The Genealogy of Avallach

When Alan Wilson, Baram Blackett and myself wrote The Holy Kingdom , we made much use of respected genealogies. Foremost among these are contained in the Harley 3859 MS (today kept in the British Library) and the Jesus College 20 MS (today held at that college in Oxford). Both these manuscripts have some surprising things to say about a marriage involving a ‘cousin’ of the Virgin Mary. According to these sources, this cousin or blood relative is said to have married someone called Beli, the couple being ancestors of the later Kings and Saints of Glamorgan.

As we have noted, the genealogies contained in the Harley 3859 MS were originally compiled for the Wedding of Howell Dda’s son Owen. Howell ruled over Deheubarth (southwest Wales) from AD 950–987, so these genealogies, which are the oldest of their kind to survive intact, predate the Norman invasion by about a century. The first list of Owen’s ancestors contains the following: ‘…Eugein map Aballac map Amalach, qui fuit beli magni filius et Anna mater eius quam dicunt esse consobrina mariæ uirginis matris d’ni n’ri ih’u xp’i.’ Translated from the Latin this says: ‘… Eugein, son of Aballac, son of Amalach, who was the son of Beli the Great and Anna his mother. Who they say to be the cousin of Mary the Virgin mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ A similar genealogy is recorded in list 10, which ends with: ‘… Eudos, son of Eudelen, son of Aballac, son of Beli and Anna.’ ‘Eudos’, of course, is Jude, a name which is Jewish in origin and must have been quite rare in Britain at the time.

There are equivalent listings in the Jesus College 20 MS, which give the ancestry of St Cadoc. These also speak of a marriage between Beli and Anna, again asserting that she was a cousin of the Virgin Mary. Meanwhile, in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain – and also in the Welsh text, the Brut Tyssilio, from which it was derived – there is another story of a royal wedding from the same period: the mid 1st century AD. According to Geoffrey, a King of Britain called Arviragus married a lady called Genuissa who, it is claimed, was a daughter of the Emperor Claudius. The question is: could there be any connection between these two marriages? I believe there is but, unfortunately, the situation has been mixed up by modern historians who have relied too much on what was recorded by Roman historians writing long after the events in question. The following analysis is based on British accounts which were included in various Chronicles (Bruts) and also reflect what is written in various genealogies as preserved in Wales.

According to Geoffrey and others, Arviragus was the brother of Guiderius (Gweirydd) and both were the sons of Cunobelinus (Cynfelin), the high-King of South East Britain prior to the Roman invasion. The death of Cynfelin in around AD 40 seems to be what triggered the invasion in AD 43. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Guiderius, who was killed in battle with the Romans soon afterwards. This left his brother, Arviragus, to carry on the fight; however, in open ground his forces were no match for the Roman army, which included elephants to scare the Britons’ chariot ponies. Arviragus had to abandon the South East and adopt guerilla tactics in defence of other, more mountainous parts of the island. According to Geoffrey, he eventually made peace with the Romans and married the Emperor’s daughter Genuissa. As a wedding present, the Romans built the city of Gloucester for them, named after Claudius (Gloyw in Welsh).

So who, then, was this Arviragus and why do we find no mention of him in the preserved genealogies? Well, if we look again at this appellation, it becomes clear that it is really a title rather than a proper name. The Latin word arvus means ‘low country’ or ‘ploughed land’, while the suffix -ragus would appear to be derived from Rex (regis), Latin for ‘king’. Thus, Arviragus means ‘King of the low country’ or ‘King of the ploughed land’. This would be an appropriate title for a king ruling over southeastern England which is relatively flat and, long before the Romans arrived, was rich in plough land. However, this poses another question: if Arviragus was his title, what was this King’s actual name?

I found a clue to solving this mystery in the Welsh triads. These are collections of triple-themed poems, many of them going back to the very earliest times. Triad 79 of the set published in an 18th-century book called Myfynian Archaiology records the names of three ‘generous hosts’, ie armies that did not require payment. One of these, we are told, was active at the time Caradawg (Caradoc or Caractacus) was fighting the Romans:

The three generous hosts of the Isle of Britain: the host of Belyn son of Cynvelyn [Cunobelinus], in the warfare of Caradawg ap Bran [Caradoc son of Bran the Blessed]; the host of Mynyddawg Eiddin in the battle of Cattraeth [fought at the time of King Arthur]; and the host of Drywon son of Nudd the Generous, in the defile of Arderydd in the North [fought against Aidan, King of Scots, in AD 577 near Carlisle]. That is, everyone marched at his own expense, without waiting to be summoned, and without demanding either pay or reward of the country or the prince; and because of this they were called the three generous hosts.

What is said here is unequivocal: Cunobelinus had a son called Belyn (Beli), who fought in the wars of Caradoc. As we have seen, Cynvelin (Cunobelinus) died around AD 40. The Romans invaded in AD 43, and Tacitus records that their principal enemy thereafter was Caractacus, the King of the Silures. It looks as though Cunobelinus’ son Belyn took a contingent of men from South East England and they placed themselves, voluntarily, under the banner of Caractacus so that they could carry on the fight against the Romans.

This deduction is derived from a passage in Tacitus taken from when Caractacus stood before the Roman Senate pleading for his life. Here, he told them that he was the ‘ruler of many nations’. This would only have been true if he had been recognized as the overking of Britain and not just King of the Silures tribe alone. It follows that, after the death of Guiderius and the subsequent Roman conquest of his homeland in South East England, his younger brother, Belyn (the same person Geoffrey calls ‘Arviragus’), joined forces with Caractacus and the Silures.

This Arviragus, still the titular King of South East England, was descended from Cunobelinus (Cynfelin) and his father Teneuvantius (Teneufan), who was a son of the famous King Ludd, who was the elder (deceased) brother of the war-leader Cassivelaunus (Caswallon), who fought against Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC. Clearly, then, the choice of a marriage partner for Arviragus was an important matter, as it had dynastic consequences. As we have seen, according to Geoffrey’s History of the Kings of Britain, he married a lady called Genuissa. However, this name too seems to conceal rather than reveal her true identity. If we break it down into its roots, then ‘genu-’ would seem to be derived from the Greek word genus, meaning family. It is then linked to ‘Issa’, the feminine form of ‘Issus’, meaning Jesus. Genuissa, therefore, translates as ‘woman from the family of Jesus’.

As for the connection with the Emperor Claudius, he had two daughters but there is no record of either of them marrying a British king. However, it is possible that ‘Genuissa’ was his daughter by adoption. This was a frequent practice of Roman emperors when dealing with important heiresses, as adoption gave them control over who they married.

Tacitus tells us that the capture of Caractacus and his family did not bring the war in Britain to a conclusion. In fact, the Britons continued to fight just as strongly, defying Roman power with guerrilla tactics. Under these circumstances, it is not unreasonable to assume that Claudius may have seen the advantage of allowing a captive Jewish girl from the family of Jesus to be freed and allowed to marry the leader of the continuing British resistance, Belyn/Arviragus. If we assume that Belyn had, by now, been converted to Christianity, then marriage to a ‘cousin’ of the Virgin Mary (and, therefore, of Jesus himself) would have seemed an attractive proposition. If Claudius knew of this, he may well have arranged such a marriage as a means of gaining a peaceful outcome in Britain.

This, I believe, is the truth behind those genealogical records that speak of a marriage of Beli and Anna. The likely scenario is that she was either a daughter or granddaughter of Joseph of Arimathea, who tradition tells us was either an uncle or brother of the Virgin Mary. This also explains why the Romans allowed Bran and Eurgain to return to Glamorgan with Joseph. The intention would have been for them to negotiate the marriage between Beli and Anna in return for allowing them to preach Christianity in Siluria.

Some evidence that an understanding of this sort was reached is provided circumstantially by the subsequent history of South East England. In AD 60, Queen Boudicca of the Iceni, the tribe who lived in Norfolk, launched a rebellion against Roman rule. The Iceni and their allies burned the three major Romanized cities of the region to the ground – Colchester, St Albans and London. It was only with great difficulty and after receiving substantial losses that the Romans eventually succeeded in putting down this rebellion. However, there is no record of the Silures, possibly the most powerful tribe militarily in the whole of Britain, joining the rebellion. It seems likely that they were indeed holding to a treaty with Rome, one which guaranteed them religious freedom to be Christians in exchange for keeping the peace with Rome.

There is a further twist to this story, though. In the genealogies, we are told that Beli and Anna had either a son or grandson called Aballach, which is also written as Avallach in some sources. Avallach is also the Welsh form of Avalon, the place where King Arthur is said to have been taken for burial. Avalon was supposed to be an island, ynys Avallach, but the word ynys can mean a ‘river meadow’ as well as ‘island’ (for example, ynysybwl). It was also common in Wales to name districts and even whole countries after the nobles who ruled over them. Thus, Glamorgan orMorganwgis named after ‘Morgan the Courteous’, the King who ruled this region after the death of his father Arthur son of Maurice; while Ceredigion or Cardiganshire is named after Ceredig, one of the sons of a Prince of North Wales called Cunedda. Thus, it is not unreasonable to think that the river-meadow land of Avallach was once ruled by Avallach, the son or grandson of Beli and Anna. Very likely, his territory was the area embraced by the Greater and Lesser Ewenny rivers. This encloses Mynydd-y-gaer, the ‘fortress mountain’ on which stands the old church of St Peter’s (where the Arthurian relics were found) as well as Llanilid and most of the rest of what later became the Lordship of Coity.*

With this discovery, my quest for the real Glastonbury seemed to have reached a successful conclusion. I was now pretty certain that originally Avallach/Avalon had been understood as being located in this part of Glamorgan. Then, perhaps in the 10th century and largely at the instigation of St Dunstan, King Edgar of England laid claim to the legend on behalf of the new monastery he and Dunstan founded in the marshlands of Somerset. As this fitted well with the Normans’ plans, they went along with the charade that King Arthur and virtually all the most famous Celtic saints were buried there. William of Malmesbury, either out of gratitude or for some other reason, overlooked the total lack of evidence for Glastonbury being as old as was claimed. Later on, Edward I ordered the construction of a shrine in which to keep the supposed bones of Arthur, and after that there was no looking back. Glastonbury grew to be the richest abbey in England, which meant that, even after its destruction, no one was in a position to question the authenticity of its claims. It was not until Frederick Bligh Bond began to dig there during the First World War that the real truth was finally exposed. Alhough he, too, sought to conceal the painful facts, he found nothing on site to suggest there was or ever had been any church buildings there prior to Edgar’s chapel of rest.

This could have been the end of the story had not Wilson and Blackett found Arthurian relics on the other side of the River Severn in South Wales. For the simple truth seems to be one of mistaken geography. King Arthur was indeed buried in Avalon, though this was not in Somerset but rather Glamorgan, the true location of Joseph’s mission among the Silures.

Once I realized this, everything else in the Glastonbury legends fell into place. St Dyvan and Fagan were sent to baptize King Lucius in AD 125, but as he was the King of Siluria (Glamorgan), they went to South Wales rather than Somerset. Accordingly, they founded a church for Lucius at Llandaff and built two churches of their own, both in Glamorgan. I also understood that the Medieval Welsh, those in the know, had little incentive to alert the Normans to the true situation. Instead, they kept the knowledge of the real locations of Avalon and Glastonbury to themselves, passing this information down the generations as a family secret.

There was, however, another dimension to all of this. Many of the Welsh saints, including St Dyfrig (who was crowned Arthur at Caerleon), St Cadoc (who was the principle of Llancarvon Abbey), St David (who moved the archbishopric of Wales from Caerleon to Dyfed) and many others, are recorded as being descendants of Beli and Anna. A lineage going back to them can also be found in the Harleian 3859 ‘wedding lists’ of Owain the son of Hywel Dda. This one is particularly important, as Owain is recorded as being an ancestor of Rhys ap Tewdwr. He, in turn, is recorded as an ancestor of both King Henry VII (and hence Elizabeth I) and also of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Therefore, I began to suspect that this information concerning the Beli and Anna lineage, with all that it implies, was the real secret of Rosicrucianism. At root it was not really a philosophy; this was just a contemporary cover adopted in the 17th century. The real Rosicrucianism was about ‘rose culture’, ie the grafting of bloodlines onto older root stocks. There could be only one reason for this, but before I explain this, we must first return to England, where more surprises were in store.


* See Chart 15: The Avallach or Avallon Dynasty, p.239

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