Henry Blois, writing as Geoffrey, uses the court of Rhydderch Hael King of Strathclyde (c.580-c.612) for the setting of the stage for the Vita Merlini. In the Welsh triad, the three ‘Unrestrained Ravagings’ of the Island of Britain…. the third ravaging refers to one Aedan the Wily coming to the court of Rhydderch Hael at Alt Cluid where he left neither food nor drink nor beast alive.
One of King Arthur’s twelve battles, according to Nennius is called Cat Coit Celidon. The Calidonean forest takes its name from the Romans, who called Scotland Caledonia. Henry Blois uses all this to confuse future readers. Giraldus Cambrensis refers to a differentiated Merlin Celidonius and later French fables produce stories of Merlin and Celidoine. It all originates with ‘Geoffrey’ having chosen Rhydderch as his anchor point. Henry Blois sets his naturist epic of VM in the ‘woods of Calidon’ mirroroing Nennius’ mention of the seventh of Arthur’s battles in the forest of Celidon, that is ‘Cat Coit Celidon’.
Nennius’s Historia Brittonum, names him Rhydderch Hen as one of the northern Kings who fought against the embryonic Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Bernicia. Another historical reference to Rhydderch Hael is in the late twelfth century Life of St Kentigern, written by Joceline, a monk from Furness Abbey in Cumbria, on behalf of the then Bishop of Glasgow. In this hagiography Rhydderch Hael appears as “King Rederech” where he is portrayed as Kentigern’s patron and grants the latter land at Glasgow in order to establish a bishopric. Henry Blois may have read this, as it also coincidentally contains the story of a madman.
Adomnan in his seventh century Life of St Columba records the existence of a King called Roderc, who sends a message to Columba, asking if he would be “slaughtered by his enemies“, to which the saint prophesied that the King “will die at home on his own pillow“.
It would seem that the “Rhydderch Hael” of the Welsh Genealogies, the “Rhydderch Hen” of the Historia Brittonum and Adomnan’s “Roderc” refer to the same person. If so, we can place Roderc or Rhydderch as the ruler of Strathclyde who, as a contemporary of St Columba came from Ireland in around 563. According to Joceline’s Life of Kentigern, Rhydderch died in the same year as Kentigern which according to the Annales Cambriae was in 612.
Henry Blois is utilising historical people in locations spoken of in bardic literature or insular annals, continental or Roman annals. In HRB the conflation made with Merlin was with Ambrosius as explained earlier. In VM, we have a Merlin of the woods….a Merlin Silvestris, or Calidonian Merlin in the Caledonian forest because Rhydderch was from Strathclyde, which becomes Robert de Boron’s Northumberland provenance for Merlin
Henry Blois wanted to re-assert the prophetic accuracy of Merlin from the HRB who had gained such popularity with his readers, but no-one could place Merlin when the prophecies were being scutinised and so he is anchored to Rhydderch in time and location and loosely to the Welsh Myrrdin to become the Calidonian Merlin
Thus, from this effect, more prophetical vaticinations could be accomplished if Taliesin and Ganieda were also to speak for Henry Blois. The Vita provides a platform that re-affirms the prophecies are from the same era as that which Merlin is supposed to have lived in and much of the information and fallacious history found in the HRB is demonstrably confirmed in VM. What is most astounding is that if Merlin could see to the Sixth King i.e. to when Henry II came to the throne in 1154 or to when Geoffrey makes his final prophecy 1157, how could any scholar like Crick think the dedication to Alexander was real who died in 1148 and think the promulgation of Merlin’s prophecies were from ecclesiastical persons? Would the principle of backdating not occur to one so professed as the expert in Geoffrey’s quagmire of falsity? That Ganieda could see to 1157 is even more astounding when ‘Geoffrey’ died in 1154-55.