Caernarvon Castle & Welsh Mythology

 

The Caernarvon Castle & Welsh Mythology
The most famous Welsh Medieval Castles, including Caernarvon Castle, were built during the reign of the English Plantagenet King Edward I (r.1272-1307). King Edward of England crushed the Welsh rebellion led by Llewellyn ap Gruffudd and conquered his kingdom of Gwynedd in Northern Wales. The Welsh Medieval Castles built by the English under the direction of King Edward I provided a power base for the Medieval Plantagenet King and ensured that the Welsh were subservient to the English. But King Edward was also looking for something else - Credibility!

 
 
 
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Caernarvon Castle & Welsh Mythology

  • The Prophecies of Merlin in British history
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth's book the Historia Regum Britanniae
  • Celtic Legend and King Arthur - the great "Age of Chivalry"
  • King Edward I and Caernarvon Castle

Caernarvon Castle & Welsh Mythology

The Mystical Medieval World of Legends and Myths!
King Edward wanted to be seen by history as not just a conqueror - but as the rightful King of all of the Britons. The King who was meant to rule the whole of the country - England, Wales and Scotland. He needed to enter the mystical medieval world of the Middle Ages. The mystical, magical world of Celtic legends and myths. The people believed in old prophecies. King Edward knew that if he could be seen to fulfil an old Celtic prophecy that his invasion and triumph over the Welsh would be given the credibility that he craved.

Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Historia Regum Britanniae
The stories of many Welsh Celtic legends and Myths, and their authenticity, had been raised by a Welsh cleric called Geoffrey of Monmouth. In 1136 Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a book called Historia Regum Britanniae - the History of the King's of Britain. This book detailed the old Kings and history dating from the Roman era and climaxing with the reign of King Arthur. Now there was a King to emulate! King Arthur's story was also based on a prophecy - it was fortold that Arthur would become the 'one, true King' of the Britons. King Arthur was believed to have united all the people of Britannia under his leadership. His story still lives on in myth and legend. And what a story! The elements of the story included Magic, Prophecy, Druids, Merlin, Gallant Knights, Fair ladies, the Age of Chivalry, Camelot and even the search for the Holy Grail. And this story had been written in the book by Geoffrey of Monmouth, the Historia Regum Britanniae - the History of the King's of Britain. The information detailed in the book was believed to have been an accurate record - Fact not Fiction!

Further credence was given to the stories about King Arthur by the 'Black Book of Caernarvon' (Welsh: Llyfr du Caerfyrddin). This book was written, in Welsh, in 1250 and contained stories and poems relating to the heroes of Britain in the Dark Ages including those connected with the legend of Arthur and Merlin.

Arthurian Legend   King Arthur   Merlin the Wizard   The Legends of Camelot   The Knights of the Round Table

King Edward I and the Historia Regum Britanniae
King Edward and the population would have been totally conversant with these fabulous stories. The Historia Regum Britanniae book by Geoffrey of Monmouth had been written less than one hundred years previously. It would have been very much in King Edward's interest to draw comparisons between himself and King Arthur - and any other ancient Kings who were revered by the Britons.  The Medieval 'Spin Doctors' would have been determined to provide 'proof' that King Edward had been destined to unite the people of Brittania! King Edward had already proved himself a strong, Christian King. He had travelled to the Holy Land on a Crusade. God was already on his side! Geoffrey of Monmouth was also revered as a good Christian - his titles included Archdeacon of Monmouth and the Bishop of St Asaph! The attention of the Medieval 'Spin Doctors' would have next turned to the Prophecies which had been detailed in Geoffrey of Monmouth's book...

Caernarvon Castle & the Historia Regum Britanniae!
Caernarvon was a key position for one of the Medieval Welsh Castles of King Edward. Caernarvon was a very ancient Welsh town. The Druid Wizard, Merlin, and several prophecies, were strongly  associated with Caernarvon! Merlin was believed to have been born in a cave outside Caernarvon. The name Caernarvon is believed to be derived from 'Caer Myrddin' meaning Merlin's town or fortress. Merlin was closely linked with King Arthur and was also linked with the transportation of the great Stonehenge stones! The connection between Caernarvon, King Arthur, Merlin, Prophecies and even great stones had been made. Caernarfon was also strongly associated with the might of imperial Rome. The building of the new Castle at Caernarvon could be used to to emphasise these connections in a highly visual fashion!

The Prophecy of Merlin!
The Prophecy of Merlin was detailed in the Historia Regum Britanniae. Prophecies, by nature, are ambiguous and can be interpreted in many ways. The Prophecy of Merlin indicated that a a descendant of Cadwallader would rise to power and begin the "slaughter of foreigners". Cadwallader  was a legendary Welsh king and a leader of the Celtic resistance against the Anglo-Saxons. Welsh myths and traditions say he was the last Welsh king to wear the crown of Britain. Cadwallader has been identified as King Arthur. The Welsh Royal house of Gwynedd claimed to be the direct descendants of Cadwallader. It was therefore imperative that King Edward eradicated all the members of the Royal House of Gwynedd - of which his Welsh adversary, Llywelyn ap Gruffyd, was the leader. And it would also be very helpful if Edward's Royal House of Plantegenet could somehow step into the shoes of the Welsh Royal House! This idea stayed firm in the mind of King Edward. The great castle at Caernarvon was built. Edward's son was born at Caernarvon Castle ( which was only half built at this time). Edward's son, who became King Edward II, was given the title of the  ' Prince of Wales'. King Edward I had produced a Welsh born Prince of Wales. Another prophecy of Merlin contains the story that the red dragon symbolises Britain and the white dragon symbolises the Saxons. Merlin also predicted, that in time, the white dragon (the Saxons) would overcome the red dragon. Merlin also foretold that six descendants of King Arthur would rule after the great king before Saxons would return and conquer Britain.

Caernarvon Castle & more Welsh Myths and Legends!
The Prophecies of Merlin helped with King Edward I credibility. This was enhanced still further by the interpretation of additional legends - also described in the Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth. This story surrounded Magnus Maximus, Prince Macsen, the Macsen Wledig of Welsh legend who was one of the greatest figures in Britain towards the end of the Roman Empire.  General Magnus Clemens Maximus was a Celt. He was the uncle of the Welsh King, Coel Godhebog "the Magnificent" (Old King Cole of the Nursery Rhyme) by marriage. Coel Godhebog's daughter married Emperor Constantius Chlorus. The capital of the Roman Empire transferred from Rome to Constantinople in 330AD. We now have a connection between the Imperial Roman Emperors, the great city of Constantine and the Welsh Royal family. The base of Magnus Maximus, the Macsen Wledig of Welsh legend was Carmarthen. In the Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth the legend surrounding a dream of Magnus Maximus is described. In this dream saw "a great city with towers of many colours and eagles fashioned out of gold". Enter the Medieval 'Spin Doctors' again!

The Caernarvon Castle & Welsh Mythology
It is no coincidence that Caernarvon Castle was built differently to the other Welsh castles! The master builder and architect Master James of St George would have been very aware of these myths and legends and prophecies of Merlin. And he designed Caernarvon Castle accordingly!

The walls of the Caernarvon Castle were given a striking patterning with bands of different coloured stone - an allusion to the "towers of many colours". The towers were of an angular design as opposed to the round towers of other castles reflecting the architecture of Constantinople.  The turrets of Caernarvon Castle are surmounted by eagles "eagles fashioned out of gold". One of the towers of Caernarvon Castle is named the 'Eagle Tower'. The 120 feet high Eagle Tower, which contained the Royal Suite, was surmounted with three turrets , each turret was adorned by an eagle.

The design and architecture of Caernarvon Castle is steeped in Welsh mythology. Caernarvon castle was built to embody both history and legend.

Caernarvon Castle & Welsh Mythology

Caernarvon Castle & Welsh Mythology

  • The Prophecies of Merlin
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae
  • Celtic Legend - King Arthur - the Age of Chivalry
  • King Edward I & Caernarvon Castle

Arthurian Legend   King Arthur   Merlin the Wizard   The Legends of Camelot
The Knights of the Round Table

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