King of the Britons

For legendary Kings of Britain, many of whom are found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, see List of legendary kings of Britain.

The title King of the Britons (Latin Rex Britannorum) was used (often retrospectively) to refer to the most powerful ruler among the Celtic Britons, both before[1] and after[2] the period of Roman Britain up until the Norman conquest of England. The Britons were the Brittonic-speaking people of what is now England, Wales and southern Scotland, whose ethnic identity is today maintained by the Welsh, Cornish and Bretons.[3]

The same title was also used to refer to some of the rulers of Brittany in the ninth century, but there it is best translated as King of the Bretons. This page concerns only rulers in Britain (with the exception of Riothamus, who may have ruled both in Britain and Continental Europe.)

At least twenty kings were referred to as "King of the Britons", while others were given related titles or descriptions. The table below also contains the paramount native Welsh rulers in the Norman and Plantagenet periods – by this time only Wales (or parts thereof) remained under Brythonic rule in Britain, and the term 'Briton[s]' (Brython[iaid], Brutaniaid) was used synonymously with Welsh (Cymry). This, and the diminishing power of the Welsh rulers relative to the Kings of England, is reflected in the gradual evolution of the titles by which these rulers were known from "King of the Britons" in the 11th century to "Prince of Wales" in the 13th[2] (see table).

Although the majority of the rulers listed below had their power base in Gwynedd in north Wales, most insular Brythonic areas from the 7th century on are to be found in the list below, from Dumnonia in southwest England, to Strathclyde in southwest Scotland.

Historical rulers referred to as King of the Britons (or a related title)

NameReignRegional power baseRecorded title or descriptionSourceNotes
Cunobelinusc. 9 c. 41lands of the Trinovantes and CatuvellauniKing of the BritonsSuetoniusperhaps retrospective
Cogidubnusmid- to late 1st centurylands of the Regni, Atrebates, and BelgaeGreat King of the Britons (or perhaps: Great King of Britain) marble inscription at Chichestercontemporary, self-description
(Roman rule)
Vortigernmid-5th centuryunknown, but potentially PowysKing of the Britons (in c. 449)Bedeprobably retrospective
Riothamusc. 469unknown, but active in GaulKing of the Britons (in c. 469)Jordanesmay refer only to Britons in Gaul
Ambrosius Aurelianuslate 5th centuryprobably in the southLeader [of the Britons]Gildasnear contemporary
unnamedc. 545unknownKing over them [the Britons]Procopius[4]contemporary but distant
Maelgwn Gwynedd?549?GwyneddKing [who] reigned among the BritonsHistoria Brittonumretrospective
Selyf ap Cynan?c. 613PowysKing of the Britons (in c. 613)Annals of Ulsternear contemporary
Ceredig ap Gwallogc. 614 617ElmetKing of the Britons (in 614)Bedemay refer only to Britons in Elmet
Cadwallon ap Cadfan?634Gwynedd(Cadwalla,) King of the Britons (in 633)Bede
Idris?635unknown. perhaps MeirionyddKing of the Britons (in 635)Annals of Ulster (sub anno 633)[5]
Owain ap Belic. 642StrathclydeKing of the Britons (in 642)Annals of Ulster
Cadwaladr ap Cadwallonc. 654 c. 664Gwynedd[King who] reigned among the BritonsHistoria Britonumretrospective
Geraint?670c. 710DumnoniaKing of the Welsh (=Britons) (in 710)Anglo-Saxon Chroniclemay refer only to Britons in Dumnonia
Rhodri Molwynogc. 712 754GwyneddKing of the Britons (in 754)Annals of Walesperhaps retrospective
Cynan ap Rhodri798816Gwynedd (insecurely from 754)King of the Britons (in 816); The King (in 816)Annals of Ulster; Annals of Wales
Merfyn Frych ap Gwriad825844GwyneddKing of the Britons (in 829); Glorious King of the BritonsHistoria Britonum; Bamberg Cryptogramcontemporary
Rhodri Mawr ap Merfyn844878Gwynedd, from 855 also Powys, from 872 also SeisyllwgKing of the Britons (in 878)Annals of Ulster
Anarawd ap Rhodri878916GwyneddKing of the Britons (in 916)Annals of Wales
Idwal Foel ap Anarawd916942GwyneddKing of the Britons (in 927)William of Malmesbury
Hywel Dda942950Deheubarth (from 920), from 942 also Gwynedd and PowysKing of the Britons (in 950)Annals of Ulster and Annals of Wales
Dyfnwal ab Owain930s970sStrathclydeKing of the Britons (in 973)Annals of Ulster
Maredudd ab Owain986999Deheubarth and Gwynedd and PowysKing of the Britons (in 999)Brut y Tywysogion
Llywelyn ap Seisyll1018–1023Gwynedd and Powys; from 1022 also Deheubarth King of the Britons (in 1023)Annals of Ulster
Iago ab Idwal1023–1039Gwynedd and PowysKing of the Britons (in 1039)Annals of Ulster
Gruffudd ap Llywelyn1039–1063Gwynedd and Powys, from 1057 also the rest of WalesKing of the Britons (in 1063; in 1058)Annals of Ulster; Brut y Tywysogion
Bleddyn ap Cynfyn1063–1075Gwynedd and Powys and SeisyllwgSupport[er of] the whole Kingdom of the Britons (in 1075); Chiefest of the BritonsBrut y Tywysogion (sub anno 1173; sub anno 1113)
Rhys ap Tewdwr1079–1093Deheubarth (insecurely until 1081)[Upholder of the] Kingdom of the Britons (in 1093)Brut y Tywysogion
Gruffudd ap Cynan1136–1137Gwynedd (insecurely from 1081)King of all the Welsh (in 1137)Brut y Tywysogion
Owain Gwynedd1137–1170GwyneddPrince over the British nation (in 1146); King of Wales, King of the Welsh, Prince of the WelshBrut y Tywysogion; contemporary charters[6]
Rhys ap Gruffydd1171–1197Deheubarth (from 1155)Head of all Wales (in 1197); Prince of the Welsh (in 1184), Prince of WalesBrut y Tywysogion; contemporary charters
Llywelyn Fawr1208–1240Gwynedd (from 1194), from 1208 also Powys, from 1216 also DeheubarthPrince of the Welsh (in 1228); Prince of Wales (in 1240)Brut y Tywysogion; contemporary chartersprobably retrospective;
Dafydd ap Llywelyn1240–1246GwyneddPrince of Wales (from 1220)treaty with England
Llywelyn ap Gruffudd1258–1282Gwynedd (from 1246), at times also Powys and DeheubarthPrince of Wales (in 1264; in 1258; in 1267; 125882)Brut y Tywysogion; treaty with Scotland; treaty with England; letters, charters etc.
Dafydd ap Gruffudd1282–1283GwyneddPrince of Wales (in 1283) letters[7]
Madog ap Llywelyn1294–1295Gwynedd Prince of Wales (in 1294)Penmachno Document
Interregnum (English rule)
Owain Glyndŵr1400 – c. 1410Northern Powys, by 14045 all Wales, by 1409 only GwyneddPrince of Wales (from 1400)contemporary records e.g. coronation ceremony (1404)


  1. Stuart Laycock (2008). Britannia: The Failed State. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-4614-2.
  2. 1 2 Kari Maund (2000). The Welsh Kings: The Medieval Rulers of Wales. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-2321-5.
  3. C. A. Snyder (2003). The Britons. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-22260-X.
  4. Procopius (2000). History of the Wars (book 8, chapter 20, verses 610). Translated by H. B. Dewing. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-99191-5.
  5. Annals of Ulster, 633.1 "Bellum Iudris regis Britonum"
  6. Carpenter, David (2003). The struggle for mastery: Britain 10661284.
  7. Pierce, Thomas Jones. "Dafydd (David) ap Grufydd". Welsh Biography Online. The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. Retrieved 5 April 2011.

See also

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