Location and name
Caer Ebrauc was an early British kingdom based on the city of York or in the Latin Ebracorum, that existed in the late fifth and sixth centuries AD.
The kingdom is known as Caer Ebrauc for no other reason that this is the name recorded by Nennius as one of the cities of Britain; its Brythonic inhabitants however probably referred to the kingdom by something akin to the modern Welsh name of Efrog.
The kings of Caer Ebrauc
Most of this comes from the Welsh Genealogies where the Harleian version 1 which has;
Gurci ha Peretur mepion eleuther cascord maur map letlum map Ceneu map Coylhen.
or, Gwrgi and Peredur sons of Eiffer Gosgorddfawr son of Gurgust Letlum son of Mor son of Cenau son of Coel Hen
where Gurgust Letlum
is presumably a Latinisation of Einion ap Mor
Gwrgi ap Eliffer and Perdeur are sometimes listed as joint rulers for no other reason than the two are always named together; however this probably indicates nothing more than a degree of fraternal co-operation.
The information recorded in the Welsh Genealogies suggests a picture where one Coel Hen became 'King of the North' during the early fifth century whose descendants came to inherit a patchwork of minor kingdoms (of which Caer Ebrauc was one) scattered across what is now northern England by the end of the century. How much historical truth there is in this picture is almost impossible to say.
The few fragments of historical information that we have the kingdom have come from the Annales Cambriae 2 ;
- for the year 573 it refers to The battle of Arfderydd to which entry a later scribe appended the note between the sons of Eliffer and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio; in which battle Gwenddolau fell; Merlin went mad.
- for the year 580 that Gwrgi and Peredur died with a similar later addition that they were the sons of Elifert
Now Gwenddolau ap Ceido was anothe grandson of Einion ap Mor and the probable ruler of the kingdom of Caer Guendoleu which was originally the northern half of the territory of Caer Ebrauc. The battle of Arfderydd therefore seems to have been an attempt by Ebrauc to recover the "lost" northern portion of the kingdom and presumably a succesfull since "Gwenddolau fell".
There is however no mention of any struggles against the emergent Germanic kingdoms of Bernicia to the north, and Deira to the south, or indeed any explanation of why and how Gwrgi and Perdeur died. But some conflict must have occured and given that Annales Cambriae records that Gwrgi and Perdeur died in the same year, it is most likely that they met their deaths fighting and presumably losing, against Aelle the reputed founder of Deira.
Quite what territory Peredur's son Gwrgant Gwron ruled is uncertain as presumably York itself was now in Deiran hands. What is fairly certain is that he was the last Brythonic ruler who laid any claim to Caer Ebrauc and that by the end of the sixth century it was firmly in the grasp of the Anglo-Saxons.
1There is a similar genealogy recorded in Bonedd Gwyr y Gogledd except that the name of Arthwys appears instead of Gurgust Letlum. Quite why this is no one knows, scribal error possibly as Arthwys is another son of Einion ap Mor that appears in a different genealogy.
2 Which is probably about right, as dating of other more well known events in the late sixth century by the Annales Cambriae seem accurate enough.