KINGS OF ENLLI
It is not only pilgrims who have walked the shores of Bardsey; the island has its own royal lineage and has been home to several ‘kings’ throughout its history. In 1804, English cleric and naturalist William Bingley wrote in his book North Wales of an unnamed king of Enlli, crowned after a visit from Lord and Lady Newborough. It is unclear how or why this ‘monarchy’ was established, though some suggest it was so that the inhabitants could feel part of an independent state, free of paying tax.
In 1826, a letter received by Lord Newborough II, regarding the design of the lighthouse, mentioned that this ‘poor old King of Bardsey is dead and buried on the island’. His successor was Cristin Uchaf, who later became John Williams I, and records show other kings crowned over the years. The final ‘King of Bardsey’ was Love Pritchard, who officially gained the title in 1918, but was thought to have taken over the role in 1911, likely due to the health of the current king at the time. It is believed that he offered himself and the men of Bardsey for military service in the First World War, but was refused, due to his age. As a result, many assume the island remained neutral throughout this period. Love Pritchard passed away in 1926 and he is buried close to the sea, in Aberdaron graveyard.
Bardsey has also been linked to King Arthur and is one of many candidates for the mythical Isle of Avalon, featured in Arthurian legend. The name ‘Avalon’ is considered to be of Welsh origin, meaning ‘apple tree’ or ‘fruit tree’.
Indeed, Bardsey has been known for its apples: the rare ‘Bardsey’ apple, discovered and named after the island in 1998, was found on a tree that is believed to be all that remains of a monastic orchard. Though this link is tenuous at best, the island is one of many sites that claim to be the final resting place of King Arthur as well as his mythical sorcerer, Merlin.
The ‘Bardsey’ apple is sometimes known as Merlin's apple for this reason.