Conan, Prince of Cornwall

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Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 51 (Greg 1.97)

payd vnto mr drayton & mr dickers the 16 of octobƺ }
1598 in pt of payment for a boocke called [the] }
connan prince of cornwell the some of . . . Bradshawe . . . }
pd vnto Bradshaw at the Requeste of mr drayton }
& mr dickers in pte of payment of ther Boocke } xs
called the connan prince of cornwell some of ......... }
Layd owt for the companey the 20 of octob[er] 1598 vnto }
mr drayton and mr dickers for a Boocke called } iiijll
connan prince of Cornwell the some of .............................. }

Theatrical Provenance

Presumably performed by the Admiral's men at the Rose.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Holinshed, Chronicles (1587)

After this (as the British chronicle affirmeth) Octauius gouerned the land right noblie, and greatlie to the contentation of the Britains. At length when he was fallen in age, and had no issue but one daughter, he was counselled to send vnto Rome for one Maximianus, a noble yoong man, coosine to the emperour Constantine, on the part of his mother Helena, to come into Britaine, and to take to his wife the said daughter of Octauius, and so with hir to haue the kingdome. Octauius at the first meant to haue giuen hir in mariage vnto one Conan Meridoc duke of Cornewall, which was his nephue: but wen the lords would not thereto agrée, at the length he appointed one Maurice sonne to the said Conan to go to Rome to fetch the forenamed Maximianus.

Maurice according to his commission and instruction in that behalfe receiued, came to rome, and declared his message in such effectuall sort, that Maximianus consented to go with him into Britaine, and so taking with him a conuenient number, set forward, and did so much by his iournies, that finallie he landed here in Britaine. And notwithstanding that Conan Meridoc past not so much to haue béene dooing with him, for malice that he conceiued towards him, because he saw that by his meanes he should be put beside the crowne, yet at length was Maximianus safelie brought to the kings presence, and of him honorablie receiued, and finallie the mariage was knit vp, and solemnized in all princelie maner. Shortlie after, Octauius departed out of this life, after he had reigned the terme of fiftie and foure yeares...


AFter the deceasse of Octauius or Octauian (as the old English chronicle nameth him) Maximianus or Maximus (as the Romane writers call him) began to rule the Britains in the yéere of our Lord 383, he was the sonne of one Leonine, and coosen germane to Constantine the great, a valiant personage, & hardie of stomach: but yet because he was cruell of nature, and (as Fabian saith) somewhat persecuted the christians, he was infamed by writers: but the chiefe cause why he was euill reported, was for that he slue his souereigne lord the emperour Gratianus, as after shall appeare, for otherwise he is supposed woorthie to haue had the rule of the empire committed to his hands in ech respect. Betwixt him and the abouenamed Conan Meridoc duke of Cornewall, chanced strife and debate, so that Conan got him into Scotland, and there purchasing aid, returned, and comming ouer Humber, wasted the countrie on ech side. Maximianus thereof hauing aduertisement, raised his power and went against him, and so fighting with him diuers battels, sometime departed awaie with victorie, and sometime with losse. At length through mediation of friends, a peace was made betwixt them. Finallie this Maximianus, or (as the Romane histories say) Maximus, was by the souldiers chosen and proclaimed emperour here in Britaine: although some write that this was doone in Spaine. After he had taken vpon him the imperiall dignitie, vpon desire to haue inlarged his dominion, he assembled togither all the chosen youth of this land méet to doo seruice in the warres, with the which he passed ouer into France, & there (as our writers record) he first subdued the countrie ancientlie called Armorica, and slue in battell the king thereof called Imball. This doone he gaue the countrie vnto Conan Meridoc, which was there with him, to hold the same of him, and of the kings of great Britaine for euer. He also commanded that the said countrie from thencefoorth should be called litle Britaine, and so was the name changed. What people soeuer inhabited there before, the ancient name argueth that they were rather Britains than anie other: for Armorica in the British toong signifieth as much as a countrie lieng vpon the sea.

Conan then placing himselfe and his Britains in that quarter of Gallia, auoided all the old inhabitants, peopling that countrie onelie with Britains, which abhorring to ioine themselues with women borne in Gallia, Conan was counselled to send into Britaine for maids to be coupled with his people in mariage. Herevpon a messenger was dispatched vnto Dionethus at that time duke of Cornwall, Note in marg: Dionethus duke of Cornwall. Cornwall. and gouernour of Britaine vnder Maximianus, requiring him to send ouer into little Britaine 11000 maids, that is to say, 8000 to be bestowed vpon the meaner fort of Conans people, and 3000 to be ioined in mariage with the nobles and gentlemen. Dionethus at Conans request, assembled the appointed number of maids, and amongst them he also appointed his daugther Ursula, a ladie of excellent beautie, to go ouer and to be giuen in mariage to the foresaid Conan Meridoc, as he had earnestlie requested.

These number of maids were shipped in Thames, and passing forward toward Britaine, were by force of weather and rage of wind scattered abroad, and part or them drowned, and the residue (among whom was the foresaid Ursula) were slaine by Guanius king of the Hunnes, and Melga king of the Picts, into whose hands they fel...

(Book 4, p.65-67)

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

See Wiggins, Catalogue #1157.

For What It's Worth

Information welcome.

Works Cited

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 26 Sept 2018.