Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 2


ACCORDING to the earliest accounts, Albion, a giant, and son of
Neptune, a contemporary of Hercules, ruled over the island, to which
he gave his name. Presuming to oppose the progress of Hercules in
his western march, he was slain by him.
Another story is that Histion, the son of Japhet, the son of Noah,
had four sons,- Francus, Romanus, Alemannus, and Britto, from whom
descended the French, Roman, German, and British people.
Rejecting these and other like stories, Milton gives more regard
to the story of Brutus, the Trojan, which, he says, is supported by
"descents of ancestry long continued laws and exploits not plainly
seeming to be borrowed or devised, which on the common belief have
wrought no small impression; defended by many, denied utterly by few."
The principal authority is Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose history,
written in the twelfth century, purports to be a translation of a
history of Britain, brought over from the opposite shore of France,
which, under the name of Brittany, was chiefly peopled by natives of
Britain, who from time to time emigrated thither, driven from their
own country by the inroads of the Picts and Scots. According to this
authority, Brutus was the son of Silvius, and he of Ascanius, the
son of AEneas, whose flight from Troy and settlement in Italy will
be found narrated in "The Age of Fable."
Brutus, at the age of fifteen, attending his father to the chase,
unfortunately killed him with an arrow. Banished therefor by his
kindred, he sought refuge in that part of Greece where Helenus, with a
band of Trojan exiles, had become established. But Helenus was now
dead, and the descendants of the Trojans were oppressed by
Pandrasus, the king of the country. Brutus, being kindly received
among them, so throve in virtue and in arms as to win the regard of
all the eminent of the land above all others of his age. In
consequence of this the Trojans not only began to hope, but secretly
to persuade him to lead them the way to liberty. To encourage them
they had the promise of help from Assaracus, a noble Greek youth,
whose mother was a Trojan. He had suffered wrong at the hands of the
king, and for that reason the more willingly cast in his lot with
the Trojan exiles.
Choosing a fit opportunity, Brutus with his countrymen withdrew to
the woods and hills, as the safest place from which to expostulate,
and sent this message to Pandrasus: "That the Trojans, holding it
unworthy of their ancestors to serve in a foreign land, had
retreated to the woods, choosing rather a savage life than a slavish
one. If that displeased him, then, with his leave, they would depart
to some other country." Pandrasus, not expecting so bold a message
from the sons of captives, went in pursuit of them, with such forces
as he could gather, and met them on the banks of the Achelous, where
Brutus got the advantage, and took the king captive. The result was,
that the terms demanded by the Trojans were granted; the king gave his
daughter Imogen in marriage to Brutus, and furnished shipping,
money, and fit provision for them all to depart from the land.
The marriage being solemnized, and shipping from all parts got
together, the Trojans, in a fleet of no less than three hundred and
twenty sail, betook themselves to the sea. On the third day they
arrived at a certain island, which they found destitute of
inhabitants, though there were appearances of former habitation, and
among the ruins a temple of Diana. Brutus, here performing sacrifice
at the shrine of the goddess, invoked an oracle for his guidance, in
these lines:-

"Goddess of shades, and huntress, who at will
Walk'st on the rolling sphere, and through the deep;
On thy third realm, the earth, look now and tell
What land, what seat of rest, thou bidd'st me seek;
What certain seat where I may worship thee
For aye, with temples vowed and virgin choirs."

To whom, sleeping before the altar, Diana, in a vision thus

"Brutus! far to the west, in the ocean wide,
Beyond the realm of Gaul, a land there lies,
Seagirt it lies, where giants dwelt of old;
Now, void, it fits thy people: thither bend
Thy course; there shalt thou find a lasting seat;
There to thy sons another Troy shall rise,
And kings be born of thee, whose dreaded might
Shall save the world, and conquer nations bold."

Brutus, guided now, as he thought, by Divine direction, sped his
course towards the west, and, arriving at a place on the Tyrrhene sea,
found there the descendants of certain Trojans who with Antenor came
into Italy, of whom Corineus was the chief. These joined company,
and the ships pursued their way till they arrived at the mouth of
the river Loire, in France, where the expedition landed, with a view
to a settlement, but were so rudely assaulted by the inhabitants
that they put to sea again, and arrived at a part of the coast of
Britain now called Devonshire, where Brutus felt convinced that he had
found the promised end of his voyage, landed his colony, and took
The island, not yet Britain, but Albion, was in a manner desert
and inhospitable, occupied only by a remnant of the giant race whose
excessive force and tyranny had destroyed the others. The Trojans
encountered these and extirpated them, Corineus in particular
signalizing himself by his exploits against them; from whom Cornwall
takes its name, for that region fell to his lot, and there the
hugest giants dwelt, lurking in rocks and caves, till Corineus rid the
land of them.
Brutus built his capital city, and called it Trojanova (New Troy),
changed in time to Trinovantum, now London;* and, having governed
the isle twenty-four years, died, leaving three sons, Locrine,
Albanact, and Camber. Locrine had the middle part, Camber the west,
called Cambria from him, and Albanact Albania, now Scotland. Locrine
was married to Guendolen, the daughter of Corineus; but, having seen a
fair maid named Estrildis, who had been brought captive from
Germany, he became enamored of her, and had by her a daughter, whose
name was Sabra. This matter was kept secret while Corineus lived;
but after his death, Locrine divorced Guendolen, and made Estrildis
his queen. Guendolen, all in rage, departed to Cornwall, where
Madan, her son, lived, who had been brought up by Corineus, his
grandfather. Gathering an army of her father's friends and subjects,
she gave battle to her husband's forces, and Locrine was slain.
Guendolen caused her rival, Estrildis, with her daughter Sabra, to
be thrown into the river, from which cause the river thenceforth
bore the maiden's name, which by length of time is now changed into
Sabrina or Severn. Milton alludes to this in his address to the river-
and in

"Severn swift, guilty of maiden's death";-

his "Comus" tells the story with a slight variation, thus:-

"There is a gentle nymph not far from hence,
That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream;
Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure:
Whilom she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the sceptre from his father, Brute.
She, guiltless damsel, flying the mad pursuit
Of her enraged step-dame, Guendolen,
Commended her fair innocence to the flood,
That stayed her flight with his cross-flowing course.
The water-nymphs that in the bottom played
Held up their pearled wrists and took her in,
Bearing her straight to aged Nereus' hall,
Who, piteous of her woes, reared her lank head,
And gave her to his daughters to imbathe
In nectared lavers strewed with asphodel,
And through the porch and inlet of each sense
Dropped in ambrosial oils till she revived,
And underwent a quick, immortal change,
Made goddess of the river," etc.

* "For noble Britons sprong from Trojans bold,
And Troynovant was built of old Troy's ashes cold."
SPENSER, Book III, Canto IX. 38.

If our readers ask when all this took place, we must answer, in
the first place, that mythology is not careful of dates; and next
that, as Brutus was the great-grandson of AEneas, it must have been
not far from a century subsequent to the Trojan war, or about 1100
years before the invasion of the island by Julius Caesar. This long
interval is filled with the names of princes whose chief occupation
was in warring with one another. Some few, whose names remain
connected with places, or embalmed in literature, we will mention.


Bladud built the city of Bath, and dedicated the medicinal waters to
Minerva. He was a man of great invention, and practised the arts of
magic, till, having made him wings to fly, he fell down upon the
temple of Apollo, in Trinovant, and so died, after twenty years'


Leir, who next reigned, built Leicester, and called it after his
name. He had no male issue, but only three daughters. When grown
old, he determined to divide his kingdom among his daughters, and
bestow them in marriage. But first, to try which of them loved him
best, he determined to ask them solemnly in order, and judge of the
warmth of their affection by their answers. Goneril, the eldest,
knowing well her father's weakness, made answer that she loved him,
"above her soul." "Since thou so honorest my declining age," said
the old man, "to thee and to thy husband I give the third part of my
realm." Such good success for a few words soon uttered was ample
instruction to Regan, the second daughter, what to say. She therefore,
to the same question replied, that "she loved him more than all the
world beside"; and so received an equal reward with her sister. But
Cordeilla, the youngest, and hitherto the best beloved, too honest
to profess in words more than she felt in her heart, was not moved
from the solid purpose of a sincere and virtuous answer, and
replied: "Father, my love towards you is as my duty bids. They who
pretend beyond this flatter." When the old man, sorry to hear this,
and wishing her to recall these words, persisted in asking, she
still restrained her expressions so as to say rather less than more
than the truth. Then Leir, all in a passion, burst forth: "Since
thou hast not reverenced thy aged father like thy sisters, think not
to have any part in my kingdom or what else I have";- and without
delay, giving in marriage his other daughters, Goneril to the Duke
of Albany, and Regan to the Duke of Cornwall, he divides his kingdom
between them. Cordeilla, portionless, married the prince of France,
who shortly after succeeded his father upon the throne.
King Leir went to reside with his eldest daughter, attended only
by a hundred knights. But in a short time his attendants, being
complained of as too numerous and disorderly, are reduced to thirty.
Resenting that affront, the old king betakes him to his second
daughter; but she, instead of soothing his wounded pride, takes part
with her sister, and refuses to admit a retinue of more than five.
Then back he returns to the other, who now will not receive him with
more than one attendant. Then the remembrance of Cordeilla comes to
his thoughts, and he takes his journey into France to seek her, with
little hope of kind consideration from one whom he had so injured, but
to pay her the last recompense he can render,- confession of his
injustice. When Cordeilla is informed of his approach, and of his
sad condition, she pours forth true filial tears. And, not willing
that her own or others' eyes should see him in that forlorn condition,
she sends one of her trusted servants to meet him, and convey him
privately to some comfortable abode, and to furnish him with such
state as befitted his dignity. After which Cordeilla, with the king
her husband, went in state to meet him, and, after an honorable
reception, the king permitted his wife Cordeilla to go with an army
and set her father again upon his throne. They prospered, subdued
the wicked sisters and their consorts, and Leir obtained the crown and
held it three years. Cordeilla succeeded him, and reigned five
years; but the sons of her sisters, after that, rebelled against
her, and she lost both her crown and life.
Shakespeare has chosen this story as the subject of his tragedy of
King Lear, varying its details in some respects. The madness of
Lear, and the ill success of Cordeilla's attempt to reinstate her
father, are the principal variations, and those in the names will also
be noticed. Our narrative is drawn from Milton's History; and thus the
reader will perceive that the story of Leir has had the
distinguished honor of being told by the two acknowledged chiefs of
British literature.


Ferrex and Porrex were brothers, who held the kingdom after Leir.
They quarrelled about the supremacy, and Porrex expelled his
brother, who, obtaining aid from Suard, king of the Franks, returned
and made war upon Porrex. Ferrex was slain in battle, and his forces
dispersed. When their mother came to hear of her son's death, who
was her favorite, she fell into a great rage, and conceived a mortal
hatred against the survivor. She took, therefore, her opportunity when
he was asleep, fell upon him, and, with the assistance of her women,
tore him in pieces. This horrid story would not be worth relating,
were it not for the fact that it has furnished the plot for the
first tragedy which was written in the English language. It was
entitled Gorboduc, but in the second edition Ferrex and Porrex, and
was the production of Thomas Sackville, afterwards Earl of Dorset, and
Thomas Norton, a barrister. Its date was 1561.


This is the next name of note. Molmutius established the Molmutine
laws, which bestowed the privilege of sanctuary on temples, cities,
and the roads leading to them, and gave the same protection to
ploughs, extending a religious sanction to the labors of the field.
Shakespeare alludes to him in Cymbeline, Act III, Sc. I.:-

"Molmutius made our laws;
Who was the first of Britain which did put
His brows within a golden crown, and called
Himself a king."


the sons of Molmutius, succeeded him. They quarrelled, and Brennus was
driven out of the island, and took refuge in Gaul, where he met with
such favor from the king of the Allobroges, that he gave him his
daughter in marriage, and made him his partner on the throne.
Brennus is the name which the Roman historians give to the famous
leader of the Gauls who took Rome in the time of Camillus. Geoffrey of
Monmouth claims the glory of the conquest for the British prince,
after he had become king of the Allobroges.


After Belinus and Brennus there reigned several kings of little
note, and then came Elidure. Arthgallo, his brother, being king,
gave great offence to his powerful nobles, who rose against him,
deposed him, and advanced Elidure to the throne. Arthgallo fled, and
endeavored to find assistance in the neighboring kingdoms to reinstate
him, but found none. Elidure reigned prosperously and wisely. After
five years' possession of the kingdom, one day, when hunting, he met
in the forest his brother, Arthgallo, who had been deposed. After long
wandering, unable longer to bear the poverty to which he was
reduced, he had returned to Britain, with only ten followers,
designing to repair to those who had formerly been his friends.
Elidure, at the sight of his brother in distress, forgetting all
animosities, ran to him, and embraced him. He took Arthgallo home with
him, and concealed him in the palace. After this he feigned himself
sick, and, calling his nobles about him, induced them, partly by
persuasion, partly by force, to consent to his abdicating the kingdom,
and reinstating his brother on the throne. The agreement being
ratified, Elidure took the crown from his own head, and put it on
his brother's head. Arthgallo after this reigned ten years, well and
wisely, exercising strict justice towards all men.
He died, and left the kingdom to his sons, who reigned with
various fortunes, but were not long-lived, and left no offspring, so
that Elidure was again advanced to the throne, and finished the course
of his life in just and virtuous actions, receiving the name of the
pious, from the love and admiration of his subjects.
Wordsworth has taken the story of Artegal and Elidure for the
subject of a poem, which is No. 2 of "Poems founded on the


After Elidure the Chronicle names many kings, but none of special
note, till we come to Lud, who greatly enlarged Trinovant, his
capital, and surrounded it with a wall. He changed its name, bestowing
upon it his own, so that thenceforth it was called Lud's town,
afterwards London. Lud was buried by the gate of the city called after
him Ludgate. He had two sons, but they were not old enough at the time
of their father's death to sustain the cares of government, and
therefore their uncle Caswallaun, or Cassibellaunus, succeeded to
the kingdom. He was a brave and magnificent prince, so that his fame
reached to distant countries.


About this time it happened (as is found in the Roman histories)
that Julius Caesar, having subdued Gaul, came to the shore opposite
Britain. And having resolved to add this island also to his
conquest, he prepared ships and transported his army across the sea,
to the mouth of the river Thames. Here he was met by Cassibellaun,
with all his forces, and a battle ensued, in which Nennius, the
brother of Cassibellaun, engaged in single combat with Caesar. After
several furious blows given and received, the sword of Caesar stuck so
fast in the shield of Nennius, that it could not be pulled out, and,
the combatants being separated by the intervention of the troops,
Nennius remained possessed of this trophy. At last, after the
greater part of the day was spent, the Britons poured in so fast
that Caesar was forced to retire to his camp and fleet. And finding it
useless to continue the war any longer at that time, he returned to
Shakespeare alludes to Cassibellaunus, in Cymbeline:-

"The famed Cassibelan, who was once at point
(O giglot fortune!) to master Caesar's sword,
Made Lud's town with rejoicing fires bright,
And Britons strut with courage."


Caesar, on a second invasion of the island, was more fortunate and
compelled the Britons to pay tribute. Cymbeline, the nephew of the
king, was delivered to the Romans as a hostage for the faithful
fulfilment of the treaty, and, being carried to Rome by Caesar, he was
there brought up in the Roman arts and accomplishments. Being
afterwards restored to his country, and placed on the throne, he was
attached to the Romans, and continued through all his reign at peace
with them. His sons, Guiderius and Arviragus, who make their
appearance in Shakespeare's play of Cymbeline, succeeded their father,
and, refusing to pay tribute to the Romans, brought on another
invasion. Guiderius was slain, but Arviragus afterward made terms with
the Romans, and reigned prosperously many years.


The next event of note is the conquest and colonization of Armorica,
by Maximis, a Roman general, and Conan, lord of Miniadoc or
Denbigh-land, in Wales. The name of the country was changed to
Brittany, or Lesser Britain; and so completely was it possessed by the
British colonists, that the language became assimilated to that spoken
in Wales, and it is said that to this day the peasantry of the two
countries can understand each other when speaking their native
The Romans eventually succeeded in establishing themselves in the
island, and after the lapse of several generations they became blended
with the natives so that no distinction existed between the two races.
When at length the Roman armies were withdrawn from Britain, their
departure was a matter of regret to the inhabitants, as it left them
without protection against the barbarous tribes, Scots, Picts, and
Norwegians, who harassed the country incessantly. This was the state
of things when the era of King Arthur began.

The adventure of Albion, the giant, with Hercules is alluded to by
Spenser, Faery Queene, Book IV., Canto XI.:-

"For Albion the son of Neptune was;
Who for the proof of his great puissance,
Out of his Albion did on dry foot pass,
Into old Gaul that now is cleped France,
To fight with Hercules, that did advance
To vanquish all the world with matchless might;
And there his mortal part by great mischance
Was slain."

Thomas Bulfinch