Home ~ Our Ancestors ~ Health ~ Articles ~ Links ~ Contact us

Leir of Britain

Leir of Britain
Leir was the son of King Bleiddud ap Asser.

He was a king of the Britons as accounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. His story is told in much-modified and romanticized form in William Shakespeare's King Lear. It is thought that his legend began in the form of the sea-god Llyr and later received an historical setting {S3}, however, Llyr Lediaith, with whom he is often confused, lived about 800 years later and they have different fathers.

Leir is a legendary prehistoric king of the Britons, as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. In Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae, Leir followed his father, King Bladud, to the kingship of Britain and had the longest reign of all the kings at sixty years.

He built the city of Kaerleir (Leicester) along the banks of the River Soar.

He lost his kingdom when he attempted to divide it amongst his three daughters. Shakespeare tells the story in his celebrated play, King Lear.3 "Next him king Leyr in happie peace long raind, But had no issue male him to succeed, But three faire daughters, which were well vptraind, In all that seemed fit for kingly seed: Mongst whom his realme he equally decreed To have diuided. Tho when feeble age Nigh to his vtmost date he saw proceed, He cald his daughters; and with speeches sage Inquyrd, which of them most did loue her parentage."1 Also called Llyr Welsh. {S4}.

Unlike his predecessors, he produced no male heir to the throne but had three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, whom he favoured most. As he neared his death, he planned to divide the kingdom among his three daughters and their husbands. Goneril and Regan flattered their father and were married off to the Duke of Albany and Duke of Cornwall respectively, each being promised half of the kingdom to inherit. Cordelia, however, refused to flatter her father, feeling that he should not need special assurances of her love, and was given no land to rule. Aganippus, the king of the Franks, courted Cordelia and married her, although Leir refused her a dowry. Some time later, Leir became old, and the two dukes who had married his older daughters rebelled and seized the whole of the kingdom. Maglaurus, the Duke of Albany, maintained Leir in his old age, protecting him with 140 knights. However, Goneril disapproved of such extravagance and after two years decreased Leir's bodyguard to only thirty. He fled to Cornwall, where Regan decreased his guard to only five knights. He fled back to Albany and pleaded with Goneril, but he was given only one knight for protection.

Fearing his two older daughters, he fled to Gaul and his youngest child. Nearing insanity, he was nursed back to health by Cordelia, after which he was held in high honour in Gaul by the leaders, who vowed to restore him to his former glory. Leir, Cordelia, and Aganippus invaded Britain at the head of a large army and overthrew the dukes and their wives. Leir reclaimed the throne of Britain and reigned for three more years until his death in 810BC.

He was succeeded by Cordelia, who buried him in an underground chamber beneath the River Soar near Leicester. It was dedicated to the Roman god Janus and every year people celebrated his feast-day near Leir's tomb.


CHILDREN of Leir of Britain:
  1. Goneril ferch Llyr. She married (?:) Maglaurus, the Duke of Albany.
  2. Rhagaw ferch Llyr. (Regan). She married Henwyn the Briton.
  3. Cordelia ferch Llyr. She married Aganippus, the king of the Franks. She ruled Britain after the death of her father. She died in 805BC.