• King Arthur and Cardigan Castle

    by  • December 1, 2013 • Uncategorized • 6 Comments



    Was Cardigan Castle the site of King Arthur’s Camelot?


    This is not the sort of question which I would usually pose, but I thought I’d stoke up the fires of debate with something that the Cardigan Castle campaign and publicity has so far almost completely neglected to mention. Chretien de Troyes, the man who popularised the Arthurian romances in France and added Sir Lancelot and other characters to the story, wrote the popular tale of “Erec and Enide”, which opens with a reference to King Arthur’s court at his castle of Cardigan, where part of the narrative takes place. “Erec” was alternatively known as Geraint, and the old name for Old Castle, Cardigan, was ‘Din Geraint’.


    This tale was written about the year 1170, when Lord Rhys was the very epitome of a cultured Celtic ruler, perhaps reminding Chretien de Troyes of Arthur, and appealing to his ideals of chivalry and culture. It is alleged, though not accepted by many historians, that Henry II was entertained with tales of the Arthurian romances at Cilgerran Castle in 1172. Whether or not the story is true, it is interesting to note another link between Rhys and the legend. Was de Troyes the story teller on that occasion? If Chretien de Troyes was writing after this event, the Cardigan reference would have made even more sense – Cardigan Castle was being rebuilt by Lord Rhys in 1171-76, and the building of a stone and lime castle by a Welshman was not recorded earlier than this. Perhaps de Troyes was reminded of Arthur building Camelot and decided to link the two. The first recorded National Eisteddfod held at Cardigan Castle at Christmas 1176 would have given him further food for thought.


    The first Eisteddfod was used by Rhys as a means of showing to his friends and enemies alike that he was a force to be reckoned with – a great military and political strategist and a great law-giver, a fiercely independent and traditional Welshman, yet a great diplomat, statesman and innovator. He showed the world that the Welsh were skilled, civilised, God-fearing and cultured, and it was this presentation of courtly finesse and splendour that would have appealed to the likes of Chretien de Troyes. Could de Troyes himself have attended the event and perhaps even competed? If he was won over by the image Rhys presented of the noble Celt, it might have inspired him to set his fictions in Cardigan. Could de Chretien’s Arthur have been modelled on Rhys himself? Certainly Lord Rhys himself was the greatest living example of a wise and courteous Welsh leader, with a fierce military past.


    In a similar vein, in the ‘Mabinogion’ we hear of Prince Pwyll setting off for a day’s hunting from his court at Arberth to Glyn Cuch. If ‘Arberth’ really was at Narberth it was a ridiculous distance to go for a day’s hunting, and Glanarberth near Llechryd, on the banks of the stream ‘Arberth’ seems a much more likely location for Pwyll’s court than the mid-Pembrokeshire town. In a similarly practical sense, if the name “Merlin” can be accepted as a corruption of “Morddin” – the Welsh version of Moridunum alias Carmarthen, does Cardigan seem any less likely a spot for Camelot that the hotly-fancied Tintagel? Certainly I doubt that Tintagel has a stronger case to be Camelot than Cardigan does. Interesting to note that the Welsh name of nearby Monington is ‘Eglwys Wythwr’ – is this a reference to Uther Pendragon? Also of interest is an early Christian stone in St. Thomas’ Church in nearby St. Dogmaels. It depicts a cross-stem that looks remarkably like a sword hilt – the sword on the stone perhaps? Of course, the whole Arthurian story could be complete and utter bunkum!


    Or was Cardigan Castle the site of King Arthur’s Camelot?


    Glen K Johnson, Tivy-Side Advertiser, December 2011


    6 Responses to King Arthur and Cardigan Castle

    1. Shan Williams
      December 2, 2013 at 9:34 am

      King Arthur lived around 500 AD, Cardigan castle was build around 1000 AD. I believe that it is highly likely that King Arthur did have have strong ties to this area, as the rivers and sea were the highways of the day the Teifi estuary would be central to his lands. If Camelot is to be found in this area, i would imagine it to be closer to Penybryn, where the Teifi used to flow before the Tsunami that changed the Ceredigion coast.

      • glen
        December 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

        Hi Shan

        The article is a little tongue-in-cheek, but the Normans built Cardigan Castle on an earlier site called ‘Din Geraint’, and Geraint is mentioned in the earlier Arthurian romances!

        • Shan Williams
          December 3, 2013 at 9:35 am

          Hi Glen,

          where is the site ‘Din Geraint’ is it over at Old Castle Farm?

          • glen
            December 3, 2013 at 8:49 pm

            Hi Shan

            Still debated by historians – Old Castle Farm was the assumed site a few years back, but Cardigan Castle seems as likely a bet these days – Old Castle looks more like an Iron Age fort, perhaps Romano-British.

    2. Anne
      February 24, 2016 at 11:18 am

      Hi Glen, here are links to the ideas about Witch’s Cauldron and King Arthur http://wolfinthewood.livejournal.com/88908.html plus was Arthur myth or legend? My thoughts are a myth that was a Christian re telling of Pagan gods in the Mabinogion. Will try and find the letter that mentions the Castle at Moylegrove.

    3. Anne
      March 3, 2016 at 6:46 pm

      Hi, found the link to the mention of a castle at Witch’s Cauldron http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/15917/castell_treruffydd.html

      ” I have learnt from the natives that, besides the cauldron itself, there were at least two still more powerful attractions on the spot – a well and a witch. Then, be it remembered, that right opposite the creek is a ‘castle,’ which Fenton compares with Tintagel. The only cottage on the headland where the ‘castle’ is situate is called Pen y Castell. Athwart the slope of Pen y Castell is a finely-constructed bridle-path, which leads to the castle. It is from near this bridle-path that the best view of the cauldron can be obtained. “

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