Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
QUEENS OF ENGLAND
BEFORE THE NORMAN CONQUEST.
TAGGARD & THOMPSON,
This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2007
SECOND QUEEN OF VORTIGERN.
Vortigern, hoping to establish order in Britain, invites Hengist and Horsa—Arrival of the Saxons—The feast at Thong Castle—The fatal Was-heil—Rowena's beauty—Dress of Saxon ladies—Marriage of Vortigern—His first wife—Gods of the Saxons—The Irminsula—Discontent of the Britons—Excommunication and separation—Vortimer proclaimed King—Fury of Hengist—Rowena's artifices—She poisons Vortimer in a nosegay—Vortigern consults Merlin—History of Ambrosius—The fortress in Snowdon—The massacre at Ambresbury—The Valley of Vortigern.
THE pressure of the Barbarians, those "many-nationed spoilers," had obliged the hitherto triumphant Romans to concentrate their attention and all their power in their own country, and, by degrees, they withdrew their forces from the remote provinces which owned their sway, until Britain was altogether abandoned by them, and left to the British princes, who were forced to carry on continual warfare with the savage Picts, and that people called the Scots of Ireland, settled on the west coast. The Saxons also came occasionally, to "fright the isle from its propriety," by their incursions; and the endless quarrels of the chiefs for supremacy, plunged the whole land into such a state of anarchy, that Vortigern, who then filled the uneasy throne of South Britain, may be excused, in his despair of establishing order, for forming the resolution of seeking protection and assistance from the powerful and restless German freebooters, whom he had hitherto looked upon as enemies.
In an evil hour for the freedom of his country, Vortigern summoned to his aid the unscrupulous adventurers, Hengist and Horsa, and Britain became their prey.
The loves of Vortigern and Rowena have become the property of the romancer, and some historians reject the traditions respecting them; but yet the story is as often repeated as omitted by chroniclers, and is by some attested as worthy of credit. There is a probability about it, which, while it interests, enlists the reader in its favour.
Nennius, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and their followers, tell the story of Rowena's fatal charms, and she is named in the Welsh Triads as Ronwen. She was the daughter of the Jutish captain, Hengist, who, after he had successfully assisted Vortigern against his foes, had established himself and his party in the country: rejoicing to find themselves powerful chiefs, who were lately banished adventurers, expelled from their own shores.
When, at first, the Saxons stood before the King, says Roger of Wendover, he asked them respecting the faith and religion of their ancestors, on which Hengist replied: "We worship the gods of our fathers, Saturn, Jupiter, and the other deities, who govern the world, and especially Mercury, whom, in our tongue, we call Woden, and to whom our fathers dedicated the fourth day of the week, which, to this day, is called Woden's Day. Next to him, we worship the most powerful goddess, Frea, to whom they dedicated the sixth day, which, after her, we call Friday." "I grieve much," said Vortigern, "for your belief, or rather, for your unbelief; but I am exceedingly rejoiced at your coming, which, whether brought about by God, or otherwise, is most opportune for my urgent necessities. For I am pressed by my enemies on every side; and if ye will share with me the toil of fighting, ye shall remain in my kingdom, where ye shall be had in honour, and enriched with lands and possessions." The Barbarians straightway assented, and having made league with him, remained at his court.
Hengist had received as the reward of his helping arm, from the grateful Vortigern, a fertile and commanding tract of land, on the Thames, called by the Britons, Ruoihin, and by the Saxons, Thanet. As soon as Hengist was fairly established, he sent for new allies to his native country, and his welcome summons was speedily answered by the arrival of a host of relations and friends, all greedy for gain. But the most attractive personage amongst these, and one on whose power the wily Jute most depended, was his beautiful daughter Rowena, celebrated, wherever she had been seen, for her surpassing loveliness and grace, "a prodigy of beauty, and the admiration of all men."
There is a tradition generally repeated, that Hengist's modest demand, on being requested by Vortigern to name the price of his services, was merely as much land as he could cover with a hide; this being of course granted, the cunning freebooter had it cut into thongs, and thus managed to procure a considerably larger share than was intended. However this may be, he became possessed of a great portion of the country, and built or appropriated numerous castles, which he fortified, and where his followers established themselves.
It was at one of these, to which, it seems, he had given the name of Thong Castle, the situation of which is variously asserted (some chroniclers insisting on its being at Doncaster, others, that it was in Kent), that Hengist entertained the somewhat weak and luxurious Vortigern, and there, at a grand banquet, he introduced his fascinating daughter Rowena to the Prince.
In order to do the more honour to his guest, Hengist commanded the beautiful maiden to wait upon him during the repast, according to the fashion of the time, and Vortigern was not slow in taking the bait held out. At the first glance his eye had been dazzled by Rowena's beauty, and the smiling grace with which she presented him with a golden goblet, uttering, at the same time, in silver accents, the words of greeting—"Waes heal, hlaford Cynyng," "Health to thee, Lord King," entirely subdued him. From her lips he immediately learnt the customary answer, "Drinc heal," and his fate was sealed.
Drayton, after detailing this scene, goes on to say that the enamoured monarch—
"Kuste hire* and fitte hire adoune, and glad dronk hire heil,
And that was tho in this land the verst was-hail.
As in langage of Saxoyne that me might ever iwrite,
And so wel he paith the hole about, that he is not yet voryrte."
*[Winsemius, the historian of Friesland, relates with much gravity as a fact, that kissing was unknown in England till the fair Rowena, Hengist's daughter, in the character of cupbearer, pressed the beaker with her lipkens, and saluted Vortigern with a kus-en (a little kiss).—Sir R. Phillips.]
From that time "was-heil" and "drinc-heil" were the usual phrases of quaffing among the English, though Drayton thinks the custom had long before existed, both in Saxony and other nations.
The dress of the Saxon ladies is thus described, and we may suppose Rowena appeared, on this memorable occasion, similarly attired:"They wore linen, dyed of divers colours, under the gown, and to this part of the dress belonged those close sleeves seen under or within those of the upper garment. The gown frequently was embellished with bands of different colours, or embroidery about the knees and at the bottom. On their heads they wore a veil, coverchief, or hood, which, falling down upon the forehead, was carefully wrapped round the neck and shoulders; sometimes they wore over their shoulders a cloak, with a hole cut in the middle, for the purpose of passing the head through. Their shoes, commonly of black, were plain, and sometimes slit down the middle of the instep. The predominant colours for female dress were green, blue, and light red; sometimes pink and violet, but rarely perfect white." [Smith and Meyrick.] Purple was worn only by kings and queens.
Hengist himself is represented as of "pleasing address, engaging and condescending behaviour, and of sound judgment." [Rapin.]
In "Smith and Meyrick's Costumes" he thus appears: "With a four-pointed helmet, like those worn in France in the ninth century, and a breast-plate precisely similar to those worn in that country in the reigns of Lothair and Charles the Bold; some say he wore 'scaly mail,' and surcoat of fur. The chieftain's spear was broad and heavy, his convex shield armed with a boss. His long red hair was worn flowing down; he was stout in person, and freckled. When unarmed, his head was adorned with a wreath of amber beads, and round his neck was suspended a golden torque. His banner was red, and exhibited 'the picture of the white prancing steed,' at once the hieroglyphic of his name, and a symbol of the deity he worshipped."
As Hengist is said to be only about thirty at the time he arrived in Britain, his daughter Rowena must have been extremely young. At first, on Vortigern's declaring his passion for her, the artful father pretended to think her too lowly for so great an alliance; this assumed opposition, of course, increased the ardour of the royal lover, and his entreaties soon convinced both father and daughter that the objection was merely fanciful.
The object of the Jute was attained, and almost immediately the marriage of Vortigern and Rowena took place.
Vortigern had united himself previously to his marriage with Rowena, to a British lady of royal birth, by whom he had three sons, Vortimer, Categrin, and Pascentius, and one daughter. [The author of "Britannia after the Romans" thinks that Rowena was the Christian wife of a monarch who leaned strongly towards Druidism, and a queen most anxious to reconcile the British and Saxon tribes to each other.—Miss Lawrence's History of Woman.] This lady had been divorced to make way for the new marriage, and here the history of the Saxon invasion strongly resembles that of the Roman, four hundred years earlier. The divorced Queen of Vortigern may be compared to Boadicea, who was repudiated to make way for her husband to marry another: in these instances, as in that of the Spanish Florinda, the ill-treatment of a woman introduced the enemies of her country.
Vortigern's first wife was much loved by the people, more particularly because she was a Christian, while Rowena, her rival in the King's affections, was a lady of "uncowght beleue," [Fabian.] in other words, a Pagan; moreover Vortigern had promised Rowena full liberty to exercise her own religion. [Robinson.]
As the rites of that religion are remarkable, a brief account of the idolatrous worship in which Rowena had been educated, may be excused.
The Saxon temples, in which their idols were worshipped, [Turner.] were surrounded with inclosures, and it was considered profanation to throw a lance within the assigned boundary. The chief of the deities were the Sun and Moon, from whom, the former a female, and the latter a male deity, were named the two first days of their week. Tuesco, or Tiw, gave a name to the third day, but of him nothing is known. Wednesday was named from Woden, or Odin, the God of War, and renowned ancestor of Rowena herself, who is computed to have lived in the third century. Thor was another deity, and Friga, the wife of Woden, was venerated on Friday, as was Seterne on Saturday. There was besides Friga, several female deities, as Rheda and Eostre, to whom they sacrificed in March and April, Eostre giving name to the festival of Easter; and Herthus, or the Earth. There was a female power called an Elf, who appeared to have answered to Venus; Hera, the Goddess of Plenty, and Hilda, Goddess of War. [Turner; History of the Anglo-Saxons.] The offerings to these deities varied according to circumstances and seasons, consisting of cakes, of cattle, and sometimes even of human beings. The most celebrated and singular idol of the Saxons yet remains to be described. It stood at Marsburg, and bore the name of Irminsula. The edifice in which it was placed was spacious, elaborate, and magnificent, but had no roof. The idol itself, the largest in all Saxony, was constructed, it is thought, of wood, and represented an armed warrior; "its right hand held a banner, in which a red rose was conspicuous; its left presented a balance. The crest of its helmet was a cock; on its breast was engraven a bear, and the shield depending from its shoulders, exhibited a lion in a field full of flowers." Such was the extraordinary figure which was the principal object of adoration in the temple Pictures of the Irminsula were to be found in other Saxon temples, which proves the high veneration with which it was regarded.
Both men and women served in the pagan temples of the Saxons; the former sacrificed, the latter divined and told fortunes. The priests, in the hour of battle, took their favourite image from its column, and carried it to the field, and after the conflict was over, the captives were immolated to the idol. There were certain days, also, on which the soldiery, clothed in armour, and brandishing an iron cestus, would ride round about their idol, and afterwards dismounting, kneel before it, and offer up prayers for success in their warfare.
The Irminsula was thrown down and broken, and the fame it had acquired destroyed by Charlemagne, in the year 772; its destruction occupied half the Gallic army three days, the rest being under arms; the vessels of the temple being appropriated, together with vast wealth, by the conquerors. The column on which the image had stood, being thrown into a wagon, was buried in the Weser, where it was found in the succeeding reign; and the Saxons attempting to rescue it, fought a battle on the spot called the Armensula. They were repulsed, and the image hastily thrown into the river; whence it was subsequently conveyed to the choir of a new church, built in the neighbourhood, at Hillesheim, and employed to hold lights at the festivals. After many ages of neglect, its rust and discoloration were removed by Meibomius and a canon of the church. [Turner.]
Such were some of the extravagances of the Pagan idol-worship, which was introduced into Britain at the marriage of Rowena, and being protected and patronised by Vortigern whose chief idol was Rowena herself, threatened to choke the scattered seeds of Christianity which had sprung up in different parts of the island.
The first coming of Hengist had been, no doubt, welcomed by the helpless Britons as a deliverance from threatened bondage; the increase of his possessions might not, perhaps, have awakened jealousy, had not the advancement of a foreigner and a pagan to the position of Queen-Consort, and the consequent divorce of their Christian country-woman alarmed them, and pointed out the necessity of expostulation. Whatever the British nobles might have felt at first, they dissembled their indignation, and the earliest intimation of their feelings which Vortigern received was a visit from Wodine or Vodinus, Bishop of London, a man of singularly devout and exemplary character. That priest, having learnt that the Queen had been dismissed by her husband, went to him and remonstrated freely with him on the subject, telling him how great a crime he had committed in dismissing his lawful wife, who was a good and virtuous woman and excellent Christian; he added, moreover, that he had deeply offended against the laws of God and man, by marrying a Saxon, who was an enemy to the Christian faith, and whose father was aiming at the crown of Britain, and resolved to subdue it to the thraldom of the Saxons. Vortigern, abashed by the Bishop's honest reproof, acknowledged his crime, prayed God might pardon him, and made a confession of his guilt to the holy man, full of penitence, auguring well for the future. Upon this Hengist, who in an adjoining chamber had listened to all that had passed, came in with fury, and upbraided Vortigern for being so dejected after his marriage. To completely emancipate his son-in-law from such an adviser, he slew the Bishop and several other religious men who resided with the King, and would have killed his son Vortimer also, had he not saved his life by a precipitate flight. [Weever, Scott. This scene is supposed to have taken place at Ambresbury in Wiltshire, and the great massacre of the Britons at Stonehenge, but antiquarians dispute on this point.]
Vortigern was next excommunicated by St. Germanus and the whole synod of bishops, on account of his marriage with the heathen Princess Rowena. [Roger of Wendover.] His crimes and follies had rendered him so much an object of detestation among the people, that in the year 464 a General Assembly of the British States was convened by the nobles of London. [Warrington, Scott.] On this occasion Vortigern was upbraided as the author of all the country's calamities, and the crown being taken from his head was placed on that of his son Vortimer. [Fordun.] The deposed King was then sent as a prisoner into Wales, and Rowena, who had been also made captive, was confined in the Tower of London. The object of this severe treatment was to prevent any children of her's in future aspiring to the throne, to the exclusion of the issue of Vortigern's first wife; for Rowena, at the time of her imprisonment, was expecting to become a mother, and shortly after gave birth to a son. [Roger of Wendover.] This was a cruel reverse of fortune, but Rowena does not appear to have possessed acute feelings; beautiful as an angel as she is represented to have been, her character does not present us with any of the gentle virtues which adorn the sex, except, indeed, the persisting in a determination to adhere to the fortunes of her own family, which owed its aggrandisement to herself, may be considered as one of them.
Hengist, after learning the imprisonment of his daughter and her husband, had to arm himself against the united forces of the Picts, Scots, and Britons, who, headed by Vortimer, fought four battles; in one of which Horsa, on the side of the Saxons, and Categrin, brother of Vortimer, were slain fighting hand to hand,—a proof of the animosity which fired the rival chiefs. [Speed.] Hengist, during the interval, spared neither age nor sex, burnt public and private edifices, slew the priests at the foot of their altars, and even nobles and bishops were sacrificed to his indignation. [Hume.]In the end, however, fortune favoured Vortimer, and the Saxons, with Hengist, were forced to fly from the kingdom. During the six or seven years which followed, the British King employed himself in the restoration of Christianity, and rebuilt the churches which the Pagans had destroyed. [Howel.] At the end of that time his life fell a sacrifice to the artifices of Rowena, who had bribed one of his attendants to poison him. [Fordun, Brut. Tysilio, Howel.]
Some of the best years of this dangerous beauty's life had been passed in prison, [Scott.] but it would seem that this confinement was not very rigorous, owing to the generosity of the disposition of her step-son.
Rowena was anxious to recover her lost power, and reflecting what disasters Vortimer had caused the Saxons in England,—that she was herself a captive, her husband deposed and in prison, and her father a fugitive from his possessions, she determined to procure the death of the royal Vortimer. To this step she was led by her father's instigations, and, it is thought, with the connivance of her infatuated husband.
Rowena employed as her agent on this occasion a young man, attendant on Vortigern, whom she engaged in her service by the promise of a great reward. The event is thus recorded: [Evans's Mirror of Past Ages, from an ancient MS.]—" Disguised as a gardener, the Queen's emissary appeared one morning before the King, when he was taking the air in his garden, and presented him with a nosegay of flowers sprinkled with poison." As soon as Vortimer was sensible of its effects, and perceived that his death was inevitable, he called the nobility into his presence, and exhorted them to a manly defence of their country. He made it his last request that they should erect his sepulchre on the seashore, on the spot where the Saxons were accustomed to land. Some say that his tomb was prepared during his lifetime, at the entrance into Thanet, the scene of their last fatal struggle, in which Vortimer was the conqueror; and that the monument was called Lapis Titulo, in modern times "the Stoner." [Warrington.] However the King directed that his remains should be deposited therein, under the impression that the image and relics of a dead warrior would inspire the same terror he had infused when alive. For some reason not assigned, the Britons disregarded this request, and interred the heroic prince at Caer Ludd, or London. [The following authors are unanimous in believing Vortimer to have been poisoned:—Evans (" Mirror," p. 106); Verstegan, c. 5, p. 129; Fabian, p. 76; Matthew Westminster, p. 120.]
Perhaps some of the British nobles were prevented from complying with the last wishes of Vortimer, by the influence of Rowena, who no sooner found that her scheme had answered all her hopes, than she contrived, by flattery, to persuade the nobility to re-establish her husband upon the throne. This step was decided upon in a general council of state; and as soon as Vortigern was again made King, he sent into Germany, desiring Hengist to come over secretly, with a few attendants, lest if he came in any other manner, it might cause the Britons to rebel.—A.D. 461. The machinations of Rowena were thus far successful; her husband had recovered his crown, she was again a Queen; and her infant son, who had been born during her solitary sojourn in the Tower, was acknowledged the heir to the kingdom of Britain. [Warrington. Langhorne says that no children were born to Vortigern by Rowena.] Under this promising aspect of affairs for the Saxons, Hengist was encouraged to set sail for Britain, with three thousand armed followers. [Fordun.] If the departure of her father had made Rowena "sad," as the historian informs us, [Tanner.] his return must have filled her heart with joy.
Hengist now asserted his friendship for Vortigern, and his desire to support the claims of his own grandchild, the son of Rowena, whom he feared might be slain by the Britons, and who, Vortigern being aged and infirm, and unlikely to have more heirs, had the only claim to the throne.
The weak and superstitious Vortigern is said to have consulted Merlin as to the fate of himself and his son by Rowena, and received for answer that they should be burnt to death by Uther and Ambrose. These princes had a prior claim to Vortigern on the British throne. Their brother Constans, who had entered a monastery when a child, was, by Vortigern's contrivance, brought thence, on the death of Constantine, his royal father, to assume the crown,—A.D. 448. [Constantine, son of Solomon, King of Armorica, was elected and crowned at Silcestre, A.D. 433.—Geoffrey of Monmouth, Holinshed.] Vortigern had afterwards caused him to be murdered, and seized on the vacant throne, to the prejudice of the junior princes, Uther and Ambrose, who, it was supposed, fled for safety into Bretagne. [Turner.] This, however, was not the case, for Ambrose was detained in Britain by his mother; and is known afterwards as "Emris Wledig," or "Emperor," the title borne by his illustrious ancestor, Maximus: this was his Welsh title; the Roman one was Ambrose Aurelian.
After the departure of the Romans from Britain, many private Roman families had remained established here, forming a sort of clan of their own. The mother of Ambrose was one of these; her birth was very noble, for her parents were said to have worn the imperial purple, [Bede.] but the name of her father has been purposely suppressed, though he is called a Roman chieftain, and of consular dignity. She is accused of having violated her vows as a vestal virgin. [Nennius.] This, however, seems to have been a fiction, invented by the enemies of the mother of Ambrose. Both herself and children had been educated by Guiteline, Archbishop of London; and Cirencester, the Roman city, is said to have been the scene of her espousals to their father Constantine.
On the death of Constans, her eldest son, his widowed [The emissaries of Vortigern, entering the bedchamber of young Constans, cut off his head, and carried it bleeding to Vortigern, who, feigning the utmost horror and astonishment, immediately ordered the deaths of the murderers! His next act was to assume the regal power.—Warrington.] Queen, dreading that the cruel Vortigern should aim at the destruction of her other children, had lived in a state of complete seclusion. The young Ambrose gave such extraordinary evidence of his mathematical powers, that it was spread abroad as a rumour by the superstitious common people, that he was the offspring of a demon in human form, who had associated with his mother. The Queen desiring to conceal the rank of his father, favoured the conceit, and thus the youth early obtained the name of Merlin, "the Magician." [Langhornii Chronicon.]
Vortigern had, by the advice of his nobles determined to build an impregnable fortress in Snowdon, and collected the necessary materials to accomplish his design. To his surprise, these all disappeared in one night. On consulting with his wise men as to the cause, they told him the building would never stand unless it was sprinkled with the blood of a child who was born without a father. The country was searched far and wide, when a cluster of boys at play were overheard to charge one of their companions with being an "unbegotten knave." This child was the Merlin of whom we have been speaking, and who, with his mother, was instantly brought into the presence of the royal Vortigern, his greatest enemy. The Queen was forced to keep up her deceptive story, by owning the youth the offspring of the being of supernatural powers; and Merlin was sentenced to be sacrificed. In this cruel emergency, the wisdom of the boy was the means of saving his life. He confounded all the wise men of Vortigern by his questions; and having explained why Vortigern had failed in his erection of the castle, by founding it on a morass, had the good fortune to be set at liberty. Merlin obtained great reputation by the circumstance alluded to, and many prophecies were afterwards imputed to him, the repetition of which was forbidden, in after-days, by the Council of Trent. [Pennant (from Nennius). "There were two Myrddins, or Merlins; one the minister and archbishop of Ambrosius, who succeeded Vortigern, and built Stonehenge called Myrddin Ambrosius, and whose skill in bringing the stones from Ireland, obtained him the name of Enchanter; and the Myrddin, or Morvyn, a British poet and prophet, contemporary with Taliessin, who lived in the following century, and died in Bardsey."—Sir R. Phillips.]
When Vortigern, desirous of learning his future destiny, and that of the son of Rowena, appealed to the royal prophet, he received the answer which sincerity alone could have dictated,—a quality for which Ambrose Aurelian was ever remarkable, and distinguished by it from his contemporary chieftains. [Turner.] This excellent prince was afterwards leader of the Britons against the Saxons; [Hume.] his valour is said to have been equal to his modesty, and the latter was conspicuous in so learned a prince. It is particularly stated that he was skilled in mathematics and astronomy; [Gibbon.] and to him the town of Ambresbury, in Wiltshire, owed its origin.
The British nobles had, on the arrival of so many armed warriors, under Hengist, felt very indignant, and prepared for war. Rowena informed her father, as usual, of what was to be expected; who sent to Vortigern, offering to retain such only of his followers as the King pleased; but requested an interview on the subject. Thus, under the appearance of peace, he concealed the most artful scheme.
Vortigern is said to have accepted an invitation from Hengist to a banquet at Ambresbury, with about three hundred of his nobles; and on this occasion it was, that the whole of the followers of the British King were slain by the Saxons, and Vortigern himself detained a prisoner. Among those slain was Vodinus, who, at Vortimer's instigation, had formerly reproved Vortigern for divorcing his Queen and marrying Rowena. [Langhornii Chronicon.] The haughty and insolent King, who is truly described as "neither wise in counsel, nor experienced in war," oppressed by the Saxons, and pursued by Aurelius, who took up arms after the death of Vortimer, fled for refuge into Wales, to a castle among the mountains of Caernarvonshire.
The valley of Vortigern (Nant y Gyrthyrn) is described as an immense hollow, to approach which says Pennant, "we ascend from Nefyn for a considerable way up the side of the high hill, and after a short ride on level ground, quit our horses. Fancy cannot frame a place more fit for a retreat from the knowledge of mankind, or more apt to inspire one with full hopes of security from any pursuit; embosomed in a lofty mountain, on both sides bounded by stony steeps, on which no vegetables appear, but the blasted heath and stunted gorse; the hind side exhibits a most tremendous front of black precipice, with the loftiest peak of the mountain Eist soaring above; and the only opening to this secluded spot is towards the sea, a northern aspect, where that chilling wind exerts all its fury, and half freezes during winter, the few inhabitants." [The glen is tenanted by three families, who raise oats, and keep a few cattle, sheep, and goats, but seem to have great difficulty in getting their little produce to market.—Penzant.]
Nennius places the scene of Vortigern's retreat near the Teibi, in Cardiganshire; but (says Pennant) "I believe that the historian not only mistakes the spot, but even the manner of his death. His life had been profligate, the monks, therefore, were determined that he should not die the common death of all men, and accordingly made him perish with signal marks of the vengeance of Heaven." The guilty monarch was, it is said, destroyed in the castle wherein he had taken refuge, by lightning, together with the rest of the inmates; or else they were burnt to ashes, together with the structure itself, by the contrivance of the Britons. [Howel.] Pennant proceeds thus with his description of the spot: "Just above the sea is a high and verdant natural mount, but the top and sides worked by art. The first flatted, the sides marked with eight prominent ribs from top to bottom. On this might have been the residence of the unfortunate Prince, of which time has destroyed every other vestige. Till the beginning of the last century, a tumulus, of stone within, and externally covered with turf, was to be seen here; it was known by the name of Bedd Gwrtheyrn. Tradition having regularly delivered down the report of this having been the place of Vortigern's interment, the inhabitants of the parish, perhaps instigated by their minister, Mr. Hugh Roberts, a person of curiosity, dug into the cairn, and found in it a stone coffin, containing the bones of a tall man. [Kennett's Parochial Antiquities.] This gives a degree of credibility to the tradition, especially as no other bones were found with it, no other tumuli on the spot; a proof, at least, of respect to the rank of the person, and that the place was deserted after the death of the royal fugitive about the year 465."
Rowena's history is littled noticed after the seclusion of Vortigern.
That she survived her husband, and still persevered in her feelings of resentment against the Britons, was believed, since she is accused of the death of Ambrose Aurelian, who is said to have been poisoned, in revenge for his share in her husband's death; "for she was very skilful in the art of poisoning." [Oliver Matthew's Abbreviation of divers most true and ancient Britannic Chronicles, &c.] Some writers, however, ascribe the deed to Pascentius, brother of Vortimer, who would be his rival for the crown; and a third account represents the philosopher King to have been slain in battle, fighting against his Saxon foes, and states that Stonehenge was erected over the spot where his remains were deposited, or else to commemorate the slaughter of those noble Britons who were massacred by the Saxon Hengist. [Howel, Med. Hist. Ang.]