Cadwallon ap Cadfan

From Academic Kids

Cadwallon ap Cadfan (c. 591633/634) was the King of Gwynedd from around 625 until his death in battle in 633 or 634. The son and successor of Cadfan ap Iago, he is best remembered for devastating Northumbria and defeating and killing its king, Edwin, prior to his own death in battle against Oswald of Bernicia.

Cadwallon was initially defeated by Edwin of Northumbria, who invaded Anglesey, and was besieged by the Northumbrians at Priestholm (or Glannauc), a small island off eastern Anglesey. The Annales Cambriae dates this siege to 629. [1] ( According to Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (which includes a fairly extensive account of Cadwallon's life but is largely legendary—for example, Geoffrey has Cadwallon surviving until after the Battle of Winwaed in 654 or 655), Cadwallon subsequently went to Ireland, and then to the island of Guernsey. From there, according to Geoffrey, Cadwallon led an army into Dumnonia, where he encountered and defeated the Mercians besieging Exeter, and forced their king, Penda, into an alliance. Geoffrey also reports that Cadwallon married a half-sister of Penda. However, his history is, on this as well as all matters, suspect, and it should be treated with caution.

In any case, Penda and Cadwallon together made war against the Northumbrians. A battle was fought at Hatfield Chase on October 12, 633 (or 632, according to another interpretation of the chronology), which ended in the defeat and death of Edwin and his son Osfrith. After this, the Kingdom of Northumbria fell into disarray, divided between its sub-kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia, but the war continued: according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, "Cadwallon and Penda went and did for the whole land of Northumbria". Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, tells us that Cadwallon was besieged by the new king of Deira, Osric, "in a strong town"; Cadwallon, however, "sallied out on a sudden with all his forces, by surprise, and destroyed him [Osric] and all his army." After this, according to Bede, Cadwallon ruled over the "provinces of the Northumbrians" for a year, "not like a victorious king, but like a rapacious and bloody tyrant." Furthermore, Bede tells us that "...Cadwalla [Cadwallon], though he bore the name and professed himself a Christian, was so barbarous in his disposition and behaviour, that he neither spared the female sex, nor the innocent age of children, but with savage cruelty put them to tormenting deaths, ravaging all their country for a long time, and resolving to cut off all the race of the English within the borders of Britain."

The king of Bernicia, Eanfrith, was also killed by Cadwallon when the former went to him in an attempt to negotiate peace. However, Cadwallon was defeated by an army under Eanfrith's brother, Oswald, at the Battle of Heavenfield, "though he had most numerous forces, which he boasted nothing could withstand". Cadwallon's soldiers fled after a battle, and he was killed at a place called "Denis's-brook".


  • Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book II, Chapter XX (, and Book III, Chapter I. (
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, Part Eight: "The Saxon Domination."

Further reading

  • Alex Woolf, "Caedualla Rex Brittonum and the Passing of the Old North", in Northern History, Vol. 41, Issue 1, March 2004, pages 5–24. Woolf presents a case against the identification of the Cadwallon mentioned in Bede's history with a son of Cadfan.

Preceded by:
Cadfan ap Iago
Kings of Gwynedd
Succeeded by:
Cadfael Cadomedd
Preceded by:
Saxon Interregnum
Mythical British Kings
Succeeded by:

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nl:Cadwallon no:Cadwallon ap Cadfan av Gwynedd


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