Thursday, December 15, 2016


The story of Welsh royalty didn't get a big audience last week but I've decided to persevere with them in the hope it may all become easier to understand but some of those Welsh names are a little difficult to deal with.

We had got up to where Hywel's son OWAIN had been defeated by Iago and Ieuaf.

They then all fought amongst themselves, and Ieuf's son HYWELL 979-985 (known as Hywell the Bad) emerged as Lord of Gwynedd.  He was succeeded by his brother CADWALLON 985-986, but Hyywed Dda's grandson, MAREDUDD AP OWAIN 986-989 drove up from the south and reunited Gwynedd and Deheubarth.

On the death of Marededd in 999 Gwynedd reverted to Hywel the Bad's son CYNAN 999-1005, but Deheubarth lapsed into 20 years of anarchy during which no clear leader emerged.

Maredudd's son-in-law LLYWELYN AP SEISYLL 1018-1023 briefly rose from chaose and rued Gwynedd as well as Deheubarth, but it was his son GRUFFYDD AP LLYWELYN 1039-1063 who, from his base in Gwynedd (for the territories were split again) fought a notable two-handed was against England and Deheubarth.  He made extensive conquests along the Hereford border, ravaged Ceredigion, and finally secured Deheubarth.    For a time Gruffydd was undisputed Ruler of All Wales, and in addition held extensive territory in Mercia, for which he nonchalantly swore loyalty to Edward the Confessor in return for recognition as under-king of Wales.  His status was confirmed by his marriage to Ealdgyth daughter of the Earl of Mercia.  In 1063 Earl Harold of Wessex, soon to be King Harold of England, attacked Wales by land and sea, fomented treachery within Wales, and was finally gratified by news of the death of Gruffydd at the hands of his own men.  The troubled land immediately disintegrated into fragments once more.

At the same time, England was reeling under the Norman Conquest.  William reckoned to keep the Welsh in check, if not in order, by creating three great feudal counties along the border, and passing the responsibility on to their holders, the Earls of Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford, who were entitled to keep any land or property which they could forage in Wales.  The system worked well for some time, while the intimidated Welsh resorted to making war on each other.  In 1073 a remarkable blend of patriot and pirate arose in the person of GRUFFYDD AP CYNAN (ruled 1081-1137).  He sprang from Gwynedd's royal line, the dynasty of Idwal Foel, but he was born in Ireland, where his exiled father had married the daughter of the Scandinavian King Olaf of Dublin.

In 1073 Gryffydd, aged 22, invaded Anglesey with an army of Irish and Norse mercenaries. and made an unsuccessful attempt to take over Gwynedd.  He repeated the effort two years later, and again failed.  In 1081 he landed in the south-west and fought his way north to claim his title as Lord of Gwynedd.  Then the Normans captured him and imprisoned him in Chester.

After some years he escaped, gathered enough forces in Gwynedd for a successful plundering foray against nearby Norman property, and then retired to the Orkneys, where he fitted out a fleet of ships and made piratical lunges at Norman territory as far apart as Monmouth and Anglesey. Then he settled down in the north and systematically conquered Gwynedd by force of arms.  He was considered so serious  menace to Norman stability that King William Rufus himself commanded two expeditions against him.  Gruffydd merely withdrew his forces into the security of the mountains and waited until the king went home again.  He continued these tactics against King Henry I, though he did consent to meet the English monarch and pay homage to Gwynedd, reasoning that the act gave him a recognised right to hold his territories against the incursions of the Nroman earls of the Marches.

Meanwhile in the south, a chief named RHYS AP TEWDWR 1081-1093 had been recognised by William the Conqueror as lord of Deheubarth on paymet of £40 a year, a rent which is recorded in the Domesday Book.  Rhys was killed in a skirmish with the Normans and the security of Deheubarth grew rapidly uncertain.  By 1125 when Gruffydd Ap Cynan was still ruling in Gwynedd, the south was virtually under total Norman rule.

On the death of King Henry I of England there was a general uprising in South Wales under GRYFFYDD AP RHYS 1135-1137 the son of Rhys Ap Tewdwr.  Althugh he was eventually defeated and he died, the firht within Deheubarth was taken up by his three sons Cadell, Maredudd, and RHYS AP GRUFFYDD 1170-1197.  In the north, the three sons of Gruffydd Ap Cynan - Cadwallon, OWAIN GWYNEDD 1137-1170 and Cadwaladr - were parallel nuisances within Gwynedd, and in turn their work was carried on my Owain's sons DAFYDD  1170-1194 and RHODRI AP OWAIN 1175-1195.  In 1164-5 a north-south combination of Rhys Ap Gruffydd and other allies so completely countered a would-be punitive campaign by Henry II that the English king abandoned any attempt to conquer Wales in his lifetime.

It seems this is becoming a somewhat easier to follow although the Welsh names still do my head in a little.  I will continue more of the Welsh history next week and, hopefully, even finish it all in a few weeks.



  1. It was difficult to follow, I feel horribly dyslexic. It's a good thing they didn't have our modern weaponry or we would have been wiped off the face of the earth - long ago. I did understand a little of why Wales was a separate entity and not swallowed into England at that time.

    1. I find it more difficult to follow than the English monarchy. They were a ferocious lot to be sure.
      Wales is a separate entity to England and I often feel they would like their independence. After they do call it Great Britain which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  2. Hari om
    I loved the flow of this - almost poetic - and got excited at the appearance of Rhys son of Tudor... oh yes, first sightings :-) !!! YAM xx

    1. I felt it was flowing much better than last week and was excited to see the beginnings of the connection with the Tudors.
      I am sure it will become even more interesting as the story continues. xx

  3. I have to admit I'm skimming rather than reading, I'd never make a good historian that's for sure.

    1. Actually, even though I am actually typing it I too am more or less skimming it as it is so complicated. I will continue on though and then return to English royalty which is much easier to follow the further we go.