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Caradog Freichfras,
King of Gwent & the Vannetais
(Born c.AD 470)

(Latin-Caratacus, English-Caractacus)

Caradog Strong-Arm was an early ancestor of the Kings of Gwent and, as such, should be identified with Caradog ap Ynyr, mentioned in the Life of St. Tathyw. Welsh legend calls his father Llyr Marini (of the Sea), while Breton legend indicates a Caradog the Elder. The former may have been a title in honour of the Celtic Sea-God, Llyr. His disputed parentage is, in fact, the basis of an ancient tale. Caradog's mother was said to have been an unfaithful wife, for the King was her offspring by a lowly druid named Eliafres. While holding court at Caer-Ceri (Cirencester), Caradog confronted this man concerning the matter. Eliafres refused to answer his questions and caused a serpent to entwine itself around the young man's arm. It took the combined strength of both his wife, Tegau, and his friend, Cado, to remove the creature. The serpent, however, grasped Tegau's breast instead and she was forced to cut it off. Caradog's arm had shrivelled away and the, once strong, King thus became known as "Briefbras" or Short-Arm! Queen Tegau took to wearing an artificial gold breast, hence her epithet of "Eurfron" or Golden Breast.

It is not surprising that Caradog thence became paranoid about female fidelity and, upon his second marriage to Cado's sister, used both a magic horn and cloak to test that of his own wife. Queen Guignier passed with flying colours. Caradog's main court was originally at Caer-Gwent (Caerwent), but he gave the city to St. Tathyw in which to found a monastery, while the King let his horse lead him to a new home: Portskewett, possibly to the hillfort & Roman outpost of Sudbrook Fort. He also held court in the hillfort of Caer-Caradog (Cary Craddock) at Sellack (in Ergyng). Caradog was, furthermore, one of the British Kings who held lands on both sides of the Channel. In Brittany he conquered the Vannetais, and there became a patron of St. Padarn.

The Welsh Triads, not surprisingly, portray Caradog deputising for the High-King Arthur at court in Caer-Legeion-guar-Uisc (Caerleon). Arthurian Literature calls him Carados, King of Estrangorre (alias Eastern Gore), but this is probably due to the mistaken identification of Gore with the Gower Peninsula. He mostly appears in the Vulgate Cycle and Malory as a warrior at King Uther's court who later rebelled against the newly installed Arthur. Carados was defeated at Caerleon and Bedegraine but was later forced to reverse his allegiances when the Saxons invaded his kingdom. He soon became Arthur's trusted ally, aiding him in wars against Rome, Cornwall and revolutionary subjects. He was killed fighting Mordred at the Battle of Salisbury. If Caradog is also represented by Sir Carados of the Dolorous Tower mentioned in the same sources, a rather unpleasant side to his character is revealed.

Some historians have tried to identify Caradog with the West Saxon Leader, Cerdic. This seems unlikely.


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