Rhydderch Hael (DNB00)

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RHYDDERCH HAEL, i.e. the Liberal, or Hen, i.e. the Aged (fl. 580), British king, was the son of Tudwal Tudclyd ap Clynog ap Dyfnwal Hen (Harl. MS. 3859, as printed in Cymrodor, ix. 173). The seventh-century tract known as the ‘Saxon Genealogies’ mentions ‘Riderch hen’ as one of four British kings who fought against Hussa, king in Northumbria, about 590 (Nennius, ed. Mommsen, 1894, p. 206, in Mon. Germ. Hist.; Mon. Hist. Brit. p. 75). Adamnan says that ‘Rodercus filius Tothail, qui in Petra Cloithe (i.e. Alclud or Dumbarton) regnavit,’ was a friend of St. Columba, and on one occasion sent to him to inquire privately whether he would fall a victim to his foes. The saint replied that he would die in his bed, and this prophecy, says his biographer, was fulfilled (Vita S. Columbæ, i. 15). Except for these two references, what is known of Rhydderch comes from late sources. The Welsh Triads call him one of the three liberal princes of the isle of Britain (Myv. Arch. 2nd edit. ser. i. 8, ser. ii. 32, ser. iii. 30), and speak of the plundering of his court at Alclud by ‘Aeddan Fradog,’ i.e. Aidan, king of the Scots from 574 to 606 (ser. i. 46, ser. iii. 52). Iorwerth ap Madog, in the Venedotian edition of the laws of Hywel the Good, mentions Rhydderch Hael among the northern chiefs who attacked Arfon in the time of Rhun ap Maelgwn [q. v.] (Ancient Welsh Laws, ed. Owen, i. 104). In Jocelyn's ‘Life of St. Kentigern’ he appears as the devout king who, zealous for the progress of christianity among his people, invited the saint to the north from St. Asaph, and met him at Hoddam in Dumfriesshire, where Kentigern for a time established himself, moving in the course of a few years to Glasgow. According to Jocelyn, Rhydderch and Kentigern died in the same year. The date, however, is uncertain.

It is generally believed that Rhydderch was the victor in the battle of Arderydd, fought, according to Harl. MS. 3859 (Cymrodor, ix. 155), in 573. Skene has identified the site with the Knows of Arthuret, nine miles north of Carlisle (Four Ancient Books of Wales, i. 65), a suggestion generally accepted, in spite of the fact that its author habitually wrote ‘Ardderyd,’ to make it more plausible. Various theories as to the cause of the conflict have been put forward. Edward Davies believed it to have been a contest between christianity and druidism, the leading figures on either side being Rhydderch and Merlin (Mythology of the British Druids, pp. 469–474). Skene took it to be a struggle between a Roman and christian and a native and semi-pagan party (Four Ancient Books, i. 65). Rhys (Celtic Britain, p. 143) regards the main result of the battle as the shifting of power from Carlisle to Rhydderch's capital at Dumbarton. Several allusions to Rhydderch are to be found in the mediæval Merlin poems. The ‘Hoianau’ speaks of him as ‘guardian of the faith,’ who hunts with his dogs a mystic pig; the series of kings in ‘Cyfoesi Myrddin’ starts with him; in the ‘Afallennau’ the mystic apple tree is protected from the glance of his men. No importance is to be attached to the inclusion of Rhydderch in one of the lists of ‘saints’ in the Iolo MSS., p. 138, or to the statement in ‘Englynion y Beddau’ (Black Book of Carmarthen, fol. 32 b) that his grave is at Abererch (Carnarvonshire).

[Authorities cited.]

J. E. L.