Leir of Britain
Leir is a legendary ancient king of the Britons, as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur...

. His story is told in a modified form by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 in the play King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

. In the drama, some names are identical to those of the legend (e.g. Goneril, Regan, Cordelia), and the events are very similar.

It is often claimed that there is a link between Leir and the Welsh and Irish sea-gods Llyr
Llŷr is a figure in Welsh mythology, the father of Brân, Brânwen and Manawydan by Penarddun. The Welsh Triads mention he was imprisoned by Euroswydd; the Second Branch of the Mabinogi names Euroswydd as the father of Penarddun's younger two sons, Nisien and Efnisien. Llŷr corresponds to Lir in...

and Ler
Ler or Lir is a sea god in Irish mythology. His name suggests that he is a personification of the sea, rather than a distinct deity. He is named Allód in early genealogies, and corresponds to the Llŷr of Welsh mythology...

(derived from Common Celtic *Leros "Sea"), but the names are not etymologically related. According to Geoffrey, Leir is the eponymous founder of Leicester (Legra-ceaster or Ligora-ceaster in Anglo-Saxon), called Cair Leir in Old Welsh
Old Welsh language
Old Welsh is the label attached to the Welsh language from about 800 AD until the early 12th century when it developed into Middle Welsh. The preceding period, from the time Welsh became distinct from the British language around 550, has been called "Primitive Welsh".Many poems and some prose...

, where Leir (along with Anglo-Saxon Legra or Ligora) is a hydronym
A hydronym is a proper name of a body of water. Hydronymy is the study of hydronyms and of how bodies of water receive their names and how they are transmitted through history...

 derived from Brittonic
Brythonic languages
The Brythonic or Brittonic languages form one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic language family, the other being Goidelic. The name Brythonic was derived by Welsh Celticist John Rhys from the Welsh word Brython, meaning an indigenous Briton as opposed to an Anglo-Saxon or Gael...

 *Ligera or *Ligora.

In Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae
The Historia Regum Britanniae is a pseudohistorical account of British history, written c. 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It chronicles the lives of the kings of the Britons in a chronological narrative spanning a time of two thousand years, beginning with the Trojans founding the British nation...

, Leir followed his father, King Bladud
Bladud or Blaiddyd was a legendary king of the Britons, for whose existence there is no historical evidence. He is first mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, which describes him as the son of King Rud Hud Hudibras, and the tenth ruler in line from the first King, Brutus....

, to the kingship of Britain
British Iron Age
The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron-Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, and which had an independent Iron Age culture of...

 and had the longest reign of all the kings at sixty years. The date of his reign is not clear, but Geoffrey says that Leir's father lived at the same time as the Biblical prophet Elijah. He built the city of Kaerleir (Leicester
Leicester is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest...

) along the banks of the River Soar
River Soar
The River Soar is a tributary of the River Trent in the English East Midlands.-Description:It rises near Hinckley in Leicestershire and is joined by the River Sence near Enderby before flowing through Leicester , Barrow-on-Soar, beside Loughborough and Kegworth, before joining the Trent near...


Unlike his predecessors, he produced no male heir to the throne but had three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia
Queen Cordelia
Queen Cordelia was a legendary Queen of the Britons, as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. She was the youngest daughter of Leir and the second ruling queen of pre-Roman Britain. There is no independent historical evidence for her existence....

, 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 Alba
Alba is the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland. It is cognate to Alba in Irish and Nalbin in Manx, the two other Goidelic Insular Celtic languages, as well as similar words in the Brythonic Insular Celtic languages of Cornish and Welsh also meaning Scotland.- Etymology :The term first appears in...

ny and Duke of Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 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
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, courted Cordelia and married her, although Leir refused her a dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

. 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 60 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
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 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. He was succeeded by Cordelia, who buried him in an underground chamber beneath the River Soar
River Soar
The River Soar is a tributary of the River Trent in the English East Midlands.-Description:It rises near Hinckley in Leicestershire and is joined by the River Sence near Enderby before flowing through Leicester , Barrow-on-Soar, beside Loughborough and Kegworth, before joining the Trent near...

 near Leicester. It was dedicated to the Roman
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 god Janus
Janus (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past...

and every year people celebrated his feast-day near Leir's tomb.
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