Power in Medieval Gwynedd

I have just finished working my way through three books on medieval Wales, two of them about Gwynedd. The most general is Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales by Oliver Davies (University of Wales Press 1996). Essentially, if I understand him correctly, he links early medieval Christianity in Wales to the bardic traditions and even to the earlier Druidic practices.

Davies uses some of the early lives of the saints, among other sources, and I was particularly interested in his view of the life of Saint Beuno (who figures in Death in Elmet, the first book in my Kith and Kin Trilogy, available on Kindle). Beuno cursed to kill but also restored life to more than one person who was beheaded, including Gwenfrewy (Saint Winifred), a story that I incorporate into book two of my trilogy, Bloodprice. (Not yet available, but coming to Kindle early in the New Year.) Davies points out that the severed head tropes figure in pre-Christian Celtic beliefs.

Stone heads from Entremont. Source: Wikipedia

I have also just finished reading David Stephenson’s Political Power in Medieval Gwynedd (University of Wales Press). this was first published in 1984, but I got hold of the second edition from 2014. This is a dense and closely argued text and benefits from reading in conjunction with the essays in The Welsh King and his Court. (Thomas Charles-Edwards, Morfydd E. Owen and Paul Russell, eds, University of Wales Press, 2000). Stephenson has combed through a huge range of medieval documents from both sides of the border to put together a picture of which royal servant was doing what in the last century before Wales succumbed to English/Norman conquest.

There is a wealth of biographical material here on numerous royal servants, but it all relates to a period more than 500 years after the setting for my books. I can, of course, use some of it as a bit of a guide as I research book three of my trilogy, but that is hardly best practice for an historian!

The third volume that I have just finished is Kate Waddington’s The Settlements of Northwest Wales. (University of Wales Press – again!- 2013). In contrast to the Stephenson, this is a bit early, going back to the Bronze Age, but it is an excellent reference for the hill forts and other early settlements in the area. Good to have all that information in one place, rather than looking places up one by one. Lots of nice little maps, too.

So all in all, do these help with my research for book three of the trilogy? Well yes, possibly the Davies most of all. My bard, Tegfan, is going to put some Christian tropes into his music for book three of my Kith and Kin Trilogy.

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