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Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion


1977 1977

Breton settlers in Cornwall after the Norman Conquest

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by E. M. R. DITMAS
TillS study originated in a desire to test whether Geoffrey of
Monmouth's bias in favour of the Breton people as shown in his
Historia Regum Britanniae could have been encouraged by, if it
did not actually arise from, contacts with Breton settlers in England.
The conquest of Cornwall had been carried out by Breton contin-
gents in 1067-68, the years immediately following the conquest of
the rest of England by William I in 1066. The leaders were Judell
filius Aluuredi, better known as Judhel of Totnes, and Brient count
of Brittany, second son of Count Eudo of Penthievre. An examina-
tion of the Domesday Survey for Cornwall shows that amongst
the under-tenants in 1086 there are sufficient names of Breton
origin to justify the suggestion that a number of men from the
invading forces may have settled there, particularly in north-east
Cornwall. The possible significance of these circumstances became
apparent when it was realised that Geoffrey of Monmouth's patron,
Robert earl of Gloucester, held at least five manors in Cornwall,
one being near Tintagel, and that the location of those places
selected by Geoffrey for the setting of the first and last phases of
his Arthurian history coincided with a high density of Breton-held
manors. The re-appraisal of Geoffrey of Monmouth's allusions to
Cornwall is the subject of a paper already published1 and a further
paper,2 presented at the Tenth International Arthurian Congress at
Nantes, August 1972, gave a preliminary account of the Breton
settlers in Cornwall and their possible influence on Geoffrey of
Monmouth. The present article is an examination, in greater depth,
of the Breton families concerned.
The basis of this study is the Domesday Survey of 1086. Unlike
continental practice, the possessions of each baron in England
1 A re-appraisal of Geoffrey of Monmouth's allusions to Cornwall',
Speculum, 48 (1973), 510-524.
2 Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Breton families in Cornwall Welsh
History Review, 6 (1973), 451-61.
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