George Thomas Orlando Bridgeman.

History of the princes of South Wales online

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As the following pages would never have been printed
but for your encouragement and valuable assistance, I hope you
will allow me to dedicate them to you. As you are aware, the subject
was taken up by me many years ago when my time was more at
my own disposal than it has been of late years. I have now availed
myself of a short period of comparative rest to finish what I then began.
My original purpose had been simply to identify the representation
of certain princely families through the perplexing era of the
Conquest of Wales, and, as far as I could, to rectify sundry errors
with respect to their descent. In the course of time, however, I found
myself possessed of a considerable number of original deeds bearing
upon their earlier history and carrying me back to the time of their
greater power when they ruled their respective dominions as indepen-
dent sovereigns. This caused me to study Welsh history more closely,
and induced me to trace their chequered fortunes through a longer
period. In so doing I have endeavoured to separate the history of
that portion of South Wales in which their territories lay from the
general history of the Principality. During the earlier part of
the narrative my information has been mostly taken from the Brut-y-
Tywysogion or Chronicle of the British Princes, verified and supple-
mented by the accounts of such contemporary writers as treated of
Wales and the Borders. During the latter parf it has been
chiefly extracted from original records. From this it will appear that
the work pretends to no originality, being little more than a compila-
tion of facts recorded by early historians or preserved in MS. among

2201 8K


the Eoyal Archives. Experience has taught me that the sources from
which we derive our information are very different in value ; I have,
therefore, given copious references to my respective authorities, so that
the reader may judge for himself of the amount of credibility due to
them. To "Welsh eyes the orthography will doubtless appear
defective ; but, in departing from the correct Welsh spelling, my object
has been to bring the names of persons and places into better accord-
ance with the official language, as made use of in the Latin medieval
documents, and at that time of common acceptance between the
English and the Welsh. This explanation may serve, perhaps, as a
sufficient preface to the work. But I cannot conclude without expres-
sing to you my most sincere thanks for the kind interest you have
taken in its preparation for the press.

Believe me,

Very sincerely yours,



SEPTEMBEB 15, 1876.




The history of the subjugation of Wales has received
such a very partial consideration from those who have
written upon it as a detached page of British history,
that it seems desirable to investigate it more closely, and
to compare it with such original documents as we still
possess. The chief difficulty which meets the student of
Welsh medieval history is the scarcity of official deeds.
The writings of the early chroniclers, though singularly
faithful on the whole, cannot always be implicitly trusted,
and it is not often that the facts they record can be
authenticated by contemporaneous documents. Heraldic
Pedigrees afford but little help ; indeed they often serve
rather to mislead than assist the enquirer ; for thougli
many of them have been preserved by their owners with
praiseworthy care for several hundred years, they have
been drawn up from the first with palpable inaccuracies
and without any regard for dates.

The Royal House of Dynevor is the subject of our
present enquiries. The history of this eminent race of
Princes, who so long baffled all the efforts of the English
monarchs to reduce them to subjection, has never been
fully or separately written. I have here arranged such
notes of their doings as I have been able to collect. Such
notes were too scanty to have assumed the preferable
form of personal biography ; but I have endeavoured to
follow these Princes through their highest and lowest
estate, and afterwards to trace their descendants, from
public records and other credible sources, to a period
subsequent to the conquest of Wales by King Edward I,
when they ceased to exist as independent rulers and are
gradually lost sight of in general history.

Where more authentic documents have failed I have
chiefly followed the Brut-y-Ty wysogion : and as this is
the source from which those who have written on the
subject appear to have principally derived their earlier
information, I have thought it advisable to adopt the
phraseology of the ancient chronicler whenever it seemed
to convey more accurately the true meaning of the
original compiler. But whereas the first portion of this


memoir was nearly completed before the late accurate
rendering of the Brut was given to the public, under the
auspices of the Record commission, 1 I have in some cases
retained the quaint language of Dr. Powel's version
where no undue liberty appears to have been taken with
the original.

In his preface to the History of Wales Dr. Powel says
that one of the things which made him the more willing
to publish his work was " the slanderous report of such
writers as in their bookes do inforce everie thing that is
done by the Welshmen to their discredit, leaving out all
the causes and circumstances of the same : which [writers]
doo most commonlie not onelie elevate or dissemble all the
injuries and wrongs offered and done to the Welshmen,
but also conceale or deface all the actes worthie of com-
mendation atchieved by them." There is doubtless much
of truth in these remarks. The want of faith with which
the Welsh have been charged, by English historians, in
dealing with their victorious rivals may fairly be attributed
to the continued violence and oppression of those Norman
adventurers, who first settled upon their lands and then
availed themselves of every pretext to wrest them from
their native owners. Nor were the Normans on their
part a whit less scrupulous in breaking their treaties with
the Welsh. We cannot be too thankful that England
and Wales should have been thus early united under one
common rule ; but it does not become us as Englishmen
to depreciate the conduct of a brave people in their long
continued struggle for independence, nor to stigmatize
them as mere rebels and truce-breakers, because they
would not tamely submit to the tyranny of foreign
oppressors. Nor yet must we lose sight of the fact that
the unjust spoliations and robberies of the latter, if not
actually encouraged, were generally overlooked and
pardoned by the English monarchs, who professed to
administer impartial justice, whilst the wrongs of the
Welsh remained unredressed, and their just complaints
too often unheeded.

l Brut-y-Tywysogion, Edited by the Rev. John Williams ab Ithel, Eector of
Llanymowddwy. 1860. Another version of the Brut, The Gwentian Chronicle, has
been more recently published by the Cambrian Archaeological Association in 1863. In
my future references, where the Brut-y-Tywysogion is quoted, the former of these
versions is ordinarily intended, and the other will be referred to as the Gwentian



On the dissolution of the Roman power in Great
Britain, at the close of the fourth century, the
governments reverted to those Reguli who were descended
from the ancient sovereigns. They had been but little
interfered with, indeed, by the Romans, who, with a
policy peculiar to themselves, permitted the kingly office,
in the full extent of its ancient authority, to remain in
many of the British provinces. 1 Thus Wales continued
to be governed by several chieftains or petty kings who
ruled over different portions of the country, until the
whole was nominally united into one kingdom under the
dominion of Roderic the Great, in the 9th century.

Roderic was the son of Mervyn Vrych (or the Freckled),
the son of Gwyriad or Uriet, the son of Elidur, and so
upwards in the right line to Belinus the brother of Brennus
King of the Britaines. 2 His mother was Esylht the
daughter and heiress of Conan Tyndaethwy King or
Prince of Gwyneth, the son of Roderic, the son of Edwal
Ywrch, the son of Cadwalader last King of the Britaines. 3
And his grandmother Nest, the mother of Mervyn, was
the daughter of Cadell, Prince of Powis, the descendant
of Brochwel Yscithroc, King or Prince of Powis.

Mervyn is said to have been slain in battle with
Berthred King of Mercia ; upon which Roderic succeeded
to the dominion of North Wales. This battle is placed
by the Brut-y-Tywysogion and Annales Cambriae'in 844 ;
by the Gwentian Chronicle about 838. The Principality

i Warrington's Hist, of Wale*, Vol. I. p. 33. 2 Powel's Hist, of Wales
(ed. of 1584), p. 19. 3 Ihi.l.


of Powis fell to him soon after in right of his grandmother
Nest, the sister and heiress of Concenn ap Cadell, Prince
of Powis, who died at Rome in 854. 1 And having married
Angharad, the daughter of Meyric ap Dyfnwal, and sister
and heiress of Gwgan ap Meyric, King of Cardigan, 2 who
was drowned in 870 or 871, 3 Roderic acquired the king-
dom of Cardigan in her right, and thus became sovereign
of all Wales ; for the lesser chieftains of Dy vet, Gwent,
Brecheinoc, and Morganwg are said to have acknowledged
his supremacy. If Roderic had acted wisely in consoli-
dating his dominions, his government might have been
fixed upon a firmer basis and longer resisted the encroach-
ments of its enemies. But he was induced to pursue an
opposite course. He divided his kingdom into three
principalities, which were governed during his lifetime
by chieftains acting under his authority. This singular
measure seems to have arisen from the narrow view that
the Welsh, accustomed to be governed by their own rulers,
ought not to yield obedience to a common sovereign. 4

Roderic was slain about 876-7, in the 89th year of his
age, while defending his country against the Saxons j and
his kingdom was divided between his three eldest sons.
To Anarawd the eldest he gave Gwyneth or North
Wales, with a certain precedence or feudal superiority
over his brethren : to Cadell, the 2nd son, he gave
Deheubarth or South Wales : and to Mervyn, the 3rd, the
principality of Powis. For each of these kingdoms he
built a palace ; for the King of Noith Wales at Aberfraw
(in the isle of Anglesea) ; for the King of South Wales at
Dinevawr (in Caermarthenshire) ; for the King of Powis
at Mathraval (in Montgomeryshire). 5 He further ordained
that when any difference should arise between the Princes
of North and South Wales the three should meet at
Bwlch-y-Pawl, and the Prince of Powis should be umpire.
But if the Princes of North Wales and Powis fell at
variance, they should meet at D61 Rhianedd on the bank
of the river Dee, where the Prince of South Wales was to
adjust the controversy; and if the quarrel happened
between the Princes of Powis and South Whales, the

i Brut-y-Tywysogion (Record Edition). 2 Meyrick's Cardigan. 3 Brut-y-Tywy-
ogion. * Warrington's Hist, of Wales, Vol. I., p. 212. 6 Meyrick's Cardigan.
p. xxvi. Wynne's Hist. Wales, p. 25.


meeting was to be appointed at Llys Wen upon the river
Wye, where it was to be decided by the Prince of North
Wales. These sons of lioderic were called the three
crowned princes, on account of their being the first to wear
diadems around their crowns, like kings in other countries,
before which the kings and princes of the Welsh wore
only golden bands. 1

Thus did Wales become divided into three distinct
sovereignties, almost, if not entirely, independent of each
other. Roderic had enjoined, indeed, that if any one of
these states should be invaded by a foreign enemy the
others should come to its assistance : but there was no
real bond of union between them ; and there can be no
question that this partition of power, followed as it was
by future sub-division of territory according to the prin-
ciple of the law of gavelkind, proved utterly ruinous to
the interests of the country. 2 As long as it remained
united under one rule its collective strength was sufficient
to afford security against foreign aggression, and at the
same time to overawe the ambition of the tributary
chieftains. But its separation into petty states not only
divided its interests and led to perpetual jealousies and
contests between the states themselves, but so weakened
the power of the princes as to render them unable to curb
the ambition of their refractory vassals, who constantly
took part against their suzerain, and thus prepared the
way for the Norman invaders.

Cadell, the 2nd son of Roderic, succeeded to the king-
dom of South Wales, which was called Deheubarth, as
lying to the South of the other provinces. The residence
of the princes of this country was at Dynevor (Dinevawr
or Dinas Vawr, the Great Palace), on the bank of the
river Towy in Carmarthenshire where a palace had been
erected by Roderic. This District, the Demetia of the
Romans, consisted of 26 cantreds or hundreds, containing
81 commots. 3 It was encompassed by the Irish Sea, the

l Gwcntian Chronicle. 2 The law of gavelkind, by which each son claimed a sharo
of his father's inheritance, continued in force till the 34th of Hen. VIII, when it was
abolished by statute. (Penny Cylcopacdia) . 3 Wales was anciently divided into can-
trefs (or cantreds) and commots. The cantref (as its name implies) was originally
composed of one hundred trcfs or townships. These cantrefs were subdivided into
two or more commots, which severally maintained their own courts and jurisdictions ;
and thus each commot became a separate manor or lordship. Some of these original
commots were afterwards further subdivided, at a later period, as was frequently the case


Severn, and the rivers Wye and Dovey. This, though the
greatest kingdom of Wales, yet, says Powel " was it not
the best, as Giraldus witnesseth, cheefelie bicause it was
much molested with Flemings and Normans, and also
that in divers parts thereof the lords would not obey their
Prince, as in Gwent and Morganwg, which was to their
owne confusion." Deheubarth was divided into six
parts, viz., Caredigion, Dyvet, Caermardhyn, Morganwg,
Gwent, and Brecheinoc, which were nearly identical with
the present counties of Cardigan, Pembroke, Carmarthen,
Glamorgan, Momnouth, and Brecknock. But these
territories were gradually wrested from the descendants
of Roderic until Cardigan and Carmarthen and a small
portion of Pembroke alone remained to them.

The fatal policy of Roderic, in dividing his dominions,
soon became apparent from the conduct of his sons. For
in 892-3 we find Anarawd uniting with the English against
his brother Cadell ; when they invaded his territory with
their joint forces and devastated the country of Cardigan
and the vale of Towy. 1 And again we find Cadell, Prince
of South Wales taking forcible possession of Powis on the
death of his brother Mervyn in 901.

Cadell, son of Roderic the great, died in the year 907,
leaving three sons, Howel L)ha (i.e. Howel the good)
Meyric and Clydawc ; of whom the latter was killed by
his brother Meyric about the year 917. 2

Howel, the eldest son of Cadell, succeeded to his
father's dominions in South Wales and Powis, to which,
on the death of his cousin Edwal Foel, prince of Gwyneth,
in 941-2, he added the principality of North Wales, and
thus, for a time, again united the territories of his grand-
father Roderic. He was elected to the sovereignty of
Wales in preference to the sons of Edwal on account of
his talent and character, the exigency of the times, and

with English manors ; and every such respective portion was then styled a commot or
manor of itself. This division into cantrefs and commots continued intact until after
the conquest of Wales by King Edward I, who, in the twelfth year of his reign, passed
a statute, known as the statute of Rhuddlan, by which those parts of Wales which had
not already been recognized as Lordships Marcher, were formed into counties like those
in England. And as the territories which had pertained to the princes of the House of
Dynevor were then in possession of the crown, either by forfeiture, attainder, or sub-
mission, the two present counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen were created out of them.
The same boundaries were for the most part retained until the Welsh counties were
divided into hundreds in the reign of King Henry VIII.
l Brut-y-Tywysogion. 2 Ibid ; Annales Cambrise.


the minority of the right heir to the Northern principality. 1
The reign of Howel Dha forms a new era in the history
of Wales. Great disorders and inconveniences had been
long felt from the undefined nature of the existing laws
and their inadequacy to meet the changes which had
been introduced by the progress of society : and Howel,
who ha J travelled to Rome in the year 926 and had thus
become acquainted with the institutions of other coun-
tries, justly considered that the greatest benefit he could
confer on his country would be to form a regular written
code suited to the habits and circumstances of the times.
Accordingly he sent "for the Archbishop of Menevia
(St. David's) and all the other Bishops and chiefe of the
cleargie to the number of 140, and all the barons and
nobles of Wales, and caused sixe men of the wisest and
best esteemed in everie comote to be called before him,
whorne he commanded to meete all together at his house
called Y Tuy gwyn ar Taf, that is, The White House
upon the river Taf. Thither he came liimselfe, and there
remained with those his nobles, prelates, and subjects, all
the Lent, in praier and fasting, craving the assistance and
direction of God's Holy Spirit, that he might reforme the
lawes and customes of the countrie of Wales, to the honor
of God, and the quiet government of the people. About
the end of Lent he chose out of that companie twelve
men of the wisest, gravest, and of the greatest experience :
to whome he added one clearke or doctor of the lawes,
named Blegored, a singular learned and perfect wise man.
These had in charge to examine the old lawes and cus-
tomes of Wales, and to gather out of those such as were
meete for the government of the countrie : which they
did, reteining those that were wholesome and profitable,
expounding those that were doubtfull and ambiguous, and
abrogating those that were superfluous and hurtfull." 2

This code, having received the judgment and verdict
of the country in the national assembly, was established
throughout Wales in every lordship, and in the court of
every lord and of every tribe. It continued in force
throughout the principality till the 'subjugation of Wales
by Edward I, and was retained in some districts until

i Jones' Hist, of Wales, p. 51. 2 Towel's Hist, of Wales, p. 44.


the final union with England in the reign of Henry VIII.
It has been pronounced to be the most complete of any
ancient code known ; and the laws possess considerable
interest from the picture they exhibit of the manners and
customs of the age.

In 943 died Elen, wife of Howel Dha; 1 and Howel
himself died in 948, 2 after a long and peaceful reign, in
which he had carefully studied the best interests of his
country, and secured the respect and confidence of his
subjects. His death, says Powel, "was sore bewailed of
all men, for he was a prince that loved peace and good
order, and that feared God."

He left eight sons, 3 Owen, Run, Roderic, Dyfnwal,
Edwyn, Cynan, Meredith, and Eineon, who, relinquish-
ing the kingdom of North Wales to Jevaf and lago, the
sons of Edwal Foel, divided amongst them the princi-
palities of South Wales and Powis.

Owen took the rule of Cardigan 4 and succeeded to the
chief dominion in South Wales ; but he was not left long
in peaceable possession ; for Jevaf and Iago f who had
assumed the government of North Wales to the exclusion
of their elder brother Meyric, laid claim to the whole
principality ; and having raised an army they invaded
Cardigan, defeated the sons of Howel after a sanguinary
battle on the hills of Carnau, and cruelly devastated the
land of Dyvet. This was in the year 949 ; and in the
following year they came a second time to Dyvet (or
Pembrokeshire) which they pillaged, and slew Dynwallon
the Prince thereof. On this occasion " Owen, prince of
Cardigan collected an army against them, and followed
them back to Gwynedd so closely that many of them were
drowned in the river Dyvi." 5

In the year 951, died Dyfnwal and Roderic, two of
the sons of Howel Dha. 6 And in the year ensuing
' ' Owen ap Howel Dha led an army into Gwynedd, and
there the action of Aberconwy took place, in which such
a slaughter was made that both parties were obliged to
retreat from the losses they sustained in that battle." 7
At this time, or not -long after, died Edwyn another of
the sons of Howel Dha. 8

1 and 2 Gwentian Chronicle. 3 Jones' Hist, of Wales. *, 5, and 7 Gwentian
Chronicle, p. 25. 6 and 8 Brut-y-Tywysogion, p. 22.


In the year 953 the Princes of Gwyneth once more
invaded Cardigan; and the sons of Howel drove them
back with great slaughter. 1 These disastrous conflicts,
however, ultimately terminated in favour of Jevaf and
lago, who succeeded in establishing their power over the
whole of Wales, and held the kingdom of Dynevor for
several years. 2

Owen ap Howel Dha, being thus driven from his own
country, turned his attention to another quarter. In the
year 958 he invaded the territory of Morgan Mawr Prince
of Glamorgan, over whose family the Princes of Dynevor
had formerly held a feudal supremacy, and took posses-
sion of the districts of Ystradyw and Ew) r as in the vale
of Usk, which he claimed as his right. The claim was
referred to Edgar King of England, who gave his award
in favour of Morgan ; 3 and O wen was obliged to retire.
In 962 Owen, with the other Princes of Wales, was com-
pelled to pay tribute to Edgar. 4 The two Princes of
North Wales having afterwards quarrelled, Oweri appears
to have seized this opportunity to regain his kingdom ;
and not long after, about the year 967, his eldest son
Eineon. further availed himself of these distractions to put
the land of Gower to tribute. This Prince, who died in
his father's lifetime, is spoken of as a young man of high
promise and a leader of great judgment and personal
bravery. When the Danes invaded Pembroke in 981
and laid the church of St. David in ruins, they were
checked by Eineon and defeated at Caer Faes in the
parish of Llanwenog in the county of Cardigan. 5 In that
or the following year the Saxons entered Wales and laid
waste the land of Brecknock and all the territory of
Eineon, 6 who collected his forces to oppose th.em. A hard
fought battle ensued, in which the Saxons were defeated
and put to flight. 7 Soon after this victory his spirited
career was brought to a sudden termination. " The yeare

1 Gwcntian Chronicle, p. 27. 2 Powel'8 Hist, of Wales, p. 60. 3 Liber
Landavcnsis, p. 512. Caradoc's Chronicle in the Myfyrian Archaeology. 4 The
singular tribute which Edgar exacted from the Welsh Princes, and which was imposed
in lieu of a more ancient one to which he claimed a right, was the yearly payment of
300 wolves' heads. The natural result of this tribute was that, after it had been paid
for three or four years, the Avolves were nearly extirpated from the country. 6 Jones'
Ilist. of Wales. *6 Brut-y-Tywysogion. This invasion has been by some placed in
the time of Howel Dha : but Edgar did not begin his reign until 958 (Carte i. 330) ;
For an explanatory note on this point I would refer the reader to Rees' South Wales,
p. 565, and the Liber Landavensis, p. 612. 7 Jones' Hist, of Wales.


following," says Powel, "the gentlemen of Gwentsland
rebelled against their prince, and cruellie slew Eneon the
son of Owen which came thither to appease them." This
Eneon, Eineon, or JEneas, who was thus slain in 982, is
described by Powel as " a worthie and noble gentleman,
who did manie notable actes in his father's time ;" and
our author further informs us that he left behind him
"two sonnes Edwyn and Theodor or Tewdor Mawr, of
whom came afterwards the kings or princes of South

Online LibraryGeorge Thomas Orlando BridgemanHistory of the princes of South Wales → online text (page 1 of 31)