Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Galays, Galeys, Galis, Galles, Galoes, Galys, Gaules, Glois, Valois, Waleis, Walest, Walis

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, located in the western part of the island of Great Britain.

Locations in Wales play a large role in Arthurian literature – particularly in Welsh Arthurian literature. Often called Cambria, the country, in both history and legend, is divided into a number of sub-kingdoms. The most basic of these, used in legends with hazy geography, is North Wales and South Wales. Historically, however, Wales includes the regions of Mon, GwyneddPowysCeredigionDyfedYstrad Tywi, and GlamorganArthur is often named as Wales’s overlord, holding his court in either Caerleon or the fictional Cardueil. Its mountain range, Snowdon, places an important role in the tales of Vortigern.

Arthurian legend tends to assign the various divisions of Wales to separate rulers, though a few texts appoint rulers of the entire country. Renaut de Bâgé has Esmeree the Blonde as Wales’s queen, having inherited the country from her father, GuingrasGuinglainGawain’s son, became king when he married her.

In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, we learn that Queen Herzeloyde (Herselojde), Perceval’s mother, inherited it from her late husband, King CastisGahmuret became king upon marrying Herzeloyde. After Perceval’s birth, it was conquered by King Lähelin, but was eventually reclaimed by Kardeiz, Perceval’s son. In Parzival, there were a tournament held in Wales which Gahmuret, father of Percivale, was one of those who participated.

According to the Vulgate Cycle, the country was called Hoselice in Joseph of Arimathea’s time. Its first Christian king was Galahad, Joseph of Arimathea’s son, and its name was changed to Gales or Wales in his honor. Several generations later, Wales was ruled by King Varlan, who struck the Dolorous Stroke against King Lambor of Listenois. The Dolorous Stroke turned both Listenois and Wales into the Waste Land.

In the Historia Meriadoc, Wales is first ruled by King Caradoc, whose life and land are taken by his brother, Griffin. With Arthur’s help, the land was eventually restored to Meriadoc, Caradoc’s son, who gave it to King Urien to rule in his stead.

Rulers of Wales named in other legends include King Iels (Hartmann’s Erec), Duke Gilan (Der Pleier’s Garel), King Triamour (Sir Tristrem), and King Valiant (the Alliterative Morte Arthure).

Wales | 0 to 9th century AD

Roman Period | 1st century AD
During the early years of the Common Era, the Romans occupied Wales as part of their conquest of Britain. Wales was incorporated into the Roman province of Britannia and experienced Roman influence and infrastructure development, including the construction of roads and fortresses. Notable Roman towns in Wales included Caerleon and Caernarfon.

Roman Withdrawal and Post-Roman Period | 4th- 5th centuries
In the late fourth century, as the Roman Empire began to decline, the Romans withdrew their troops from Britain, including Wales. This withdrawal created a power vacuum, and the local Britons, who were Romanized, had to contend with the incursions of various barbarian groups, including the Irish and the Picts.

Anglo-Saxon and Irish Invasions | 5th – 6th centuries
During the fifth and sixth centuries, Wales faced invasions from Anglo-Saxon settlers and Irish raiders along its coasts. These events led to conflicts and migrations within Wales, as well as the establishment of various kingdoms and chieftaincies.

Emergence of Early Kingdoms | 7th – 8th centuries
By the seventh and eighth centuries, several distinct Welsh kingdoms had formed, including Gwynedd in the north, Powys in the east, and Dyfed in the southwest. These kingdoms would become important political entities in the medieval period. Each of these regions had its own kings and cultural traditions.

The introduction of Christianity played a significant role in the early history of Wales. Christian missionaries, including Saint David, helped spread Christianity in the region, and monastic communities and churches began to flourish. These monastic centers became hubs of learning and culture.

Literature and Poetry
The Welsh language, even in its early forms, was used for poetic and literary expression. The early Welsh bards and poets composed a rich body of literature that would later become a key aspect of Welsh cultural identity.

The Place-names in Wales (1912) says the real and correct name of Wales is Cymru, also spelt Kymru, from cym-hro, the compatriot, the native of the country. The contradistinction is ail-fro, the foreign invader who came to dispossess him of his native land.

Scholars believe when the Saxons settled among the Britannic Loegrians (the Cymry of England), they called them Veales, Weala, or Wealhas, from which the name Wales probably originated.

See also
Lord of West Wales | The Legend of King Arthur

Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Erec | Hartmann von Aue, late 12th century
Parzival | Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1200–1210
Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1215-1230
Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal | 1220-1235
Garel von dem blühenden Tal | Der Pleier, 1240-1270
Sir Tristrem | c. 1300
Historia Meriadoci Regis Cambrie | Late 13th century
Alliterative Morte Arthure | c. 1400