Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Welsh: Caer Lliwelydd, Cardueil
Latin: Luguvalium
Cardoile, Carlele, Carlile, Carlle, Carlill

Carlisle is a historic city and the county town of Cumbria in northwest England, about 16 kilometers south of the Scottish border.

Carlisle was one of Arthur’s court cities in northern England. Chrétien makes Carlisle the seat of Arthur’s court, but this connection is not made by Geoffrey, Wace or Layamon. Later writers manly connect Gawaine with Carlisle, especially in respect of the beheading, at his own request, of the Carl of Carlisle.

The entire area surrounding the city is shrouded in legends concerning the ancient kingdom of Rheged. Malory uses both names. Cardoile in Welsh is “Caer Lliwelydd.” or “Cardueil.”

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, it was named after King Leil, who ruled in the tenth century BC. Chrétien de Troyes seems to make more of this city than of Camelot and maybe even of Caerleon. It is in Carlisle that he begins the romance of Yvain; in Carlisle that he shows Percivale first finding Arthur’s court; and, in Erec and EnideErec tells Guivret the Little that he hopes to find Arthur’s court either at Carlisle or Robais (which suggests that they might lie in some proximity to each other).

The city’s original name, Luguvalium, may derive from the Celtic god Lug. In the sixth century, it was the capital of the kingdom of Rheged. Geoffrey of Monmouth names Lot, Gawaine’s father, as the Earl of Carlisle. Continental authors probably intend Carlisle when they mention Arthur’s Cardueil court. The Carl of Carlisle features in two English romances. Malory locates two pivotal events at the city: the healing of Sir Urry and the rescue of Guenevere from the stake. In Sir Walter Scott’s The Bridal of Triermain, Arthur offers the city to the knight who will marry his daughter, Gyneth.

Carlisle | 0 to the 9th century AD

Roman Period | 1st – 5th centuries
Carlisle, known as Luguvalium during Roman times, was established as a Roman settlement around the late first century AD. It served as a military outpost and fortress along Hadrian’s Wall, a monumental defensive structure built by the Romans to guard the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.

Hadrian’s Wall, constructed during the reign of Emperor Hadrian in the early second century, passed through the area near Carlisle. The wall marked the northern boundary of Roman Britain and included a series of fortifications and milecastles.

The Roman fort at Luguvalium was strategically positioned to control movement along Hadrian’s Wall and served as a base for Roman troops. The fort’s remains have been identified in archaeological excavations, providing insights into the military presence in the region.

Roman Withdrawal and the Post-Roman Period | 5th century onwards
In the early fifth century, as the Roman Empire faced internal challenges and external threats, including invasions by various Germanic and Celtic groups, the Romans began withdrawing from Britain. This marked the end of the Roman period in Carlisle. Following the Roman withdrawal, Carlisle, like many other Roman towns, faced incursions and attacks from various Germanic and Celtic groups. These included Picts, Scots, and invading Anglo-Saxon forces.

The vacuum left by the Romans contributed to the establishment of various post-Roman societies and the emergence of early medieval kingdoms. The Celtic people in the region, likely from the Brythonic-speaking tribes, maintained some level of settlement and occupation in the area. The Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic tribal confederation, gradually expanded their presence in northern England. They established kingdoms, including the Kingdom of Northumbria, which had influence over the Carlisle area.

Carlisle’s location near the border between England and Scotland made it a significant frontier town, experiencing cultural exchanges, conflicts, and political shifts. The region faced constant border disputes and raids between the Kingdom of Northumbria and the northern Celtic kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Strathclyde.

Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Alliterative Morte Arthure | c. 1400
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
The Bridal of Triermain | Sir Walter Scott, 1804