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Ancient London #7

Ancient Kings and Others #5


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the reign of Edward VI, the populace, in their hatred of all
images, knocked off the heads of Lludd and his sons - these were
restored by Mary; but during the reign of Elizabeth the gate was
entirely taken down and rebuilt, new figures of Lludd and his
sons being put on the eastern side. Thus the gate stood till
1760, when it was finally taken down and the statues granted to
Sir Francis Gosselin. The late Marquis of Hertford eventually
purchased them with St. Dunstan's clock. These and the clock he
erected in Hertford Villa, Regent's Park, now called St.
Dunstan's. Lord Londesborough, the present owner, kindly gave the
writer permission for photographs to be taken of these historical
representations of King Lludd and his sons.
     According to the Welsh chronicles and a tradition recorded
by Morgan in his "Cambrian History," Cassivellaunus, after peace
had been concluded at Verulam, chivalrously entertained Caesar at
the White Tower for seven days, while the embarkation of the
Roman army was proceeded with in Kent. Colour is lent to this
tradition by the fact that one of the towers of the oldest part
of the fortifications, the "Salt Tower," is known to this day as
Caesar's Tower. "Salt," a corruption of Sol (like the Eton montem
example of "Salt Hill"), is a name which takes us back to early
British times, and suggests that this ancient structure may have
been originally the "Clock" Tower of King Belin's Castle. When
the records of the Tower of London come to be published we may
learn if the tradition of Caesar's sojourn within its walls has
any foundation in fact; and some clue may be found as to the
origin of Roman masonry that still may be seen in different parts
of the old buildings that on two sides encircle William the
Norman's White Tower.
     The Bryn Gwyn in Caesar's time., we should remember, was
still in its original condition, simply a green conical mound,
with no building whatever upon it, consecrated to the service of
the Most High, and venerated as the burial-place of two of the
most illustrious of our prehistoric British kings, Brutus, the
reputed founder of London, and Molmutius, the "Solon" of Britain,
of whom Keltic lore records he was a "restorer and protector of
the ancient sanctuaries, and of the high-ways that led to them,"
showing that the religious monuments of Britain were regarded as
old even in his time, circa 500 B.C. 
     Shortly before Caesar's stay at the Tower, Nennius, the
British prince, died here in the palace of his forefathers, after
a lingering illness of three weeks, from the effects of a wound
he had received from Caesar's sword (the morscrocea), and had
been laid to rest in the bosom of the Holy Hill; an interesting
tradition that links the British Gorsedd with historical times.

     It is with the continuity of the prehistoric traditions of
the Bryn Gwyn that we must now deal; these are certainly worthy
of consideration, slender as may be the connexion between the
Kymric customs and those that still survive, in one or two
instances, to the present time. That the White Mount was the seat
of a prehistoric observatory is probable from the existence in
the basement of a well 150 feet deep, lined with stone throughout
like that of the Penton; it is only recently that this ancient
well has been enclosed with iron railing; it is now said by the
authorities to be a Roman well. The north-east turret of the
present Norman structure has from time immemorial been used as an
observatory, and only ceased to be used as such when Charles II
removed the Royal Observatory to his royal demesne in Greenwich
Park. Tower Hill as a place of National Assembly, like Parliament
Hill, carries on to this day its traditions. Seldom a dinner hour
passes without a crowd assembling to listen to some popular
demagogue. A few years since a band of Macedonian gipsies settled
down upon Tower Hill with their caravans, secure in their
traditional knowledge that it was common ground; and special
legal measures had to be adopted before they could be removed.
Surely in this unprecedented action of these poor foreigners may
be traced the imperishable traditions of an ancient kinship.
Is it a mere coincidence, we wonder, that the summit of the
British Gorsedd should retain its sanctity as a consecrated place
of worship to this day, crowned as it is by the Conqueror's
Norman chapel, dedicated to the Midsummer Saint John Baptist?
Here William of Normandy and his Queen are said to have knelt in
prayer, and there for well-nigh a thousand years Divine Service
has been celebrated within the walls of this chapel. Immediately
under the roof, from the time of Henry Beauclerc to Charles II,
it was the ancient custom of the kings of England to assemble
before proceeding to Westminster to be crowned. On the even of
their coronation, the ministers and nobles met in council to
nominate the sovereign. The following morning all assembled in
the chapel on the topmost storey of the building, and there the
procession was formed which conducted the king in state through
the city to the royal seat at Westminster, where within the
Abbey, the ancient site of the Druidical circle, the anointing
and crowning took place. May not this be a survival of the Kymric
custom practised on Silbury Hill and Abury, where after that by
the "voice of the people" the king had been elected and lifted by
the "elders in council" to a stone seat or chair, the religious
ceremonial of anointing took place within the precincts of the
     From Roman to Norman times, with but one exception in the
sixth century, we can find no mention whatever, either in history
or tradition, of the White Mound. But that it was a royal
stronghold in King Arthur's time, we gather from Book XXI of Sir
Thomas Malory's "Morte d'Arthur," in which he relates:

"How Sir Mordred presumed and took on him to be King of England,
and would have married the Queen, his Uncle's wife. Wherefore Sir
Mordred made a parliament, and called the lords together, and
there he made them to choose him King; and so was he crowned at
Canterbury, and held a feast there, fifteen days; and afterwards
he drew him into Winchester, and there he took the Queen
Guenever, and said plaenly that he would wed her which was his
uncle's wife. And so he made ready for the feast and a day
prefixed that they should be wedded; wherefore Queen Guenever was
passing heavy. But she durst not discover her heart, but spake
faer, and agreed to Sir Mordred's will. Then she desired of Sir
Mordred for to go to London, to buy all manner of things that
longed unto the wedding. Any by cause of her faer speech Sir
Mordred trusted her well enough and gave her leave to go. And so
when she came to London she took the Tower of London, and
suddenly in all haste possible she stuffed it with all manner of
victual, and well garnished it with men, and so kept it. Then
when Sir Mordred wist and understood how he was beguiled, he was
passing wroth out of measure. And a short tale to make, he went
and laid a mighty siege about the Tower of London, and made many
great assults thereat, and threw many great engines unto them,
and shot great guns. But all might not prevail Sir Mordred, for
Queen Guenever would never, for faer speech nor for foul, trust
to come on his hands again. . . . Then Sir Mordred sought on
Queen Guenever by letters and sondes, and by daer means and foul
means, for to have her to come out of the Tower of London; but
all this availed not, for she answered him shortly, openly and
privily, that she had lever slay herself than to be married with
him. Then came word to Sir Mordred that King Arthur had araised
the siege for Sir Lancelot, and he was coming homeward with a
great host to be avenged on Sir Mordred. . . ."

     The above account of Queen Guenever taking refuge in the
Tower of London, we may be sure, was no flight of Sir Thomas
Malory's fancy, but was founded on fact. For Margaret of
Richmond, the most learned lady of the day, and the patroness
also of learning at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, had
specially employed the old Welsh knight, at her own cost, to
collect, sift and garner material for writing the "Morte
d'Arthur" from Welsh MSS then extant, traditions and legends in
Wales and Cornwall, and historical data, wherever he could find
it concerning the British King Arthur, "the first of the most
Christian worthies of the world" (see Caxton's preface to the
"Morte d'Arthur"), from whom her son Henry Tudor, the
heir-presumptive to the throne, was lineally descended. As
directress of the education of the young princesses, this astute
lady was residing at the time at the Court of Edward IV at
Westminster, and we find indications that she took a personal
interest in the printing of the "Morte d'Arthur" in the Almonry
of the Abbey. The one object Lady Margaret had in view was the
future advancement of her son, and in no better way could this be
done, she conceived, than by kindling an interest in the
fascinating and romantic history of the Keltic King among the
chivalry and nobility of the Court-men who would have it in their
power, if ever the opportunity offered, of supporting her son's
claims to the throne of his forefathers. No book ever achieved
its purpose better or contributed more to make a cause popular.
Malory's zeal and his love of "King Arthur and his noble Knights
of the Round Table" was infectious, and stirred both the
imagination and the hearts of all who read in his beautiful
English prose (valued to this day for its style) the character
sketches of the "goodly fellowship" men whose ardour in
redressing human wrongs has set the standard for all time of
British manhood. So that when in the mysterious dispensation of
Providence a few years later the time came that the Keltic
monarchy was once again restored in the person of this
illustrious lady's son Henry VII, the imperishable ideals of the
Round Table lent a peculiar and special glamour to the prophesied
return from his long exile in Brittany of the representative of
the ancient line of British kings, the "Dragon of the great
Pendragonship" of Wales.

     We now turn to the consideration of the royal Gorsedd beside
the ford and ferry in the West - namely, the Tothill,
Westminster. This has retained much longer than the Bryn Gwyn its
royal associations. Pre-eminently the "Great Seat" of Royalty in
London here from time immemorial British kings have held their
courts and their councils. An old map in the British Museum shows
the site of the prehistoric Tot, or sacred Pile on Tothill
fields, of which no trace remains, though its memory survives to
this day in the names of the old tournament ground and in Tothill
     The ancient royal palace is reputed to have been a
magnificent and extensive pile fronting the river, in part
covering the ground now occupied by the two large areas or courts
known as Old Palace Yard and New Palace Yard. It consisted of a
great number of buildings destined to various purposes. On the
site of the original Great Hall of the British King's palace
William Rufus built the present Hall, and the site of the crypt
under the Chapel of St. Stephen's, tradition says, was originally
the Oratory of Edward the Confessor. Westminster was the
favourite residence of this saintly monarch. It was not until the
ancient palace had been almost wholly destroyed by fire that
Henry VIII bought Whitehall from Cardinal Wolsey - a purchase
which put an end to most of the royal glories of Westminster. But
as the seat of the High Court of Parliament, and of our legal
tribunal the traditions of Druidic and British legislation have
survived in unbroken continuity.

     The earliest historical account that has reached us of the
Gorsedd Mound of the Tot-hill and the circle on Thorney is in
connexion with the British King Lleuver Mawr in the second
century A.D. On the site of the Druidic circle Lucius, the
Latinized name of the British king, erected a church; and the
Druidic College in connexion with the services of the Gorsedd he
is said to have converted to the use of the Christian clergy. The
existence of the Druidical College may have given rise to the
title of Westminster Abbey as the "Collegiate Church." Dean
Buckland held that the Druidical College stood on the site of the
present College Gardens. It may have been on account of this
organized community of Druids and Bards that King Lucius not only
built a church, but "by his free grant, ordained freedom of
sanctuary as a means to allure his people to the true worship of
God," assured that his subjects would be well looked after and
kept from doing further harm by those wise and learned
administrators of law and order.
     The privileges of this ancient Sanctuary one thousand years
later were renewed by Edward the Confessor, in a charter in which
it is recapitulated that Lucius had previously established a
sanctuary by royal charter. Notwithstanding its royal patrons, it
was swept away at the time of the Reformation, and only the
memory of the site survives in the name of the sanctuary in the
Broadway, Westminster.
     We find in a note in Stanley's "Memorials of Westminster," a
pathetic account of how Fackenham, the last of the Abbots,
convinced of the righteousness of his cause, armed with a royal
charter under each arm and accompanied only by one monk, in
February 1555, pleaded in the House of Commons for the retention
of the Sanctuary about to be abolished by Henry VIII. In his
eloquent address we have documentary proof that Lucius was the
founder of the first Church at Westminster.

"And first, for the antiquity of Sanctuary at Westminster. It may
please you to have consideration how it is no less than 1,400
years since Sanctuary was there first ordained: for Lucius, the
first Christian King of this realm who, about 100 years after
Christ, received the Christian faith from the holy Pope of Rome
and martyr Eleutherius, by the ministry of the holy monk Fagan
(whom some call Fagan and Damian), immediately after that he was
by the said holy monk baptized, and instructed in the true
profession of Christ's religion, did destroy the Temple that then
stood here at Westminster dedicated to the idol Apollo, and in
place thereof erected a new Temple to the honour of the True God,
our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of St. Peter, from whose sanctity
he received the benefits of Christianity: and there he, by his
free grants, ordained Sanctuary. . . . He, I say, made
proclamation that whoever would resort thither, and worship the
True God and embrace the true faith (which he had then received)
should enjoy free pardon and immunity from all offences by them
committed. . . . The Cursed Danes that over-ran this realm, as we
read in histories, they destroyed faith and Sanctuary: and so
stood it dissolved till the time of the holy King St. Edward. He
restored faith and Sanctuary: he revived again the freedom and
privilege there, and not only revived the same, but confirmed
them also with his most ample charter. . . ."

     To this day, the open space fronting the West Doors of the
Abbey is known as "Broad Sanctuary," a name which perpetuates the
memory of the place of refuge established by Lleuver Mawr, "the
Great Light," nearly 2,000 years ago, under the shadow of the
     A contempoary life of Edward the Confessor in the Harleian
MSS throws an interesting light upon this British settlement in
the marshes in the eleventh century.

"The devout King destined to God that place both for that it was
near unto the famous and wealthy city of London, and also had a
pleasant situation amongst fruitful fields lying round about it,
with the principal river running hard by, bringing in from all
parts of the world great variety of wares and merchandise of all
sorts to the city adjoining: but chiefly for the love of the
Chief Apostle whom he reverenced with a special and singular

     From the sixth to the sixteenth century we find constant
reference made to numerous jousts held on the royal tilting
ground. But of none have we so full an account as of the "great
jousts and tourneys" ordained by King Arthur. 1 Malory gives full
details of several of these, to mention but one summons.

"And the cry was made that the day of the jousts should be beside
Westminster upon Candlemas Day, whereof many Knights were glad
and made them ready to be at these jousts in the freshest manner.
In Book XIX we have a charming description of 'How Queen Guenever
rode on Maying with certain Knights of the Round Table and clad
all in Green.'
"So it befell in the month of May, Queen Guenever called unto her
Knights of the Table Round; and she gave them warning that early
upon the morrow she would ride on Maying into the woods and
fields beside Westminster. And I warn you that there be none of
you but that he be well horsed and that ye all be clothed in
green, either in silk, outher in cloth, and I shall bring with me
ten ladies, and every Knight shall have a lady behind him, and
every Knight shall have a squire and two yeomen; and I will they
be all well horsed." . . . 
"And so upon the morn they took their horses with the Queen and
rode on Maying in woods and meadows as it pleased them, in great
joy and delights." . . . 
"So as the Queen had Mayed and all her Knights, and all were be
dashed with herbs, mosses and flowers in the best manner and
freshest-right so came out of the wood Sir Meliagrance with an
eight score men..."

     We refer our reader to the text of the "Morte d'Arthur," if
curious to learn the end of this Maying expedition which started
so happily.

     Throughout the Middle Ages Tothill Fields retained its
popularity as a royal tilting-ground. Nor did it diminish under
the Tudor kings. For here was held the famous tournament in
honour of the marriage of Henry VII to Elizabeth of York, who,
like her husband, had Keltic royal blood in her veins, a fact
that is brought prominently into notice in the design of the
brass closure of the royal tomb of Henry Tudor and his Queen in
Westminster Abbey. Here Henry VIII established his Society of
Archers, the beginning of the Royal

1 In the King's Robing Room of the Palace of Westminster, the
history of King Arthur is set forth in carved panels from birth
to death, while Dyce's magnificent pictures illustrating the
virtues of chivalry, adorn the walls.

Artillery Company incorporated by Royal Charter in 1537. And
several magnificent tournaments were held here in Queen
Elizabeth's time, when the old Tothill was still standing.

     Before we bring these fragmentary notes on the prehistoric
mounds and circles of London to a conclusion, as we are about to
do, with a description of an actual modern Gorsedd, solemnized as
in pre-Christian times, within a stone circle on "some green
spot, in the face of the sun, the eye of Light," with all the
ancient symbolic ceremonial laid down by the Founder, it is
important to glance at the historical evidence that has reached
us of the functions of a Gorsedd, the "oldest educational
institution in Europe" (according to Matthew Arnold), an
Institution, moreover, not known out of Britain.
     Established in 1000 B.C. by Aedd Mawr and the three Wisemen
he selected to assist him in the organization of the Druidic
Order, the laws and regulations of the "Gorsedd of the Isle of
Britain" were handed down by oral traditions for the first five
centuries after creation by Bards specially set apart to rehearse
these laws in the audience of the people at the annual assembly
of the Gorsedd or Eisteddfod. From Barddas (being a collection of
original documents illustrative of the Theology, Wisdom and
Usages of the Bardo-Druidic system published by the Welsh MSS
Society in 1852), we now learn that the Druidic Gorsedd Laws were
incorporated by the British King Dunwal Molmutius, who lived in
the fifth century B.C., in his famous code; and it is from this
reliable source that we find the "Gorsedd of the Bards" is
mentioned as "the oldest in its origin" of the "three privileged
Gorsedds of the Isle of Britain." And that there were three
Gorsedds according to the privilege of the country and nation of
the Kymry, having their respective duties for the improvement of

"The first is the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain and
their foundation and privilege rest upon reason, nature, and
cogency; or according to other teachers and wise men, upon
reason, Nature and circumstance. And the privilege and office of
those protected by the Gorsedd of Bards are to maintain and
preserve and diffuse authorized instruction in the sciences of
piety, wisdom, and courtesy; and to preserve memorial and record
of everything commendable respecting individuals and kindred; and
every event of times; and every natural phenomenon; and wars; and
regulations and country and nation; and punishments and
commendable victories; and to preserve a warranted record of
genealogies, marriages, nobility, privileges, and customs of the
nation of the Kymry; and to attend the exigencies of other
Gorsedds on announcing what shall be achieved, and what shall be
requisite, and under lawful proclamation and warning; and further
than this there is nothing either of office or of privilege
attached to a Gorsedd of Bards.
"Second the Gorsedd of the country and commonwealth; or the
Gorsedd of judicature and decision of law, for the right and
protection of the country and nation, their refugees and aliens.
These Gorsedds act severally; that is to say, the Gorsedd of
federate support makes a law where an occasion requires, and
confirms it in a country; and that is not allowed to a country
distinct from a federate country. The Gorsedd of judgment and
judicature decides upon such as shall transgress the law, and
punishes him. And the Gorsedd of the Bards teaches commendable
sciences, and decides respecting them, and methodically preserves
all the memorials of the nation to insure their authenticity. And
it is not right for any one of these Gorsedds to intermeddle with
the deliberation of either of the other two, but to confirm them,
and to support them regularly.
"The third Gorsedd, or that of federate support in its original
and determinate purpose, is to effect what may be necessary as to
anything new, and as to the improvement of the laws of a country
and federate country by a federate jury of chiefs of kindreds,
wise men, and sovereign ruler. A sovereign prince, or ruler of
paramount right, is the oldest in possessive title of the kings
and the princes of a federate community: and he is to raise the
mighty agitation of the country."

     According to the tenor of this extract it was "the Gorsedd
of judgment and judicature" that possessed the special right of
determining national and social disputes, in conformity with the
law that was enacted in a "Gorsedd of federate support." They
were matters of a literary character mainly that came under the
supervision of the Bards: nevertheless, "there was some connexion
between the three institutions. They were "to confirm, and
support" each other "regularly." The Bards were required more
particularly to register the

To be continued

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