Kingdom of Cornwall

Kingdom of Cornwall

The Kingdom of Cornwall or Kernow existed during the sub-Roman and Early Middle Ages in Great Britain's south-western peninsula.


Its name seems to derive from a Brythonic tribe called the "Cornovii", whose existence is implied from the place-name "Durocornavium" (see Dumnonii) recorded in the Roman "Ravenna Cosmography".

"Kernow" is the Cornish language name of Cornwall to this day, with cognates in Welsh "Cernyw" and Breton "Kernev". ("Kernev" is also the Breton form of the region of Brittany known in French as Cornouaille.) Its Latin name is "Cornubia", but it was known to the Anglo-Saxons of neighbouring Wessex as the kingdom of the "West Welsh", later as "Cornwall".

tatus and character

Cornwall seems to have originally been part of the greater kingdom of Dumnonia, although tradition seems to indicate that it had its own monarchs at times and may have been one of a number of sub-kingdoms. However, some historians, such as Peter Berresford Ellis, believe it was always independent of Dumnonia, perhaps as early as the time of Gildas (c. 545) [Peter Berresford Ellis. (1993). "Celt and Saxon". London: Constable and Co] . This was certainly the case after the majority of the latter kingdom fell under Anglo-Saxon control in the 8th century.

Two waves of migrations took place to Armorica (Brittany) from Dumnonia and Cornwall and this may have resulted in rulers who exercised Kingship in both Brittany amnd Cornwall, explaining those occurences of the same rulers names in both places.Thomas, Anthony Charles (1986), "Celtic Britain". Ptb. Thames & Hidson, London. ISBN 0-500-02107-4. P. 66.]

Cornwall had remained largely un-Romanized and settlements continued in use into the post-Roman period. It is suggested that the kings were itinerant, stopping at various palaces, such as Tintagel, at different times of the year. Lesser lords built defended 'rounds' like Kelly Rounds and Castle Dore.

Cornwall may have reverted to paganism after the Roman departure from Britain, or perhaps Christianity never reached these far-flung parts of the Empire. In the 5th and 6th centuries, however, the area was evangelized by the children of Brychan Brycheiniog and saints from Ireland. There was an important monastery at Bodmin and sporadically, Cornish bishops are named in various records until they submitted to the See of Canterbury in the mid-9th century.

Kings of Cornwall

Cornish monarchs are recorded in a number of Old Welsh documents and "Saints' Lives" as well as in local and Arthurian tradition:
* King Mark – of Tristan and Iseult fame, probably ruled in the late 5th century. According to Cornish folklore, he held court at Tintagel.
* King Salomon – father of Saint Cybi, probably ruled after Mark.
* Dungarth – was recorded by the Annales Cambriae as having drowned in 876. The Annales refer to him as "rex Cerniu", King of Cornwall.

In the "De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis" written in the 12th century it is recorded that Hereward the Wake took refuge in Cornwall in the 11th century at the court of the Cornish Prince or King Alef.Bevis, Revor (1981). Hereward together with "De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis". Pub. Wetrydale Press, ISBN 0-901680-16-8. P. 13.]

Since the 19th century [ [ The Anglo-Saxon "Episcopate of Cornwall": With Some Account of the Bishops of Crediton By Edward Hoblyn Pedler (1856)] ] , there has been controversy concerning a certain Huwal, "King of the West Welsh". This character only appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 927, accepting King Athelstan of Wessex as his overlord. 'West Wales' was an old term for Dumnonia or Cornwall, but may also refer to present day West Wales, then generally known as Deheubarth, where Hywel Dda was king [Ann Williams et al. (1991). "A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain". London: Seaby] . Other 'kings', such as Ricatus, mentioned on memorial stones may have ruled more localised regions.

An early 17th century pedigree of a so-called 'Earl of Cornwall' in the Book of Baglan [] may possibly also represent a list of rulers in Cornwall [Williams, John. Llyfr Baglan: or The Book of Baglan. Compiled Between the Years 1600 and 1607. Edited by Joseph Alfred Bradney. London: Mitchell, Hughes and Clarke, 1910. p80]

According to William of Worcester, writing in the 15th century, Cadoc, described as the last survivor of the Cornish royal line at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, was appointed Earl of Cornwall by William I of England.Philip Payton. (1996). "Cornwall". Fowey: Alexander Associates]

Arthurian connection

*Geoffrey of Monmouth said that King Arthur was conceived at Tintagel Castle.
*Geoffrey also said that Arthur’s final Battle of Camlann, was fought in Cornwall. Tradition points to Slaughter Bridge near Camelford.
*Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote in his 'Prophecies of Merlin' (Prophetiae Merlini ) "that the race that is oppressed shall prevail in the end, for it will resist the savagery of the invaders. The Boar of Cornwall shall bring relief from these invaders, for it will trample the necks beneath its feet." [ [ Geoffrey Of Monmouth - The Prophecies of Merlin] ]
*Camelford is sometimes said to have been Camelot.

Arrival of the Saxons and Normans

Lying in the extreme west of Britain, Cornwall was protected from Anglo-Saxon land invasions until 814 when King Egbert of Wessex subdued parts of Devon that were until then part of Cornwall. Clashes continued throughout the early 9th century and by the 880s Wessex had gained control of at least part of Cornwall, where Alfred the Great had estates. [Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge (tr.), "Alfred the Great - Asser's Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources", London, Penguin, 1983, p175; cf. "ibid", p89.] William of Malmesbury, writing around 1120, says that King Athelstan of England (924–939) fixed Cornwall's eastern boundary at the Tamar [ [ Cornwall timeline 936] ] . The chronology of English expansion into Cornwall is unclear, but it had been absorbed into England by the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042–1066). [Ann Williams and G.H. Martin, (tr.) "Domesday Book - a complete translation", London, Penguin, 2002, pp341-357] [Michael Swanton (tr.), "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles", (2nd ed.) London, Phoenix Press, 2000, p177] Cornwall showed a very different type of settlement pattern to that of Saxon Wessex and places continued (even after 1066) to be named in the Celtic Cornish tradition with Saxon architecture being uncommon in Cornwall. The earliest record for any Anglo Saxon place names west of the Tamar is around 1040. [Philip Payton - "Cornwall" - 1996]


*Christopher A. Snyder (2003), "The Britons"

ee also

*Legendary Dukes of Cornwall for the pseudo-historic rulers of Cornwall mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth
*List of topics related to Cornwall
*Constitutional status of Cornwall
*History of Cornwall
*Cornish Assembly

External links

* [ Early British Kingdoms: Kingdoms of the West Country]
* [ Early British Kingdoms: Kings of Dumnonia, and of Cerniw]

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