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A visit to King Doniert’s Stone makes the Dark Ages seem less dark

‘A visit to King Doniert’s Stone makes the Dark Ages seem less dark.’ E. C. Axford.

With all the talk of the mythical King Arthur is it easy to forget that Cornwall once had its own kings – real, living, breathing kings. Unfortunately, however, finding evidence of them today is rather difficult but there is a spot on Bodmin Moor that is said to be the final resting place of one of Cornwall’s rulers.

King Doniert was the last of the Cornish Kings, or at least the last that we have any real knowledge of, and these two decorative pieces of granite are considered to be important relics of Cornwall’s forgotten heritage. Records suggest that Doniert was drowned in the nearby River Fowey, perhaps close to the beautiful Golitha Falls, in c875 AD and that these stones were placed here in his memory.

English Heritage, who are now guardians of the site, translate the inscription on King Doniert’s Stone as: Doniert rogavit pro anima – ‘Doniert has asked [for this to be made] for his soul[’s sake’]. Doniert is considered to have been a pious, early convert to Christianity hence the Latin, religiously devout sounding wording.

King Doniert, probably the last true Cornish King

Unfortunately, despite his high status, King Doniert had been almost entirely forgotten by the 19th century. When C. Lewis Hind tried to visit the stones in 1906 the local people that he asked for directions had no clue what he was talking about. After cycling in circles on the moor for several hours he was about ready to give up when he met two young men who were fortunately able to show him to the location. He wrote:

“Together we climbed the hill scrambled over a wall and in a meadow near a leafy hedge that borders the road known locally as the King’s Field, there were the two ancient monuments. There we remained for a quarter of an hour deciphering the inscription. The youths were silent when I said “this King so many centuries ago has left a message, he entreats you to pray for his soul”.

There were other Cornish kings after Doniert – Ricatus, Hoel, Cynan – but we know almost nothing about them and by that time of course Cornwall was under Saxon rule. A visit to King Doniert’s stone today brings you into contact with perhaps the last true Cornish king, who was laid to rest more than a thousand years ago.

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