Cinhil Haldane

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Cinhil I Haldane of Gwynedd is a fictional character in the Deryni series of historical fantasy novels by Katherine Kurtz.

Character introduction

Cinhil Donal Ifor Haldane is the twelfth King of Gwynedd. He is the seventh member of the House of Haldane to serve as king, and the first Haldane king following the end of the Festillic Interregnum.

Explanation of the character's name

All of Cinhil's royal names have precedent within his family history. Cinhil was the name of the second son of King Augarin Haldane, the first King of Gwynedd. Donal is the third name of King Bearand Haldane, and Ifor is the name of Cinhil's great-grandfather, King Ifor Haldane.

Character sketch


Cinhil has an extremely strong religious faith, which forms the core of his personal beliefs throughout his life. Although he develops a sense of personal responsibility for his kingdom and his people after ascending to the throne, his religious faith remains the primary motivation in his personal life.


For much of his life, Cinhil's only goal is to be the best priest he can be. Once he is forced to abandon that life, his personal goals become intertwined with political goals, including his desire to overthrow King Imre Furstán-Festil, to establish a new government in the kingdom, and to become independent of those he blames for forcing him to become king.


Cinhil's most notable enemies are King Imre and his sister, Princess Ariella. Nonetheless, he also has a strained and confrontational relationship with several of his key allies, including Camber MacRorie, Joram MacRorie, and Alister Cullen. His greatest conflict, however, results from his struggle with his own conscience.


Cinhil undergoes a specific epiphany in each of the three novels in which he appears. In Camber of Culdi, the assassination of Cinhil's son spurs Cinhil to seek revenge against King Imre and become a willing participant in the plot to overthrow the Deryni king. At the end of Saint Camber, Cinhil comes to terms with his personal resentment toward Camber. Although he is unable to completely forgive Camber, he is able to acknowledge the greater good that has come from Camber's actions, allowing Cinhil to move past his anger and focus on his role as King of Gwynedd. His final moment of realization comes just before his death in Camber the Heretic. When he finally learns the truth of Camber's actions, he reacts only with "beatific acceptance" before embracing Camber like a brother.

Biographical summary

Prior story

Cinhil is born on April 27, 860, the only grandson of the last Haldane heir, Prince Aidan Haldane. To protect his true identity, Cinhil is raised under the name Nicholas Gabriel Draper, and he spends much of his youth working in his family's wool business in Valoret. In 879, following the death of his father the previous year, Cinhil takes up a religious life and becomes a priest and monk at Saint Foillan's Abbey. He spends the next twenty-four years living as Brother Benedict, a simple priest who has rejected the secular world.

Actions in Camber of Culdi

Cinhil's existence is first discovered on September 27, 903, when his grandfather makes a dying confession to a Deryni Healer named Lord Rhys Thuryn. After two months of searching for Cinhil, Rhys and Earl Camber MacRorie of Culdi discover Cinhil at Saint Foillan's Abbey and confirm his identity as the last Haldane heir. Unaware that his identity has been discovered, Cinhil remains at the monastery until December 4, when Rhys and Father Joram MacRorie kidnap the prince in the middle of the night.

Cinhil is taken to a secret sanctuary near the city of Dhassa, where Camber and his allies plan to overthrow King Imre Furstán-Festil and place Cinhil upon the throne. Cinhil is horrified at the thought of abandoning his religious life, and initially refuses to participate in the plot. Nonetheless, he is soon released from his priestly vows by the Archbishop of Valoret and married to Camber's ward, Lady Megan de Cameron. Over the following months, he receives extensive training and education for his future role, culminated by a magical ritual in which Camber and his family bestow Deryni-like powers upon him. However, Cinhil still struggles with his conscience, convinced that he has sinned by forsaking his priestly vows and taking a wife. His attitude improves greatly following the birth of his son in October, but the assassination of the infant a month later permanently changes him. Enraged by the incident, he uses his arcane powers to locate and execute the assassin, who was sent by King Imre. Cinhil becomes cold and calculating, eagerly supporting the plot and vowing to have his revenge on the Deryni king. On December 2, 904, Cinhil, Camber, and their allies infiltrate the royal palace at Valoret and launch their coup. Cinhil personally defeats Imre in arcane combat, but Princess Ariella, the king's sister, escapes from the palace pregnant with her brother's unborn bastard son. Imre commits suicide rather than accept defeat, and Cinhil finally decides to accept the throne. The Haldane Restoration is successful and Cinhil becomes King of Gwynedd at the age of 44.

Actions in Saint Camber

Although Cinhil and his allies overthrew Imre, they were now facing an invasion by Imre's sister and lover, Princess Ariella. In the six months since the Restoration, Cinhil has become an angry and distrustful man who still harbors a smoldering resentment toward the Deryni who placed him upon the throne, especially Earl Camber MacRorie. When an attempt to kill Cinhil fails, the king lashes out with his arcane powers and executes the man in a wild rage. Camber's disapproval of Cinhil's actions only further angers the king, who is still struggling with his own conscience over his actions. The birth of his twin sons, one sickly and one malformed, only further convinces Cinhil that not only has he sinned, but that his sons bear the mark of God's displeasure. His sole source of happiness comes from a secret set of priestly vestments he keeps, with which he still celebrates Mass in his quarters. Sad, lonely, and unwilling to trust anyone, Cinhil even refuses the offer of friendship by Alister Cullen, the Vicar General of the Michaelines.

As the Gwyneddan army marches out to meet Ariella's forces, Cinhil rides at the head of his forces, providing symbolic leadership. Before the battle is joined, he argues repeatedly with Camber, Cullen, and Joram, as his anger and mistrust causes clashes with his closest advisors. Nonetheless, the Gwyneddan army is victorious, and Ariella herself is slain in the battle. Afterwards, Cinhil is stunned to learn of Camber's death. With the primary focus of his anger now gone, the king is uncertain of how to deal with his emotions. That night, he seeks the counsel of Alister Cullen, unaware that Cullen is really Camber in disguise. After the army returns to Valoret, Cinhil is still struggling with his complex emotions toward Camber. When he attempts to speak to Cullen again, he accidentally interrupts a magical procedure that Camber and his children are performing. Camber's disguise slips briefly, and Cinhil sees the ghostly image of Camber's face mixing with Cullen's. Cinhil is stunned and terrified by the experience, fearful that Camber may still interfere in his life even after death.

Cinhil spends the next several months re-organizing the government and military of Gwynedd. Receiving personal solace from his illicit priestly actions, he attains the emotional stability to become a strong and determined king. He develops a close friendship with the man he believes to be Alister Cullen and even appoints him as Chancellor of Gwynedd when he appoints the new members of his Royal Council in November. The following March, Cinhil brings Eastmarch into the kingdom by accepting the homage of Earl Sighere I, and he spends most of the summer traveling with Sighere to pacify his new lands. Cinhil returns to Valoret in September, shortly before the birth of his fourth son, Prince Rhys Michael Haldane. One month later, Cinhil is called to testify at the trial debating Camber's canonization. Due to his own feelings toward Camber, Cinhil has no wish to become involved in the procedure, but his honor as king does not permit him to refuse. The night before he testifies, he confesses his secret priestly activities to Camber/Cullen, revealing that he has still not completely abandoned his religious vocation. The following day, he relates the tale of his vision at the trial, and the incident is quickly acknowledged to be a miraculous visitation. On November 14, 906, Camber is formally canonized, forcing Cinhil to deal with his resentment in a new way. In January 907, Cinhil discusses the matter with Camber/Cullen and admits that, although he has not forgiven Camber, he has come to understand Camber's motives. Cinhil finally comes to terms with his resentment and accepts his fate.

Actions in Camber the Heretic

When Cinhil is informed that Earl Gregory MacDinan of Ebor has been injured, he sends Rhys Thuryn to see to Gregory's injuries. The following day, Cinhil sends Camber/Cullen and Joram to Ebor in response to a strange message from Rhys. When Camber/Cullen and Joram return to Valoret the next day, Cinhil asks Joram to make preparations for a magical ritual. Although Cinhil himself has rarely used the arcane powers that Camber bestowed upon him before the Restoration, he has come to acknowledge that such powers are extremely useful for a king. As a result, he asks that Joram prepare a similar ritual for his three surviving sons. Cinhil asks Rhys to both prepare his sons for the ritual and to give him the necessary strength to complete his final task. That night, Camber/Cullen, Joram, Rhys, and Evaine assist the king in performing the ritual to set the Haldane potential in Prince Alroy, Prince Javan, and Prince Rhys Michael. Cinhil's poor health makes it very difficult for him to perform his part in the ritual, but he eventually succeeds in passing on his magical legacy to his sons. However, the drain of energy is too much for the aging king, and he collapses soon after. As he lays dying, Cinhil finally learns the truth of Camber's deception as Alister Cullen, and he accepts the knowledge without anger. He freely forgives Camber and embraces him like a brother before passing into death. King Cinhil I Haldane dies on February 2, 917, at the age of 56. He is succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Prince Alroy Haldane.


Major themes

Although Cinhil is a heroic figure for his actions in overthrowing the evil tyrant Imre, he is ultimately a far more tragic figure. Throughout his reign, he is plagued by his struggle to come to terms with his own conscience. Despite having his vows absolved by the Archbishop of Valoret, he is convinced that he has sinned against God by leaving the priesthood, taking a wife, and fathering children. Aidan's death, Alroy's weakness, and Javan's clubbed foot are all seen by Cinhil as signs of God's displeasure for the king's actions. Suffering from such feelings of guilt and doubt, he rarely experiences true happiness or joy, leaving him a sad and lonely man.

In addition, Cinhil also must deal with his own personal guilt. Although he never sought to be king, he must also wrestle with the knowledge that, in the end, he allowed himself to be used for others' political goals. Though he did not want to be king, he did not do enough to stop it from happening. When he protests his previous treatment in Saint Camber, Alister Cullen coldly replies, "If your beliefs were as fervent as you say now, why did you not continue to refuse us, come what might? We were not easy on you, Cinhil, but you cannot wholly lay the blame on us. With a stronger vessel, we could not have succeeded." A great deal of Cinhil's self-pity comes from this fact, the knowledge that he also bears some responsibility for the unhappy life he leads.

Cinhil's guilt is intertwined with his resentment and mistrust. He feels that priests such as Joram, Anscom, and Cullen have betrayed him by urging him to abandon the priesthood. Additionally, he feels betrayed by Evaine, who uses her friendship with him to further bend him to her father's will. However, the primary focus of his anger is Camber himself. As the central leader in the plot to overthrow Imre, it is Camber who Cinhil blames more than any other for his fate. Camber is a constant source of aggravation for the king, as Cinhil increasingly resents Camber's continuous efforts to guide and instruct him. Although Cinhil is angry over Camber's actions in his personal life, he also accepts that Camber's ultimate goals are admirable, a fact that only adds an additional layer of confusion to Cinhil's emotions.

Although most of Cinhil's anger is directed at specific Deryni, he also develops a general mistrust of all Deryni and their powers. In Saint Camber, Camber recognizes the warning signs and tells Joram, " turning Cinhil against the Deryni Imre, we have unwittingly turned him against all Deryni, even if he does not fully know it yet." While Cinhil's attitude moderates slightly over the course of his reign, he never completely abandons his mistrust of Deryni. In Camber the Heretic, Cinhil clearly places far too much trust in his human advisors, despite the warnings of Deryni such as Camber and Joram. Even after twelve years on the throne, Cinhil is simply unable to completely abandon his uneasy feelings toward Deryni, a failing that would ultimately have severe consequences for his kingdom. Cinhil refuses to see the ambitious and greedy nature of many of his human advisors, placing undeserved faith in them simply because they are not Deryni. Even though he makes a conscious attempt to maintain a balance between Deryni and humans during his reign, his efforts are largely wasted within a year of his death, as the humans he trusted most soon launch a series of violent persecutions against the Deryni.

Most of Cinhil's internal troubles are the result of his true religious vocation. While his desire to hide from his true identity may have been partially responsible for Cinhil's decision to become a priest, there is no doubt that he feels a genuine calling to the priesthood. The monastery is not merely a convenient place to hide for Cinhil, it is a place where he truly feels he is meant to be, dedicating his life entirely to the service of God. His honest vocation is so strong that it is immediately apparent to Camber and Rhys when they first discover him. As a result, the need for Cinhil to abandon the religious life strikes him at the center of both his personality and his morality, forcing him to re-evaluate the very core of beliefs to which he has dedicated his life.

All of these factors result in a man who must ultimately sacrifice his own personal happiness for the good of the kingdom, and, even worse for Cinhil, the decision to do so is barely within his own control to make. Camber recognizes this problem the day he first meets Cinhil, and he predicts the priest's fate that very night.


Cinhil Haldane is ultimately a sad and lonely man, forced to take on a role he does not want and too wounded and hurt to accept the assistance he needs. Although his friendship with Camber/Cullen does provide some measure of happiness, his only true love in life (his priesthood) is taken away from him forever. He never truly loves his wife, he remains distant with his sons, and, although he performs his royal duties well enough, he rarely takes any joy in wearing the crown. It is only at the moment of his death, when his life as king is finally over, that he once again finds pure joy and offers unqualified forgiveness.


  • Katherine Kurtz, Camber of Culdi, ISBN 0-345-24590-3
  • Katherine Kurtz, Saint Camber, ISBN 0-345-27750-3
  • Katherine Kurtz, Camber the Heretic, ISBN 0-345-33142-7
  • Katherine Kurtz and Robert Reginald, Codex Derynianus (Second Edition), ISBN 1-887424-96-2