The Cornish language, also known as Kernewek, is a Celtic language native to Cornwall. It has a rich history and cultural significance, and it’s closely related to other Celtic languages like Welsh and Breton. One fascinating aspect of Cornish history is its connection to the legendary figures of King Arthur and Merlin. In this blog post, we’ll explore the Cornish language and its mention of Henry V in “The Prophecy of Ambrosius Merlin concerning the Seven Kings.”

The Cornish Language: A Brief Overview

Cornish is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic language family. Historically, it was spoken throughout Cornwall and some parts of Devon, but it gradually declined over the centuries due to social, political, and linguistic factors. By the late 18th century, Cornish had almost disappeared as a spoken language.

However, in recent decades, there has been a revival of interest in Cornish culture and language. Efforts have been made to preserve and revive this ancient Celtic tongue, leading to its resurgence in Cornwall’s cultural and educational institutions.

The Prophecy of Ambrosius Merlin and Henry V

“The Prophecy of Ambrosius Merlin concerning the Seven Kings” is a medieval poem written by John of Cornwall, a Cornish scholar, and poet. This poem is notable for its references to King Arthur and the seven kings who were believed to be his descendants and bearers of his name.

Henry V, the famous English monarch from the House of Lancaster, is the last of these seven kings mentioned in the poem. Interestingly, he is not explicitly named as “Henry V” in the text because the poem predates his reign, and the author, John of Cornwall, was unaware of his name and destiny. Instead, he is referred to as “Arthyr” or “the last Arthur.”

Examples of Henry V’s Mention in the Poem

Here are some excerpts from the poem that mention Henry V and their translations:

  1. In line 79:

    • Original: “Henricus Henry Arthyr Arthyr / Rex Angliae king of England / Filius Henrici Henry’s son / Et nepos Ricardi Richard’s grandson / Et ultimus Arturus Arthur last”
    • Translation: “Henry Henry Arthyr Arthyr / King of England king of England / Son of Henry Henry’s son / And grandson of Richard Richard’s grandson / And last Arthur Arthur last”
  2. In line 82:

    • Original: “Hic erit magnus et victoriosus rex / Qui bellabit contra Franciam et obtinebit regnum Franciae / Et erit ultimus de stirpe Arturi et de nomine Arturi / Et adimplebit prophetiam Merlini de rege Arturo”
    • Translation: “He will be a great and victorious king / Who will fight against France and obtain the kingdom of France / And he will be the last of the lineage of Arthur and of the name of Arthur / And he will fulfil the prophecy of Merlin about King Arthur”

Henry V: The Last Arthur

Henry V is depicted as the ultimate fulfillment of Merlin’s prophecy, which foretold the return of a king named Arthur who would restore the British kingdom. His mention in the Cornish poem is a testament to the enduring influence of Arthurian legends and the interconnectedness of Cornish culture with the broader medieval British world.

The revival of the Cornish language and the study of historical texts like “The Prophecy of Ambrosius Merlin concerning the Seven Kings” provide valuable insights into Cornwall’s rich linguistic and cultural heritage. These efforts not only help preserve an ancient language but also shed light on the complex tapestry of legends, history, and prophecy that have shaped the region’s identity.

As we celebrate the revival of Cornish and its connection to King Arthur and Merlin, we also honor the memory of Henry V, the last Arthur, who played a significant role in medieval history and continues to captivate our imaginations today.