DAFYDD GOCH AP DAFYDD - HIS REAL ANCESTRY
By Darrell Wolcott
identification of this man, born c. 1260, is given by J.Y.W. Lloyd in History of Powys Fadog, vol I, pp 192:
"Prince David (ap
Gruffudd, brother of Llewelyn the Last) left also an illegitimate son, Dafydd Goch of Nant Conwy, who bore sable, a lion rampant
argent in a border engrailed or, and was the father of Gruffudd ap David Goch..."
In his vol
III, pp 32/33, Lloyd continues "David Goch of Pen Machno in Nant Conwy....was the natural son of David, Lord of Denbigh and
Frodsham, whose trial and cruel death at Shrewsbury in 1283 has already been related in a previous chapter. David Goch married
Angharad, daughter of Heilin ab Sir Tudor ab Ednyfed Fychan, by whom he had issue a son and heir, Gruffudd ab David of Nant
The intentions of
King Edward I in 1283 seem clear enough; he was intent on total extermination of the Gwynedd princely family which had long
resisted his authority over Wales. When Llewelyn ap Gruffudd was finally killed in Brecon, his brother Dafydd had
taken up the fallen crown. While he had a few diehard supporters with whose assistance he tried to continue resistance
to the English army, many former allies of his brother had lost their will to pursue what they now saw as a losing cause.
When Castell y Bere in Meirionydd, where many believe Dafydd had planned his last stand, was surrendered without
a fight in April of 1283, Dafydd went into hiding. He was finally captured in late June, his location betrayed
by a cleric, Iorwerth of Llan-faes. His youngest son, Owain, was taken with his father. About a week later,
his eldest son Llewelyn was found and both boys were taken to the prison in Bristol. Not finished yet, the king sent
the young unmarried daughters of both Llewelyn the Last and Dafydd ap Gruffudd to involuntary seclusion for training as nuns.
Gwenllian ferch Llewelyn ap Gruffudd was sent to the Gilbertine nunnery at Sempringham, while the unnamed daughter or daughters
of Dafydd ap Grufudd were sent to the priory at Sixhills. This insured they would never bear sons to become a future
problem for the crown of England; the family had thus been made extinct.
If Dafydd ap Gruffudd
had a base son named Dafydd Goch, why was he left alive and free to bear sons? It had been an earlier bastard child,
Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr, who fathered the two men the king had gone to war to remove. We simply cannot accept that
Edward I either did not know about any base son of Dafydd, or did not believe him a problem due to his illegitimacy.
The reason, we are certain, that the king took no action against Dafydd Goch ap Dafydd is that he was NOT the natural son
of Dafydd, Lord of Denbigh.
That false identification
of Dafydd Goch of Pen Machno is a late genealogical error. In the early 16th century, when the medieval genealogists
began scouring manuscripts held by clerics and leading families in Wales, they found a "Dafydd Goch ap Dafydd ap Gruffudd
ap Llewelyn ap Iorwerth" who had lived at Penmachno in Nant Conwy. Marriages indicated for him, and for his son Gruffudd,
pointed to a birthdate near 1260/65. Aha, they reasoned, there could have been only one Dafydd ap Gruffudd ap
Llewelyn ap Iorwerth who fathered such a Dafydd Goch, so extended his ancestry to "Iorwerth ap Owain Gwynedd". The mother
they found cited for this Dafydd Goch was Tangwystl ferch Owain Fflam of Deheubarth, a man not further known then or now.
Since this Dafydd Goch was further cited as father to Gruffudd and great-grandfather to Hywel Coetmor, this must have been
(they reasoned) a bastard child of Prince Dafydd who had survived the 1282/83 "extinction" of his family for reasons
of his illegitimacy. In fact, none of the early manuscripts call Dafydd Goch illegitimate nor refer to
Tangwystl as the mistress of his father.
Our search for his likely
ancestry began with the lands he and his descendants are known to have held. Other medieval sources tell us that Nefydd
Hardd, one of the 15 Founders of Noble Tribes of Gwynedd, was Lord of Nant Conwy; that his son, Iorwerth, inherited the
lands at the head of the Machno River called Penmachno. When Peter Bartrum assembled his charts, he attached no family
to this Iorwerth. We posit, however, such a family is cited in his sources but has been confused with a better-known
family who used the same 4-name string of male names, and who lived at virtually the same time:
1100 Owain Gwynedd
1105 Nefydd Hardd
1169 Llewelyn Fawr
* of Penmachno,
** Brother of Llewelyn
the Last; executed in 1283
his Development of Welsh Heraldry, vol I, pp 193, Michael Siddons said of the arms ascribed to Dafydd Goch (cited
in our opening paragraphs above) "for which no historical evidence exists". The stone effigy of his son, Gruffudd ap
Dafydd Goch, which lies at Betws-y-coed just outside Penmachno bears a buckle showing 'a chevron and in chief two oak leaves'.
It isn't known if those were meant to be his arms or simply a decorative touch; no family is known to bear arms of that description.
However, Hywel Coetmor ap Gruffudd Fychan ap Gruffudd ap Dafydd Goch, has the following arms ascribed to him by early
writers: Azure, a chevron sable between 3 spear-heads argent.
The usual arms ascribed to Nefydd
Hardd are 'Argent, 3 spear-heads sable' while other sources make it 'Argent a chevron sable between 3 spear-heads of the same'.
Although the tinctures are different for the late 14th century Hywel Coetmor than shown for the early 12th century Nefydd
Hardd, we think the principal charges of the arms strenghtens our identification of this family: (1) same residence;
(2) very similar arms; (3) unmolested when Edward I was bent on the extinction of the family of the other Dafydd ap Gruffudd.
All these factors led us to conclude that Dafydd Goch was descended from Nefydd Hardd, not from the line of Gwynedd kings.
Nefydd Hardd, we believe, was
descended from the 10th century Heilig ap Glannog who held most of north Gwynedd east of Arfon and north of Ardudwy, including
Arllechwedd, Nant Conwy, Rhos, Rhufoniog and the part of Dyffryn Clwyd west of the Clwyd River.
 The Register of John Pecham, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1279-1292, vol
ii, pp 489/492 makes this identification. For whatever reasons, medieval historians identified that Iorwerth with Y
Penwyn of Melai, Rhos, a descendant of Marchudd ap Cynan. The ancestry of Iorwerth of Llan-faes is unknown.
 Pen. 127, 17 cites 2 wives for Dafydd Goch: Angharad ferch Tudor ap Madog
ap Iarddur ap Cynddelw born c. 1275, and Angharad ferch Heilyn ap Sir Tudor ap Ednyfed Fychan born c. 1265. These point
to a birthdate near 1260 for Dafydd Goch. Pen. 177, 104 cites one wife of Gruffudd ap Dafydd Goch as Angharad ferch
Hywel y pedolau, a lady born c. 1290. Again, this suggests Dafydd Goch was born c. 1260
 Pen. 287, 677 cites Iorwerth ap Nefydd Hardd as "of Penmachno". NLW
Journal vol xiii, pp 137 places Nefydd Hardd in Nant Conwy
 Welsh Genealogies AD300-1400 on the chart 'Nefydd Hardd 1'
 No such arms occur in Papworth's Ordinary of Arms nor in Siddon's The Development
of Welsh Heraldry
 Pen. 149B, 62 and Harl. 1143
 While there are many cases where a son was granted entirely new arms for
his military exploits, other cases are seen where he was assigned his father's arms with one or more colors changed.