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Gerald and the Prophecies of Merlin (Gerald’s Journey Through Wales 1188)

A precious book was found in Nefyn

This is a series about the journey that Archbishop Baldwin and Gerald of Wales took in 1188 to preach the crusade throughout Wales. Gerald kept a detailed account of the journey and their surroundings, which he later published. The series began with some background posts about Gerald. If you want to read the series from the beginning, go here.

Gerald was particularly glad when they got to Nefyn, because he made an exciting discovery. Everywhere he went throughout Wales, Gerald had been searching for a fabled book of the prophecies of Merlin Sylvester. He found it in Nefyn. He reported in his book Conquest of Ireland that it had been kept hidden at Nefyn since time immemorial, and was regarded with suspicious awe by the people. They were only persuaded to give it to Gerald by a large bribe.
Merlin Idylls_of_the_King_10

Gerald said it was written in the ‘ancient British language’ and he was convinced it was genuine. He promised the people of Nefyn that he would publish the book, but he never published it in full, only extracts, and later he even removed those. The book he wrote based on this journey through Wales originally gave an account of the finding of the book, but the final edition was altered to ‘he is said to have found it’. Here is an interesting passage from another book about Gerald:

On several occasions he delayed publication of parts of his works or published them anonymously explicitly through fear of repercussions. Book III of the Expugnatio Hibernica, which was to have contained ‘a new interpretation’ of the prophecies of Merlin, broke off with these words:
But enough. For publication of the third Book and the new interpretation of the prophecies must, by wiser counsel, await its time. For it is better that the truth, although most useful and desirable, should nevertheless be concealed and suppressed for a while than that it should break forth into light and immediately cause dangerous offence to great men. (Gerald of Wales, A Voice of the Middle Ages by Robert Bartlett, p.58)

King Arthur - N C Wyeth
So we don’t know if he did find the book or not. Certainly, Nefyn was linked by tradition with King Arthur and his court. When King Edward I conquered Wales nearly a century later, he made a point of staging a ‘Round Table’ tournament at Nefyn to proclaim himself the heir of the ‘once and future king’ of Britain.

[Adapted from A mirror of Medieval Wales by Charles Kightly]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at