Rience of North Wales

   In the period following the battle of Bedegraine, Arthur, Ban, and Bors take their armies to the rescue of Leodegrance of Cameliard. King Rience of North Wales has entered the country and has laid siege to Leodegrance. Arthur's forces soundly defeat Rience's army. There are indications that Arthur has had earlier troubles with Rience.
   At least a year later in the time following Arthur's getting of the sword Excalibur, Rience sends a messenger to Arthur asking for truage in the form of demand that Arthur send him his beard. The messenger proclaims that Rience, king of North Wales, Ireland, and of many isles had overcome eleven kings and as part of their homage, he had taken their beards and purfled a mantle; but that he had just enough room on the mantle for Arthur's beard. Either Arthur will comply or Rience would enter his lands and burn, slay, and takes his head and beard. Arthur sends the messenger away stating that he owes Rience no homage and that Rience will soon do Arthur homage on his knees. Malory adds that upon learning of the killing of the innocent children born on May-day, Rience is woode out of measure and raises his army to attack Arthur. Here we are presented with the conflicting plots - who is Rience that he can withstand the rightful king and even ask for truage; why is he Arthur's enemy but yet for the early story separate from the rebelling barons and kings surrounding Lot; and while arrogant in his demands for truage, is he not right to oppose Arthur for the killing of the May-day born innocents if such an event happened. Malory's placement of Rience's lands and his rebellion seem more like the rebellion of the Welsh kings against their Norman overlords than a Dark Age struggle. If Rience is from Northern Wales, the claim to Ireland and many isles would more likely mean areas in Wales and its coastal islands still controlled or peopled by Irish invader/ settlers.
   A short time later, we learn in the story of Balin that Rience has kept his threat and had laid siege to Castle Terrabil. At this stage in Malory's story, we can conjecture that Arthur is not high king in the full sense but holds kingship over the territories surrounding southern Britain from London into the interior, South Wales with Camelot (which must be Caerwent even if Malory mistakenly associates it with Winchester via a misunderstanding of the name) and around his mother's Cornish lands near Terrabil and Tintagil. He might claim over lordship, but his enemies claim much of the North, the West, and even parts of Cornwall.
   One of the area that I have always found as a problem with Malory is his geography. There are times when it seems that he does not even know his own country. Balin sets out from Arthur's court being held at Camelot and with Merlin and his brother, they capture Rience (who was invading Cornwall) while on his way to an assignation with a Lady de Vance. In one day's time, Balin brings Rience back to face Arthur's justice. The only way this would have been possible is if they took ship from Cornwall up the coast of the Severn but Malory states they used a horse litter. Malory talks of the rebelling kings as the northern kings but they control not only the northern lands often associated with the post Roman military Coeling dynasty of Eboracum (York) and Strathclyde / Dal Riata but also territories of Wales, Rheged, and Cornwall. From my own viewpoint this indicates that one of Malory's sources was written from the vantage point when the English and Norman kings ruled and had pushed their enemies into the west and north. From a Norman's point, any Welsh, British, or Scottish king is a northern king.
   With the capture of Rience by Balin and the defeat of his army led by Nero and Lot, Rience disappears from the story. It would seem plausible that the reason Rience disappears at this point is a mixing of sources and that he does not disappear, he is actually an earlier Uriens or Urien Rheged.