The cross at Penlee House - the inscription is on one of the narrow sides

Ricatus was a possible 11th-century king of Cornwall, although recent scholarship has cast doubt on his existence.[1]

The only evidence for a king of this name is the medieval Penzance Market Cross which now stands in the grounds of Penlee House in Penzance, Cornwall, England, UK.[2] R. A. Stewart Macalister in his Corpus Inscriptionum Insularum Celticarum published in 1949 stated that an inscription in a panel on the side of the cross read REGIS RICATI CRUX, translating to "Cross of King Ricatus".[1][3]

The cross dates to around 1050 AD,[1] or as early as 1007.[4] Writing about it in 1986, Charles Thomas said that because of this late date, Ricatus could have been little more than a local ruler around Land's End.[5] However, Thomas describes the cross in greater detail in his later book on post Roman inscriptions in Western Britain, And Shall These Mute Stones Speak? (1994). In this work, he describes the inscription as having "lettering so grotesque as to be unintelligible", and he relegates Macalister's reading to a footnote, where he says that it "is impossible to follow", adding that "an eleventh-century Cornish king would need a lot of explaining."[1] Philip Payton, in his Cornwall: A History (2004) acknowledges this, but says there was "perhaps a semblance, an echo, an assertion of Cornish kingly independence" in the far west of Cornwall less than a century before the Norman Conquest.[6]

In 1980 Mullion School, Mullion, Cornwall named one of its houses, Ricat, after King Ricatus.

In 1998 Thomas examined the cross again in detail and stated that the inscription actually reads RECGISI CRUX or RAEGISI CRUX meaning "the cross of Recgisi or Raegisi",[7] an Old English personal name, unrecorded elsewhere, which Thomas ascribes to the donor or benefactor of the land (a graveyard) on which the cross was originally erected.[4]

If he existed, Ricatus may have been the penultimate Cornish king.[8] The sixteenth-century Cornish language drama Beunans Meriasek ('The Life of St Meriasek') at lines 2463-65 mentions four Cornish kings. The second is called Pygys, which may be a misreading for an earlier Rygys, the Cornish form of Ricatus.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Thomas, Charles (1994). And Shall These Mute Stones Speak? - Post Roman Inscriptions in Western Britain. University of Wales Press. pp. 298–300, 303, 335. ISBN 0-7083-1160-1.
  2. ^ Amery, John. Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries, Volume 27, page 1 (J.G. Commin, 1958).
  3. ^ Pool, Peter. The history of the town and borough of Penzance, p. 8 (Corporation of Penzance, 1974).
  4. ^ a b Thomas, Charles (1999). Penzance Market Cross : a Cornish Wonder re-wondered. Penzance: Penlee House Gallery & Museum. pp. 37–40.
  5. ^ Thomas, Charles. (1986). Celtic Britain. Ancient Peoples & Places Series. London: Thames & Hudson
  6. ^ Payton, Philip (2004). Cornwall: A History (2nd ed.). Fowey: Cornwall Editions Ltd. p. 57. ISBN 1-904880-00-2.
  7. ^ "PNZAN/1". Celtic Inscribed Stones Project. University College London. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  8. ^ Rawe, Donald. A Prospect of Cornwall, p. 35 (R. Hale, 1986).
  9. ^ Harris, Markham. The life of Meriasek: a medieval Cornish miracle play, p. 135 (Catholic University of America Press, 1978).

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