He was the son of Cadwallon ap Cadfan. On his father's death in 633, Gwynedd fell under the power of an adventurer, Cadafael ap Cynfedw, whose rule seems to have ended with his ignominious retreat from the battlefield of Winwed Field in 654. Cadwaladr then came to his own, but fell a victim to the great pestilence of 664.
Uneventful as was his reign, he became a great figure in later bardic lore. In the prophecies of Merlin, for instance, as handled by Geoffrey of Monmouth, it is foretold that Cadwaladr will summon Cynan and will make a treaty with Alben (Scotland). That Cadwaladr would return to lead the British race to victory over the Saxons became a commonplace of the cywyddau brud, the darkly phrased poems in which the bards shrouded their incitements to national resistance. Henry VII claimed descent from the popular hero ‘in the twenty second degree’ (Wynne, 336) and the red dragon of Cadwaladr was one of the three standards which he offered up at S. Paul's in 1485.
But he also appears in a very different character, as Cadwaladr the Blessed, the patron saint of Llangadwaladr in Anglesey, Llangadwaladr in Denbighshire, and Bishton, formerly Llangadwaladr, in Monmouthshire. In the oldest form of the ‘Pedigrees of the Saints,’ the saint is said to be the son of Iago ap Beli (Br. SS., iv, 369), i.e. great-uncle of the prince, and it is possible that two members of the same family have been confused.
Geoffrey of Monmouth winds up his ‘History of the Kings of Britain’ with his own fanciful version of the doings of Cadwaladr and ends by tacking on to the story the particulars recorded by Bede of the death of Cadwalla of Wessex.
Published date: 1959
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