The world of Arthurian legends is filled with mystical tales, heroic deeds, and prophecies that have captivated generations of readers and scholars. One such intriguing work is “The Prophecy of Ambrosius Merlin concerning the Seven Kings,” a poem attributed to the legendary figure Merlin, known as Myrddin in Welsh mythology. This poem, found in the “Black Book of Carmarthen,” offers a glimpse into the history and future of Britain, all through the lens of seven influential kings.

The Seven Kings

The poem is divided into seven sections, each corresponding to one of the seven kings who are said to be descendants of King Arthur and bearers of his name. These kings are:

  1. Uther Pendragon: The father of King Arthur and a son of Constantine III.
  2. Arthur: The most famous king of Britain and the leader of the Round Table.
  3. Cadwaladr: The king of Gwynedd (Wales) and a leader of the Britons against the Anglo-Saxons.
  4. Conan: The king or prince of Brittany or Cornwall and a relative of King Arthur.
  5. Edward I: The king of England and lord of Ireland, known for conquering Wales and Scotland.
  6. Richard II: The king of England, who became a prisoner and martyr during his reign.
  7. Henry V: The king of England celebrated for his role in the Hundred Years’ War.

The Author and His Notes

The poem is attributed to John of Cornwall, a 12th-century scholar and writer. John claimed to have translated or revived the poem from a lost manuscript in the Cornish language. He wrote the poem in Latin hexameters but included some marginal notes in Cornish to clarify certain words and phrases. These notes not only help in understanding the text but also provide valuable insights into the linguistic and cultural context of the time.

Margin Notes: Unlocking the Secrets

Here are the margin notes along with their translations and references:

Line Latin Text Cornish Translation Description
1 Merlinus Ambrosius Myrddin Emrys Name of the legendary prophet and bard
5 Britannia Breten Vian Name of Britain or Brittany
7 Brutus Bret Name of the mythical founder of Britain
10 Gurgiuntus Gurciunt Name of a legendary king of Britain
13 Cassibellaunus Casbelan Name of a historical king of Britain
16 Constantinus Custentin Name of several historical and legendary kings of Britain
19 Uther Pendragon Uter Pendragon Name of a legendary king and father of King Arthur
22 Arturus Arthyr Name of the most famous legendary king of Britain
25 Cadwaladrus Cadwalader Name of a historical king of Gwynedd (Wales)
28 Conanus Conan Name of several historical and legendary kings or princes
31 Eugenius Owain Name of a historical king of Strathclyde (Scotland)
34 Gildas Gweltas Name of a 6th-century British monk and historian
37 Beda Bedas Name of a 7th-8th-century Anglo-Saxon monk and scholar
40 Nennius Nynnyaw Name of a 9th-century British writer
43 Geoffrey Arturus Gaufridus Arthyr Name of Geoffrey of Monmouth, a 12th-century cleric and writer
46 Giraldus Cambrensis Gerallt Cymro Name of Gerald of Wales, a 12th-century Welsh cleric
49 Alanus de Insulis Alan an Ynysow Name of Alan of Lille, a 12th-century French theologian
52 Henricus Arturus Henry Arthyr Name of Henry II, a 12th-century king of England
55 Ricardus Arturus Richard Arthyr Name of Richard I, a 12th-13th-century king of England
58 Johannes Arturus Yowann Arthyr Name of John I, a 13th-century king of England
61 Alexander Arturus Aleksander Arthyr Name of Alexander III, a 13th-century king of Scotland
64 Edwardus Arturus Edowr Arthyr Name of Edward I, a 13th-14th-century king of England
67 Robertus Arturus Robert Arthyr Name of Robert I, a 14th-century king of Scotland
70 David Arturus Davydh Arthyr Name of David II, a 14th-century king of Scotland
73 Edwardus Arturus Edowr Arthyr Name of Edward III, a 14th-century king of England
76 Richardus Arturus Richard Arthyr Name of Richard II, a 14th-15th-century king of England
79 Henricus Arturus Henry Arthyr Name of Henry IV, a 15th-century king of England
82 Henricus Arturus Henry Arthyr Name of Henry V, a 15th-century king of England

Influences and Dedication

John of Cornwall’s work was not created in isolation. He acknowledged the influence of several other sources and writers, including Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gerald of Wales, Alan of Lille, Gildas, Bede, Nennius, and more. These references offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Arthurian lore and its connection to historical and literary figures of the time.

John dedicated the poem to Robert Warelwast, the bishop of Exeter, who served as his patron and friend. This dedication speaks to the importance of patronage in medieval literary circles.

A Continuing Legacy

“The Prophecy of Ambrosius Merlin concerning the Seven Kings” is a testament to the enduring fascination with the Arthurian legends. Through John of Cornwall’s efforts to revive this ancient work, we gain valuable insights into the legends, linguistics, and cultural context of medieval Britain.

Whether you’re a fan of Arthurian lore, a history buff, or simply curious about the intersection of legend and reality, this poem and its accompanying margin notes offer a captivating journey into the mystical world of Merlin and the legendary kings of Britain.