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Title: Urien  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rheged, Taliesin, Hen Ogledd, Ywain, Sir Lucan
Collection: 6Th-Century English People, 6Th-Century Monarchs in Europe, Knights of the Round Table, Monarchs of Rheged, Murdered Monarchs, Taliesin
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Arms attributed to Urien in the Middle Ages featuring the raven

Urien , often referred to as Urien Rheged or Uriens, was a late 6th-century king of Rheged, an early British kingdom of the Hen Ogledd (northern England and southern Scotland). His power and his victories, including the battles of Gwen Ystrad and Alt Clut Ford, are celebrated in the praise poems to him by Taliesin, preserved in the Book of Taliesin. He became the "King Urien of Gorre"[1] of later Arthurian legend and his son Owain mab Urien was later known as Ywain.


  • Life 1
  • Legend 2
  • In popular culture 3
  • References 4


According to the genealogies, Urien was the son of Welsh Triads calls the death of Urien one of the "Three Unfortunate Assassinations" and another lists him as one of the "Three Great Battle-leaders of Britain".

He had four sons, named Owain, Rhiwallon, Rhun and Pasgen. The eldest of them succeeded him.


Urien remained a popular figure in Arthur's accession to the throne after Uther's death. Urien and the others rebel against the young monarch, but upon their defeat, the rebels become Arthur's allies and vassals.

In the legends his marriage to Morgan is not portrayed as a happy one, however, as in one story Morgan plots to take Excalibur, kill Urien and Arthur, and place herself and her lover Accolon on the throne. He is always said to be the father of Ywain (Owain), and many texts give him a second son, Ywain the Bastard, fathered on his seneschal's wife. Welsh tradition attributes to him a daughter named Morfydd. Thomas Malory sometimes spells his name Urience, which has led some (e.g. Alfred Tennyson) to identify him with King Rience.

In popular culture

Urien is mentioned in the 20th century Welsh awdl Yr Arwr by Hedd Wyn. He is also one of the key characters in Melvyn Bragg's novel Credo (1996), a celebration of the Celtic tradition and its fight against the Northumbrian and Roman (Catholic) incursions. He appears as "Uryens" in John Boorman's film Excalibur, depicted as an enemy lord who becomes Arthur's ally and is the one to knight him.


  • Thornton, David E. "Urien Rheged". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  
  1. ^ Christopher W. Bruc. The Arthurian Name Dictionary. Routledge.2013 p. 544. ISBN 1136755373, 9781136755378
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