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                 BRIDEI AND DOMLECH, "CHILDREN" OF MAELGWN GWYNEDD
                                           By Darrell Wolcott
 
           Various internet genealogies claim, with no sources cited, that the 6th century King Maelgwn Hir of Gwynedd had children, a son Bridei and a daughter Domlech, [1] who were prominent in the Caledonian Pict Royal Family.  They also make this brother and sister pair the children of Maelgwn's mistress, Gwallen ferch Afallech, and thus uterine siblings of Maelgwn's base son, Rhun Hir.
 
           Most lists of early Pict kings mention a "Bridei son of Maelchon" as ruling in the latter part of the 6th century, and being succeeded by Gartnait son of Domlech.
 
           The Irish "Annals of Ulster" contains 3 sixth-century entries which possibly refer to Bridei:
 
               505 death of Bruide son of Maelchu
               558  the flight before Maelcha's son
               584  death of Bruide son of Maelchu
 
          The Annals of Inisfallen have a single mention:
 
               584  death of Bruide son of Maelchu
 
          The Annals of Tigernach have two entries:
 
               506  death of Bruide son of Maelchon
               558  flight before Bruide son of Maelchon
       
          The 505/506 obit notice is generally ignored by scholars as having been inserted a full Easter Cycle earlier than the dates shown later for this death  The 558 event refers to the flight of the ruling tribe of Dal Riada following the death of its king, Gabhran mac Domangart, in that same year, crediting the son of Maelcha, King of Picts, for causing them to flee. 584 is the generally-accepted obit date for this Bruide. In Adomnan of Iona's "Life of St Columba", mention is made of a King of Picts named "Brude" whom the saint traveled to visit in Pictland, in 563,  hoping to convert him to Christianity. 
 
   
           In the Dal Riada king lists, Gabhran mac Domangart was succeeded by his brother's son, Conall mac Comgall mac Domangart.  This Conall died in 574 and was succeeded by Aedan mac Gabhran; the latter man ruled Dal Riada until his death in 608.
 
           Both the Dal Riada and the Caledonia Picts were Celts who spoke the goidelic (now Erse) version of Celt, and their Britain lands (the Dal Riada also held lands in the far northeast corner of Ireland) were north of the Antonine Wall:

dalriata.jpg

           The red lines added to this chart represent the two Roman walls, the Antonine Wall built of earth and Hadrian's Wall south of it built with stone.  All the Celts south of the Antonine Wall spoke the Brythonic (now Welsh) version of Celt.
 
           At the beginning of the 6th century, the Celts who lived between the Roman walls claimed common ancestry with those Celts who lived south of Hadrian's Wall in Rheged, Elmet and Wales, and those groups often intermarried. They called themselves "Cymry" meaning "fellow countryman", and those in Wales called their lands "Cambria".  To these men, the Celts located north of the Antonine Wall were thought of as "Picts", a savage horde of men who dyed their bodies blue and lacked noble breeding. In fact, the Romans built the two walls in an attempt to keep the Picts out of the lands controlled by the Roman Empire.  This probably did not correctly describe the men of Dal Riada since they were originally men of Ireland, and their lands still included the part of Ireland directly adjacent to their lands in Britain.
 
           In 1973, John Morris published a book, "The Age of Arthur", in which he claims the Picts, about 554, chose as their king "Bridei, son of Maelgwn, the mighty king of north Wales, whom Gildas had attacked.  He was evidently eligible, for Welsh tradition gives Maelgwn a Pictish grandmother."  The author has made some giant leaps of pure conjecture.  He first conflates the Maelchu/Maelchon, called the father of King Bruide in the Irish Annals, with Maelgwn of Gwynedd since, one supposes, the names sound somewhat similar. He then says that a son of Maelgwn was probably eligible to become the King of Picts since Maelgwn's grandmother had been a Pictish lady.
 
           The reference is to a consort of Einion Yrth ap Cunedda who was the mother of Cadwallon Lawhir, Maelgwn's father.  In the section of the now-lost Hergest Ms 33 called "Bonedd yr Arwyr" (Noblemen descended from the Heros), we find the mother of Cadwallon Lawhir cited as "Prawst ferch Tithlyn Prydyn". No residence is given other than "Britain", the modern spelling of Prydyn.  But in Jesus College Ms 20, we find the following:
 
           "Einyawn a Katwallawn llawhir, deu vroder oedynt, ac eu dwy vam oedynt chwioryd, merchet y Didlet brehin Gwydyl Fichti ym Pywys".  We would translate this as "Einion and Cadwallon Llawhir were two brothers, and their two mothers were sisters, daughters of the Didlet, king of the Irish Picts in Powys."
 
           It is uncertain if "the Didlet" was meant as a man's nickname or is simply a variant spelling of "Tithlyn" from the other citation. The Welsh language often uses the letters "d" and "t" interchangeably in words, both usually pronounced as "t".  Taken together, the two citations indicate that Einion Yrth sired a son, Cadwallon, by Prawst and a son, Einion, by an unnamed sister of Prawst.  The father of those sisters is called an "Irish Pict in Powys" and refers to one of the many families of Irishmen who had squatted on Powys lands after the Roman legions withdrew from Britain. This was clearly NOT a family of the Caledonian Picts whose king list includes Bruide mac Maelchu.  Nowhere is it said that Einion Yrth was ever married to these Irish sisters, only that each bore him a son.  He also had an elder son, Owain Ddantgwyn, who was his successor as King of Gwynedd, by an unnamed lady who was likely his wife.  Late sources claim Einion Yrth had a 4th son, Tegog, whose mother is not identified.
 
           We would join virtually every modern authority which views the John Morris book as "a tangled tissue of fact and fantasy which is both misleading and misguided". Maelgwn Gwynedd DID NOT have a son who became King of the Picts.
 
           This bring us to the fake daughter of Maelgwn called Domlech.  John Morris didn't invent her, but his invention of a son of Maelgwn named Bridei led some unknown internet genealogist to conjure up a sister for the fake Bridei.   While not agreed upon by modern scholars, there is a wide belief that the Picts kingly succession was through females.  One common, but probably false, perception was that when a king died, it was never his son who became the new king, but the son of the late king's sister.  Since the king who followed Bruide mac Maelchon was named Gartnait mac Domlech, this must mean that Domlech was a sister of Bridei, and thus a daughter of Maelgwn Gwynedd.
 
           Some internet genealogies then took this a step beyond.  They found sources which said that the King of Dal Riada, Aedan mac Gabrhan, had a son named Domangart which, they claim, was simply a variant spelling of Gartnait.  This led to the claim that Domlech, sister of Bridei, must have married Aedan mac Gabhran and the new Pict king was the son of that marriage. 
 
           If one believes this conjecture, then you must also believe that the "Maelchon" who had a son Bridei, was a female, the sister of whatever king preceded Bridei. It follows, then, that if Maelchon was identical to Maelgwn Gwynedd, then Maelgwn was a woman. I agree that is absurd, just as is the conclusion that Domlech was a woman. Whoever Domlech might have been, that person was NOT a daughter of Maelgwn Gwynedd.
 
NOTES:
[1]  Since both of these "children" of Maelgwn are imaginary, neither is mentioned in any credible source