King Bladud

When discussing events that occurred more than 2,000 years ago, separating myth from reality can be challenging. This is the case with Bladud, also known as Blaiddyd, who is said to have lived in the ninth century BC. According to the Historia Regum Britanniae, written in the twelfth century, Bladud was the eldest son of Lud, an early British king. It appears that Bladud contracted leprosy and was banished by his father. According to the myth, young Bladud, who had become a pig farmer, was cured by rolling in his pigs’ mud, which was fed by a hot spring. He then returned to his father’s court and later became educated in Athens.

According to legend, when he became king, Bladud founded the city of Bath, in England. How is this related to aviation? As king, Bladud built a set of experimental wings. Perhaps inspired by the tale of Icarus, of whom he would have learned while studying in Greece, Bladud leapt from a tall structure and flew as far as a temple he had built in honour of the Greek god Apollo, where he crashed and died. If the story is true, it represents the earliest documented attempt at manned flight. The event is said to have taken place in Trinovantum, an early name for London, in 852 BC. Bladud was succeeded by his son, King Lear, who was later immortalized in the 1600s by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare. Today, statues of King Bladud can be seen in Bath. Sadly, instead of his link to aviation, Bladud is mostly associated with pigs, to whom he apparently attributed his healing.