherless child with prophetic visions before Vortigern (perhaps another Ambrosius), and an Ambrosius, rival of Vortigern "great king of all the kings of the British nation" and a rival whom Vortigern dreaded.
Ambrosius used, as his base, the west area around Gloucester (Guenet). Geoffrey of Monmouth refers to him as Aurelius Ambrosius and states that when King Constans was murdered by Vortigern, Ambrosius and his brother, Uther, were smuggled into Brittany, later to return for battle with and defeating Vortigern.
In the chronology, it appears that Ambrosius was active until about 480, upon which time, events were probably performed by Arthur from the period of 480 until 511.
The Britons were Celts. The Celts arrived in Briton around 517 BC. Celtic kings (Britons) ruled Briton before the Roman invasion around 100 BC and after the Roman rule in Briton until the arrival of the Anglo Saxons around 449. For information on the early Celts of Briton, see Celts. Here, we will concentrate upon the relatively brief span of Briton rule in England between the Roman occupation and the arrival of the Anglo Saxons.
One might ask, what is the difference between Briton and Britain, between the Britons and the Britains? The Britons are those people that were the original Celtic people of England, while the Britains are the amalgamation of those Britons with the Anglo-Saxons and later, the Normans. At the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, many of the Britons were pushed or fled into southeastern England, what later became known as Wales. We can also assume that some of the original Britons went north, to join their cousins in Alba, or what later became Scotland.
The original Celtic tribes in Briton were the: Atrebates, Belgae, Brigantes, Cantiaci, Carvetlii, Catuvellauni, Coritani, Cornovii, Deceangi, Demetae, Dobunni, Dumnonii, Durotriges, Iceni, Ordovices, Parisi, Regnenses, Silures and Trinovantes. The Britons would be an amalgamation of these tribes, living in England prior to the Roman invasion. The latter Britons would include some of those Britons who had intermarried with the Romans. Arthur himself, is a prime example.
Nennius states that the Britons claim their origin to be from the Greeks and the Romans. "On the side of the mother, from Lavinia, daughter of Latinus, King of Italy and of the race of Silvanus, son of Inachus, son of Dardanus, son of Saturn, king of the Greeks, who built the city of Troy." Nennius also states that the Britons once held all of England from sea to sea.
Ancient cities of the Britons include: York, Canterbury, Carnarvon, Worchester, Norwich, Caermarthen, Cirenceser, Gloucester, Carlisle, Bristol, Manchester, Chester, Winchester, Colchester, London, Leicester, Pevensey, Camelot and Lincoln.
Gildas describes Briton following the Roman occupation as a period of peace and fluorishing trade in an agrarian society. Even before the arrival of Julius Caesar, the Celtic tribes had formed administrative groups as evidenced by the fact that it was a council of tribal leaders that met with Ceaesar when he landed. Even Tacitus, the Roman historian, writes of the Celts as having "Once... owed obedience to kings", not a plurality of kings but a succession of kings.
Following the demise of the Roman occupation in Briton, the Britons reverted to their ancient religion and the Christianity introduced by the Romans was largely rejected. The Romans never held full control of Briton and the Britons were always in a constant state of rebellion. It is only natural that they would revert to their pagan religions once the Romans left Briton, as many of the Britons viewed Christianity as a religion forced upon them by the hated Romans. The Romans, in turn, viewed the rebellious Britons as enemies of Christianity. By the time Gildas writes in the fifth century, all pagan kings of Briton would be viewed with disdain.
We know that at the time of the Anglo Saxon invasions, the kings of Briton allied themselves with the Pictish tribes of Northern Britain. The Celtic kingdoms of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England held a common bond, based upon heritage, that has lasted, in one form or another, throughout history and we even see remnants of that bond today, as well as the lasting animosity for all rulers who are not Celtic in origin.
Archaeological evidence and early historical sources reveal some trouble between the Votadini and the Pictish Coalition in the fifth century. It is possible that the Votadini had allied themselves with the Saxons to support an unpopular king, Vortigern, as is stated in the legends, which would be seen as a threat to the other Pictish tribes. Possibly the other Pictish tribes defeated the Votadini in the battle of Caledonia Wood.
Early sources cite that Vortigern, a Briton, was allied to the Germanic Jutes. The Pictish Chronicle mentions 30 Brudes while only 28 are listed. One of the tribes was perhaps removed deliberately. As the Pictish King List omits the name of a race of Pictish allies, perhaps the missing tribe was the Votadini. This ommission was perhaps deliberate or may have been a later deletion by the Jutes.
Modern history reveals that the Jutes were given territory in southeast England, supposedly to aid in fighting the Picts but this seems absurd because the location, in southeast England is far removed from the border of the Picts. This negates the modern history theory of the conspiracy of Vortigern in settling the Jutes in Briton in order to aid against the Picts.
It would seem that Vortigern was a Pictish king, of the tribe of Verturiones, rather than a king of southern Briton. If Vortigern was a Pictish king, and the Picts were expanding into England, this would seem more plausible than the idea that the Jutes were settled in southern Briton to fight the Picts in the north. Rather, if the Jutes were aiding the Picts in expanding their territory southward, it would explain the settlement of the Jutes in southern England, which settlement would be a natural aid in defeating the southern Romano-British, who would have resisted a Pictish expansion.
Gildas does not mention the Jutes or the Angles and we first hear of them in Bede's chonicles. Gildas would have been he most contemporary source, while Bede, basing himself in Northumbria, writing three centuries later, would have relied upon legend. Bede is a more questionable source, as he wrote for the monks who lived with him and who shared common knowledge of the history of Briton with him.
It is possible that Vortigern's Jutes and Gilda's Saxons were two different groups that have, over time, become confused. The Jutes might have settled in the north and helped Vortigern become king in the north, while the Saxons were united with the Romano-British of the south. The Jutes may have later fled to the south to ally with the Angles and he Saxons in southern Briton.
Gildas tells us that the Picts controlled all of northern Briton, perhaps even south of Hadrian's Wall. Ida, first of he Bernician kings of Northumbria was probably Celtic, with Pictish roots. The very name Bernicia (Berneich) is Celtic, rather than Germanic and furher proven by the name of the capital, Bamburgh. It is possible that there was no Anglian take over but, rather, possibly an Anglian succession due to marriage.
It is interesting to note that it is possible that the sixth century Britons arrived in North America. Evidence has been found that leads to the possible presence of sixth century Britons in America. The evidence includes Bat Creek Mound, grave mounds in Bat Creek, Tennessee, which are of ancient British origin and design. This site's excavation includes a stone tablet with an inscription written in Coelbren, an ancient British alphabet from the earliest time of the Khumric (Welsh) peoples.
The text reads of the ruler Madoc, a Welsh prince who sailed to America about 562 A.D. DNA testing is being done on the remains found at Bat Creek. It is believed that the main tumulus at Bat Creek might be the burial location of Prince Madoc, himself. There are numerous ancient British Coelbren inscriptions in the American Midwest. Skulls found in some US grave mounds are of European-Caucasian origin.
Prince Madoc was brother to King Arthur II, who lived during the sixth century, firmly confirmed by British manuscripts and genealogies.
Our Briton Ancestors
History of the Britons Nennius
1997-2004 Genealogical Gleanings
All Rights Reserved