Britannia, by William Camden

The BRITAINS of
Wales and Cornwall.

Big T THE rest of the miserable Britains (who were forc’d to seek a Country in their native one) underwent such terrible Calamities as are not to be express’d: being not only harrass’d with a cruel war carried on in all parts by the Saxons, Picts, and Scots, but every where oppress’d by the intolerable insolence of Tyrants. Who and what these were about the year 500, you shall hear in short from Gildas, who liv’d at that time, and was himself an eye-witness of all this. Constantinus.Constantine, among the Damnonii, though he had bound himself by an express oath before God and the Saints, that he would do the duty of a good Prince, yet slew two children of the blood royal, and their two Tutors (both valiant men) in two Churches, under the Amphibalus of the Abbot (* * As an old Glossary interprets it.a sacred vestment hairy on both sides;) having many years before put away his lawful wife, and defil’d himself with repeated adulteries.

Aurelius ConanusAurelius Conanus, also called Caninus., wallowing in the filth of parricides and adulteries, and hating the peace of his country, was left alone like a tree withering in the open field. His father and brothers were carried away with their own wild whimseys, and surpris’d by untimely deaths.

VortiporiusVortiporius., a tyrant of the Dimetæ,Dimetae the unworthy son of a good father; like a Panther in his manners, and being as much spotted with his sins; sitting in the throne in his grey hairs, full of craft and subtilty, and defil’d with parricides and adulteries, turn’d off his wife, and committed a rape upon her daughter, and then kill’d her.

CuneglasusCuneglasus., in Latin Lanio * * Otherwise writ furvus.fulvus (a yellow Butcher) a bear riding upon many, and the driver of the chariot which carries the bear, a despiser of God, and oppressor of the Clergy, fighting against God with sins, and against men with Arms; he turn’d off his wife, persecuted the Saints, was proud of his own wisdom, and trusted in the uncertain strength of his own riches.

MaglocunusMaglocunus., an Island Dragon (who had deprived many tyrants of their Kingdoms and lives) was ever the first in mischief; his strength and malice was generally above that of others; he gave more largely, sinned more profusely, fought more stoutly, and excelled all the Commanders of Britain both in extent of Dominions, and in the stature and gracefulness of his person. In his youth, he fell upon his Uncle then a King, with the flower of his forces, and destroy’d his Territories with fire and sword. Afterwards, when the fantastick thoughts of reigning in an arbitrary manner were gone, he fell into such remorse of conscience, that he profess’d himself a Monk; yet he soon return’d to his vomit, and breaking his monastick Vow, despis’d his first marriage, and fell in love with the wife of his own brother’s son then living; he kill’d the son, and his own wife, after he had liv’d some time with her; and then he marry’d the brother’s son’s wife, on whom he had before settled his affections. But the relation of these things belongs to Historians; who have falsly made these Tyrants to succeed one another: whereas it was at the very same time (as appears from Gildas who speaks to them all severally) that they usurp’d the Government in several parts of the Island.

These few remains of the Britains withdrew themselves into the western parts of the Island, namely, those which we call Wales and Cornwall; which are fortified by nature with hills and æstuaries.aestuaries estuaries

Cornwealas, Britwealas, Walsh, Welshmen. The Inhabitants of the first of those Countries were call’d by the Saxons * * Vid. Somner’s Glossary at the end of the Decem Scriptores, under the title Wallia.Britwealas, and the others, Cornwealas; as those in Gaul were call’d Galwealas. For, whatever was exotick and foreign; they call’d, Walsh; from whence also the Walloones in Holland, and the Vallachi upon the Danube, were originally nam’d. These Britwealas, or Welshmen, were a warlike people, and for many ages maintained their liberty under petty Kings of their own. Although they were separated from the English by a wonderful trench cast by King Offa; yet they were ever now and then making Inroads, and wasting their cities with fire and sword; and likewise were repay’d by the Saxons in the same kind. Walliae Statutum Walliæ. At last, in the reign of Edw. I. (as he writes of himself) The Divine Providence, which disposeth all things rightly, among other dispensations by which he has vouchsafed to bless us and our Kingdom of England, hath now by his mercy subjected the Kingdom of Wales, with the inhabitants thereof (who were before Feudatories to us) wholly and fully without let or hindrance, to our dominion; having annexed and united the same to the crown of our said Realm, as a member of the self same body. Notwithstanding, in the next age, nothing could perswade them to continue in subjection, no accommodation could be made, nor could the hatred between the two Nations be utterly extinguish’d, till Henry the seventh (as born among them) shew’d great favour and indulgence to the Country, and Henry the eighth admitted them to the benefit of the same laws and liberties that the English enjoy. Since that, and a long time before, the Kings of England have found them upon many occasions a People of untainted loyalty. But the Cornwalli were soon reduc’d under the dominion of the Saxons, in spight of all the opposition they could make in defence of their country; being over-match’d in numbers, and their territories not well enough guarded by nature to protect them.

Thus much may suffice concerning the Britains and the Romans. However, since I am treating of the Inhabitants, I must take notice of what Zosimus relates (though I took notice of it before,) That Probus the Emperor transplantedLib. 1. Vandals and Burgundians in Britain. the Vandals and Burgundians whom he had conquered, into Britain; who being settled here, proved very serviceable to the Romans, upon all Seditions and Insurrections. But where they could be seated, unless in Cambridgeshire, I cannot tell. For Gervasius Tilburiensis makes mention of an old Vallum in this County, which he calls Vandelsburg, and says it was a work of the Vandals.

I would not have any imagin, that in the time of Constantius, the Carthaginians were seated here, grounding upon that passage of Eumenius the Rhetorician; Nisi fortè non gravior Britanniam ruina depresserat, quam si perfusa tegeretur Oceano, quæ profundissimo Pœnorum gurgite liberata, ad conspectum Romanæ lucis emersit, i.e. If that destruction of Britain were not greater, than if it had been overwhelm’d with the Ocean: But now, being freed from a deep gulf of the [Pœni,]Poeni she lifts up her head at the sight of the Roman light. For there is an old Copy which belong’d to Humphry Duke of Glocester, and after that to the Right Honourable Baron Burghley Lord High-Treasurer of England, wherein it is read PœnarumPoenarum gurgitibus. And he seems to treat of those Grievances and Calamities, which they endur’d under Carausius.

Nor, from that of Agathias in the second book of his History, The Britains are a nation of the Hunns, would I have any one asperse our Britains, or conclude them to be Hunns. For in the Greek Copy it is read Greek text and not Britones, as I was assur’d long since by the learned Francis Pithæus;Pithaeus and as J. Lewenclaius, a very excellent Historian, has now publish’d it.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06