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Vortigern Vorteneu (Gwrtheneu) "the Thin"

High King of Britain

Pedigree [316]

Earliest know Ancestor:


History of Offenses

Vortigern did not appear to have a high moral code, in fact he is portrayed as a particularly evil tyrant and labelled as being "the most hated man in Britain" [09c].

The genealogy suggests that he got his own daughter pregnant (and was in fact accussed of this by St Germanus [73].

Next, it is claimed by the 6th century monk St. Gildas, that he arranged the assassination of his brother-in-law, King Constantine (son of Magnus Maximus) while he was away campaigning [317]. He then usurped the throne by murdering the young Constans. As the King's advisor and husband of Severa, daughter of Magnus Maximus he was able to secure the throne, given the next two in line (Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther) were mere babes and were saved only by being bundled up and escaping to the court of their cousin, Budic I, in Brittany.

After the death of Severa, his grip on power became even more shaky, so to increase his defense against the increasingly brutal raids from the northern tribes, Vortigern turned to Saxon and Jutish mercenaries, led by Princes Hengist & Horsa. The Saxons received land to be used for settlement in exchange for their services, the start of a relentless Saxon displacement of Britons from England. For this, St. Gildas called him "the Betrayer of Britain" [317].

Vortigern was tricked into giving the Saxons the Sub-Kingdom of Ceint (Kent) when in a drunken state at a celebratory feast, he fell deeply in lust with Hengist's daughter, Rowena and promised Hengist anything he wanted, if only he could marry her. She managed to poison Votigern's eldest son, Vortimer, when he raised an army and, for a short time, managed to stem the Saxon advance.

Hengist eventually called for a peace conference on Salisbury Plain. 300 nobles and military officers were invited to a feast and when they were sufficiently intoxicated, the Saxons drew hidden knives and killed them all except Vortigern, who "purchased his redemption by delivering up the three provinces of East, South and Middle Sex [Essex, Sussex, and Middlesex] besides other districts at the option of his betrayers" [219].

Vortigern escaped to set up a stronghold in the west. He chose to build a castle on the southern slopes of Yr Aran, above Beddgelert (Gwynedd). Construction began. However, every morning the previous day's work was found demolished. Vortigern's magicians told him to seek a boy with no father, born of the fairies to sacrifice. Legend has it they found Merlin who demonstrates a lake under the construction and describes the battle between the red and white dragons. Merlin escapes.[219]

Eventually Ambrosius Aurelianus (Emrys Wledig) returned, Merlin handed over to him the mountain site where Vortigern had failed to build, and it became his fort of Dinas Emrys. Ambrosius pursued Vortigern to Ergyng and a wooden castle on the old hillfort of Caer-Guorthigirn (Little Doward) above Ganarew. Here, the castle was miraculously struck by lightning and Vortigern burnt to death!

Finally, because many of these events are not consistent with all known dates, it has been postulated by M. Baker [09c] and others [315], that the term "Vortigern" was a title meaning "Overlord" and was held by two people, VORTIGERN I (Gwrtheneu, who came to power in mid 420s and died in a fire in 447 at the time of Germanius' second visit) and VORTIGERN II (VORTIMER I or BRITU, son of Gwrtheneu who succeeded in 447 and invited Jutish mercenaries Hengist and Horsa into the sub-kingdom of Kent in 449). He also suggests the term "Vortigern" was used to mean "Crown Prince" or "heir apparent". See [09d]. This is consistent with the information on the pillar of Eliseg that Britu succeeded his father Vortigern - see Pillar.html and yet historians fail to include the name Britu in his list of Vortigern's sons. Baker and Phillips & Keatman propose that at the death of 'the Vortigern' [Gwrtheneu], 'the Vortimer' [Britu] took over to become the second 'Vortigern'.


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