A British Dark Age warrior king; supposed founder of the north Wales kingdom of Gwynedd.
The name Cunedda is derived from the Old Welsh 'cun' meaning chieftain and 'da' for good hence 'good chieftain' and cognate with the Goidelic, Cinead, Kinet or varuiants thereof, or in English, Kenneth.
The traditional tale of Cunedda goes something like this;
Cunedda was a Brythonic warrior prince from Manaw Gododdin1 , part of the kingdom of Gododdin, who migrated south, at the invitation of the British administration, with his sons, (and presumably therefore the warband under his command) to settle north Wales and drive out the invading Scotti (that is Irish) pirates. He also led military expeditions to the south to expel the Irish who were infesting Dyfed and Gwyr (the Gower).
He finally settled in Rhos and ruled a kingdom stretching between the rivers Dyfrdwy (or Dee) and Teifi, which was named after him as Gwynedd. Known to the Welsh therefore as Cunedda Wledig; the appellation Wledig (literally National) indicating his importance as a father of the nation.
This tradition comes from both Nennius and the Historia Brittonum where Chapter 62;
The great king Maelgwyn was reigning among the British, in Gwynedd, for his ancestors, Cunedda, with his sons, to the number of eight had come from the north, from the country of Manaw Gododdin, one hundred and forty-six years years before Maelgwyn reigned, and expelled the Irish from these countries, with immense slaughter, so that they never again returned to inhabit them.
and the Welsh Genealogies
that faithfully record Cunedda as the great-grandfather of Maelgwyn
, king of Gwynedd
in the mid sixth century.
Now one hundred and forty-six years before Mailcun reigned places the migration of Cunedda right in the time of Magnus Maximus which would be around 385 AD, although the fashion these days is to believe that it took place later in the time of Vortigern in the years 430 to 450.
Other than tradition there is little hard historical evidence to support the tale, although it is not entirely unreasonable; the archeological record shows that the territory that became Gwynedd was refortified in the late fourth /early fifth cemturies, there are traces of Irish settlement in Anglesey but nothing like on the scale of Dyfed. It has long been recognised that there was some sort of connection between Gwynedd and the north and it is quite possible that at some time during that period, Magnus Maximus, the Vortigern or even Constantine III hired some mercenaries from the Votadini to bolster the defences of north Wales against Irish pirates.
There is an early Welsh poem called Marwnad Cunedda, or the Elegy of Cunedda part of Llyfr Taliesin (The Book of Taliesin), which may be either a genuine elegy composed shortly after the gentlemen's death or a later medieval concoction. In a sense it doesn't matter (at least for the purposes of the current discussion) as the elegy itself, whether fact or fiction, makes no reference to the supposed exploits of Cunedda in north Wales. The elegy portrays Cunedda as purely a northern warrior and obviously represents an entirely different tradition.
What seems most likely is that some imaginative cleric, aware of a connection between Gwynedd and the Brythonic kingdoms of North Britain comes across a suitably obscure northern warrior by the name of Cunedda and simply transports him south to provide a neat foundation legend for the kingdom
1 The area of Manaw lay just beyond the Antonine Wall, centered around Stirling and the Firth of Forth.
2 An alternative hypothesis that has been advanced is that Cunedda was in fact an Irish chieftain, Chuinnedha alias Mac Cuilinn of the Manapii. See Cunedda as Vortigern by August Hunt at www.vortigernstudies.org.uk.