Annales Cambriae


Annales Cambriae
(444–977)
   The Annales Cambriae (or Welsh Annals) are a chronicle covering some 533 years, beginning around the year 444 C.E. and ending in 977. For some of the years, important events are briefly noted. The earliest extant version of the chronicle, written in Latin, is appended to NENNIUS’s Historia Britonium in the Harley manuscript of that text. There are two later manuscript versions as well. The text was probably compiled between 960 and 980, and relies on some older chronicles, some of them probably Irish. Of most interest in the Annales are two entries that concern the history or legend of the British hero Arthur (not yet referred to as “King”). For the year 516, the entry reads “The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors”(Morris 45). It has been suggested that “shoulders” is a mistranslation of “shield,” so that the cross would be a symbol on the shield Arthur carried into battle. But the date of 516 seems late for the Battle of Badon, since GILDAS says it took place in the year of his birth, around 500. The second Arthurian entry is for the year 537. It reads “The Battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland” (Morris 45). This is the first recorded mention of Arthur’s final battle and of a “Medraut,” i.e., “Mordred.” The entry is cryptic, and it is impossible to tell whether Medraut fought on Arthur’s side or against him in the battle. But this appears to be the kernel of the legendary battle between King Arthur and his son/nephew that ended in their mutual destruction at the Battle of Camlann.
   Bibliography
   ■ Bengle, Richard L. Arthur King of Britain: History, Chronicle, Romance and Criticism. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1964.
   ■ Morris, John, ed. and trans. Nennius: British History and The Welsh Annals. London: Phillimore, 1975.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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