Vortimer (Old Welsh Guorthemir, Welsh: Gwerthefyr), also known as Saint Vortimer (Welsh: Gwerthefyr Fendigaid, lit. "Vortimer the Blessed"), is a figure in British tradition, a son of the 5th-century Britonnic ruler Vortigern. He is remembered for his fierce opposition to his father's Saxon allies. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, he overthrows his father and reigns as King of Britain for a brief period before his death restores Vortigern to power.


Vortimer first appears in the 9th-century work known as the Historia Brittonum. According to the Historia, Vortigern allows Saxons under Hengest and Horsa to settle on the Isle of Thanet, and offers them provisions in exchange for their service as mercenaries.[1] Vortigern soon proves to be an "ignorant king", and the wily Hengest manipulates him into ceding over more land and allowing more settlers to come from Germania.[2] After a dire period of Saxon encroachment, exacerbated by even more disgraceful behavior on Vortigern's part, Vortimer finally rises up against the Saxons. He pushes them back to Thanet, and meets them in four battles. At the third battle Horsa and Vortimer's brother Catigern are slain; at the fourth the Saxons are pushed back to the sea.[3] Shortly thereafter, however, Vortimer dies. He asks his followers to bury him at the place where the Saxons first landed in Britain as a totem against further invasion. However, his followers fail to heed his warning and the Saxons return.[4] According to the Welsh Triads his bones were buried "in the Chief Ports of this Island".[5]

Three of Vortimer's battle sites are named, and appear to have some correspondence with battles in Kent appearing in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The Chronicle does not name Vortimer, and in fact credit Vortigern as the British leader in one of the battles.

The legendary material in the Historia Brittonum was slightly expanded upon in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae, a fictional account of the rulers of Britain. There the Britons abandon Vortigern and elevate Vortimer to be king of Britain. After he has driven out the Saxons, Vortimer is poisoned by his stepmother Rowena (a Saxon) and Vortigern regains the crown.


  1. Historia Brittonum, ch. 31; 36.
  2. Historia Brittonum, ch. 36–38.
  3. Historia Brittonum, ch. 43–44.
  4. Historia Brittonum, ch. 44.
  5. Rachel Bromwich Trioedd Ynys Prydein, 2nd edition (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1978) pp. 88-89.
Legendary titles
Preceded by
King of Britain Succeeded by

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