Peredur was a Brittonic ruler of the late sixth century, traditionally associated with York and one of the possible sources for the character of Sir Percival in Arthurian romance. What do we know about him?
Gurci ha Peretur mepion eleuther cascord maur map letlum map Ceneú map Coylhen.--Harleian genealogies
Gvrgi a Pheredur meibon Eliffer Gosgorduavr m Arthwys m Mar m Keneu m Coel--Gwr y Gogledd
Three Prostrate Chieftains
…. Gwgon Gwron son of Peredur son of Eliffer of the Great Retinue. And this is why those were called 'Prostrate Chieftains': because they would not seek a dominion, which nobody could deny to them
Three Faithless warbands
…. The War-Band of Gwrgi and Peredur, who abandoned their lord at Caer Greu, when they had an appointment to fight the next day with Eda Great-Knee; and there they were both slain
Three Horse Burdens
….. Corvan, horse of the sons of Eliffer, bore the second Horse-Burden: he carried on his back Gwrgi and Peredur and Dunawd the Stout and Cynfelyn the Leprous(?), to look upon the battle-fog of (the host of) Gwenddolau (in) Ar(f)derydd.--Hergest Triads
573 The battle of Arfderydd ‡between the sons of Eliffer and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio; in which battle Gwenddolau fell; Merlin went mad.
580 Gwrgi and Peredur sons of Elifert died.
Medieval Welsh romance title, Peredur son of Efrawg
Historia Brittonum lists Caer Ebrauc among the cities of Britain. Ebrauc and Efrawg are the same name, and Ebrauc looks closely related to Eboracum (the Roman name for York). The title of the romance may indicate that the Peredur of the Triads, genealogies and Annales Cambriae was associated with York. The name of a kingdom is sometimes appended to the name of its ruler (e.g. Urien Rheged, Maelgwn Gwynedd), and a name such as this could have been misinterpreted as a patronymic.
However, there could have been several individuals called Peredur, and the Peredur of the romance (assuming the romance is based on a historical figure at all) may not be the same as the Peredur of the Triads and Annales Cambriae. It is notable that Peredur’s brother Gurci or Gwrgi, bracketed with him in the genealogies, Triads and Annales Cambriae, is missing from the romance, which may indicate a different Peredur. It is also possible that the author of the romance could just have picked a romantic-sounding name at random for the hero of the tale and that the name has no especial significance.
Caradawg and Madawg, Pyll and Ieuan--Text reconstructed and translated by John Koch, The Gododdin of Aneirin
Gwgaun and Gwiawn, Gwyn and Cynwan,
Peredur of the steel armament, Gorddur and Aeddan
conquerors in the uproar of battle with shields disarrayed
and though they were slain, they slew
None returned to their districts
Other translations render the phrase “Peredur arueu dur” as “Peredur Steel Arm” or “Peredur Steel Arms”.
The two dates of 573 for Peredur’s battle at Arderydd and 580 for his death in Annales Cambriae are not inconsistent with each other. Eda Great-Knee in the Triads is often considered to be a reference to Ida of Bernicia, whom Bede says reigned for 12 years starting in 547 (Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book V ch.24). This would mean that Ida died in 559 or thereabouts, which is inconsistent with his being responsible for killing Peredur in 580.
Where the dates of events in Annales Cambriae can be compared with dates for the same events in Bede’s history, they agree within a few years (see the list in Dating the Battle of Chester for examples). A discrepancy of 20+ years is unusual. It is of course possible that either Bede or Annales Cambriae has got the date wildly wrong, but another possibility may be that Eda Great-Knee is not Ida of Bernicia.
Historia Brittonum mentions a son of Ida called Adda:
Ida had twelve sons, Adda, Belric Theodric, Thelric, Theodhere, Osmer, and one queen Bearnoch-- Historia Brittonum ch. 57
If Eda Great-Knee of the Triads was Adda son of Ida, rather than Ida, then the discrepancy over the date may be resolved. Historia Brittonum goes on to say:
63. Adda, son of Ida, reigned eight years; Ethelric, son of Adda, reigned four years. Theodoric, son of Ida, reigned seven years. Freothwulf reigned six years. In whose time the kingdom of Kent, by the mission of Gregory, received baptism Hussa reigned seven years. Against him fought four kings, Urien, and Ryderthen, and Gualllauc, and Morcant. Theodoric fought bravely, together with his sons, against that Urien.--Historia Brittonum ch. 63
It is worth noting that this entry refers to Ethelric son of Adda, and the previous entry referred to Thelric son of Ida. If these are the same individual, then perhaps even the compiler of Historia Brittonum got the names Ida and Adda confused on occasion.
Adda’s reign cannot be dated accurately, though if the order of the text in Historia Brittonum reflects the order of events his reign was presumably some time before 597 when Augustine arrived in Kent. He may be a candidate for Eda Great-Knee in the Triads, or Eda Great-Knee may be someone whose name has been otherwise lost to history. On the whole, I would be inclined to accept the dates in Annales Cambriae for Peredur’s career, and identify Eda Great-Knee as either Adda son of Ida or some other individual with a similar name.
Peredur is listed in Y Gododdin as a battle casualty at Catraeth, which is inconsistent with the Triads unless Catraeth is another name for Caer Greu. As neither place has been definitively identified, this is a possibility. However, the heroic slaughter at Catraeth lauded in Y Gododdin is difficult to square with the Faithless Warband of the Triads. It is possible that there was more than one individual with the name Peredur. The name Gwgaun (Peredur’s son from the Triads) is mentioned in the same stanza, but I can’t see a name that looks obviously like Peredur’s brother Gwrgi or Gurci in the stanza. Gorddur is the nearest, and I don’t think it’s the same name. Given that Peredur and Gwrgi are generally bracketed together in the Triads, Annales Cambriae and the genealogies, this might be a slight indication that the Peredur of Y Gododdin is a different individual. Another possibility may be that the poet who composed Y Gododdin borrowed the names of heroes from other stories.
All the surviving references to Peredur have some connection with the region that is now northern England or southern Scotland. He appears in the genealogy called Gwr y Gogledd “Descent of the Men of the North”, the medieval romance apparently associates him with York, the battle of Arderydd is usually identified with the parish of Arthuret near Longtown in Cumbria, and if Y Gododdin refers to the same Peredur he is in company with a group of heroes from what is now southern Scotland.
It seems reasonable to infer that Peredur was a royal or noble warrior whose territory lay in what is now northern England, and that he lived some time in the later sixth century. Although far from certain, there is nothing to contradict the medieval romance locating him at Caer Ebrauc (modern York), nor is there any compelling reason not to accept the date of his death given in Annales Cambriae in 580. Given that the compiler of Annales Cambriae recorded two entries relating to Peredur, we can infer that he was an important man, or at least one about whom stories were told (which itself may imply that he and/or his family were important and/or rich enough to pay poets).
The genealogies both end at his generation, and the only reference to the next generation is to Peredur’s son Gwgaun, who is noted in the Triads as a son who did not (re)claim his inheritance. This is consistent with Peredur’s family having lost control of their territory after Peredur’s death. If Peredur was the king of a kingdom centred on York, this in turn would be consistent with the Deiran kings under Aelle of Deira taking control of York after Peredur’s death in 580, which could explain how Aelle’s son came to be in control of the city in 627. Whether the Deiran kings attacked and killed Peredur, or had some claim to be legitimate successors, or simply moved into a power vacuum and held onto it, or some combination thereof, is open to interpretation.
Annales Cambriae, available online
Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Translated by Leo Sherley-Price, Penguin, 1990, ISBN 0-14-044565-X.
Gwr y Gogledd, available online
Harleian genealogy, available online
Historia Brittonum, available online
Koch J. The Gododdin of Aneirin. Text and context from dark-age North Britain. University of Wales Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7083-1374-4
Peredur Son of Efrawg. In: The Mabinogion. Translated by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones. Everyman Classics, 1989. ISBN 0-460-15097-9
Triads, Red Book of Hergest, available online