Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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CADWALLON (d. 633 ), prince .

The son of Cadfan and succeeded his father about 625 . Owing to the part played by him in English affairs, as narrated by Bede , his historical role is open to no doubt. He was the opponent of Edwin of Deira , and that king 's advance along the coast of North Wales and conquest of Anglesey drove him into exile, probably, as tradition avers, in Ireland , with a faithful body of retainers. History records an incident of the campaign — his narrow escape from capture in 631 in the island of Priestholm .

In the following year there was a striking reverse of fortune; with the aid of Penda of Mercia , Cadwallon and his forces invaded Deira in 632 and on 12 Oct. defeated and slew Edwin in the battle of Heathfield ( Hatfield , near Doncaster ?), known to Welsh tradition as Meigen . The victory placed Northumbria at his feet and was so signal as to suggest that the hour had come to re-establish British supremacy in the island. But the opportunity, the last of its kind, was not wisely used. Cadwallon showed no statesmanship and was content to ravage the country, sparing neither age nor sex and paying no regard, though himself a professing Christian , to the Christianity already introduced there by a Roman mission. A year passed and the last weeks of 633 found him encamped with a large army in the moorlands south of Hexham (a spot known to the Welsh as ‘ Cantysgol ’ and ‘ Cantscawl ’). Here Oswald of Bernicia fell upon him and his host, after a night march from the Roman Wall ; the surprise was complete and, in the ensuing rout of the British , Cadwallon was slain.

Sources:

  • J. E. Lloyd, A History of Wales: from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest , 182-8;
  • F. M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England , 1943, 1947 , 80-1;
  • Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies , vi, 351-4.

Author:

Sir John Edward Lloyd, D.Litt., F.B.A., F.S.A. (1861-1947), Bangor

Published date: 1959