Urien, King of North Rheged
Latin: Urbgenius, Orobogenius
c.530-590

Son of Cynfarch Oer and brother of Arawn/Auguselus and Llew/Lot of Lothian.

The kingdom of Rheged (elsewhere Yrechwydd in the Book of Taliesin) is today modern Cumbria.

His relationship with neighboring kingdoms was, to say the least, mercurial. He is recorded to have made a number of raids, even as far north as Manau Gododdin; however, later in life, he formed a collalition with other northern kings, including Rhydderch Hael of Strathclyde, Gwallawc Marchawc Trin of Elmet, and Morcant Bulc of Bryneich. It was a largely successful campaign, his son Owain even killing King Theodoric of Bernicia. With the help of some Irish allies, the Saxons were pushed back.

According to Nennius, Urien was assassinated by Morcant, who was jealous of Urien's exploits. According to the Triads, the killer was Llofan Llaw Ddifro, and the death was one of the Three Unfortunate Assassinations. In a poem attributed to Llywarch Hen, the poet claims to have killed Urien and laments this.

The historical Taliesin (as opposed to the mythological Taliesin) is thought to have been his bard, given the large number of poems in the Book of Taliesin which praise Urien and his son Owain, as well as the contemporaneous existence according to Nennius.

In French and English romance he became Uriens of Gorre, originally an enemy of Arthur who is won over and marries Morgan Le Fay. In Welsh myth, he marries Modron, daughter of Afallach king of Annwfn and better known as the mother of Mabon. In both French and Welsh literature, these otherworld women are said to be the mothers of Ywain/Owain. In the Welsh version, it may refer to the Celtic concept of hierogamy between the king and the goddess of the land, in this case Modron. This may account for why territory in Rheged is apparently called "the country of Mabon" in the Book of Taliesin.

Back to "U" | Back to JCE
Home

Mary Jones 2004