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                         THE MEN OF LLEYN - HOW THEY GOT THERE
                                          By Darrell Wolcott 
           While researching the family descended from Collwyn ap Tangno, we considered how this man obtained large tracts of land far from his paternal home in far northeast Wales.[1]  As early as the 13th century, the sons of Merwydd ap Collwyn were described as "men of Lleyn", the peninsula cantref below Anglesey. Our search for likely answers begins a century earlier.
            In a very early pedigree[2], we learn that the share of Gwynedd inheirited by Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr included the lands of y Rhiw in Lleyn. The same ancient pedigree[3] identifies Meirion Goch (ap Merwydd ap Collwyn) as "of Lleyn", and the author of the 13th century History of Gruffudd ap Cynan also places the sons of Merwydd, including Meirion, in Lleyn.  This led early historians to identify the "traitor" Meirion Goch[4] as a son of Tryffin ap Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr.  Any such son would have been born c. 910 or well over 150 years before the Meirion Goch of Lleyn was born.  It seems more likely the line of Merfyn became extinct in the male line with the death of he and his son in 904.[5]
          Our scenerio of what may have brought a man from northeast Wales to Lleyn as its new lord in the year 904 is based on an event we described in our paper "The Retaking of Northeast Wales". [6] In a related paper "Pasgen ap 'Urien Rheged' Lord of Gower" [7] (in which we suggest the correct ancestry of Collwyn ap Tangno), we posited that a young lad named Llewelyn emerged from the losing battle against invading Danes in 892, wholly unscathed and was called "an angel with a sharp sword".  This boy, who appears in old pedigrees as Llew Llyminiod Angel, may have been sent for by Anarawd ap Rhodri Mawr, king of Gwynedd.  His lord, Gwgan Gleddyfrydd, probably fell in the same battle where the young lad had distinguished himself as an able soldier, and his father had fled to Gower.  If Tryffin ap Merfyn was yet unmarried when slain with his father, perhaps he had a sister who then became the heiress of Merfyn's lands.  In 904, such a lady might have been about 14 years old and in need of a husband. Born c. 878, Llewelyn Llyminiod Angel had probably served in the warband of Anarawd since leaving his home in 892 and was now about 26 years old; we suggest the young heiress was given to him for his wife.  The great-great grandson of such a marriage, we believe, was Collwyn ap Tangno ap Cadfael ap Lluddoca ap Llewelyn Llyminiod Angel.
         This marriage would also explain the "Llewelyn ap Merfyn" whom medieval genealogists claimed had a daughter, Angharad, who married Owain ap Hywel Dda.  Merfyn had no son named Llewelyn[8], but he may well have had a son-in-law albeit by a marriage to his daughter after his own death. And there is nothing but a similarity of names to suggest the Iarddur ap Merfyn who drowned in 955 was related to Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr[9], so a daughter of Merfyn may have been his only heir.  We suggest the following chart shows how Lleyn came to be the property of the ancestor of Collwyn ap Tangno:
                  855  Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr, ob 904
              l                                     l                       
   885  Tryffin, ob 904      890  daughter==Llewelyn Llyminiod Angel
                         ___________________l_________          878
                         l                                                 l
            915  Angharad                                    Lluddoca  910
                        =                                                l
       906  Owain ap Hywel Dda                          Cadfael  945
                                                                    Tangno[10]  975
                                                                     Collwyn  1010
          Although the early manuscripts place Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr in Lleyn, we think he also held the neighboring cantrefs Eifionydd and Ardudwy; the families who descended from Collwyn ap Tangno were large landholders in all three cantrefs.  The "traditional" stories about the holdings of Rhodri Mawr notwithstanding, we think his rule was limited to Gwynedd and his 3 surviving legitimate sons divided his lands as follows:
              1.  Anarawd received the lordship of Anglesey and Arfon
              2.  Merfyn received the lordship of Lleyn, Eifionydd and Ardudwy
              3.  What lordship Cadell received is uncertain; he is only known to history as the father of Hywel Dda.  Other than his obit notice, he is wholly absent from the Brut.[11]
     Note that while a part of Rhodri Mawr's kingdom of Gwynedd, Arllechwedd, Nant Conwy, Meirionydd, Rhos, Rhufoniog, Tegeingl and Dyffryn Clwyd were not "owned" by him[12] but were the patrimony of other lords descended from Cunedda.  And he had neither lands nor lordship in Powys or any other Welsh kingdom.
             Typically, a land division between sons did not simply carve the father's lands into large blocks, but each son received scattered manors throughout those lands.  It was the lordship of Anglesey, for instance, that Anarawd received...not 100% of the land there. The same is true of his brothers in their respective lordships.
            Another patriarch of "men of Lleyn", the Trahaearn Goch of c. 1245, is discussed in a separate paper. [13]
[1] This family was descended from the c. 850 Pasgen ap Urien who fled Tegeingl and relocated in Gower, taking two young sons with him.  The eldest son was already 14 years of age and had been sent to serve his father's lord, Gwgan Gleddyfrydd
[2] ABT 7(o) The story that Merfyn was given Powys is a fiction of the 16th century; Powys was then and continued to be ruled by an unrelated royal dynasty.
[3] HLG 4d
[4] Refer to the paper "The Betrayal by Meirion Goch Revisited" at the link below:
[5] The Peniarth Ms 20 and Red Book of Hergest versions of the Brut y Tywysogyon says it was the son of Merfyn who was killed in 904.  The Brenhinedd y Saesson version of the chronicles says Merfyn ap Rhodri was killed.  All three versions say "killed by his own men", but this appears to be a mistranslation of the Latin "gentilibus" from Annales Cambriae; this meant "Gentiles" i.e. Norsemen or Danes, but was translated as "genedl", the Welsh word for "species or kind".  We posit that both Merfyn and his only son, Tryffin, were killed in a battle with sea raiders, the latter being about 20 years old and unmarried.
[8] Pen. 135, 331 of the late 1500's cites Angharad ferch Llewelyn ap Merfyn as the mother of Maredudd ap Owain of Deheubarth, but she is unknown to earlier manuscripts.  No such son of Merfyn is mentioned in the 13th century ABT manuscript, likely because the father of that Angharad was not descended from Rhodri Mawr.
[9]  The 955 Brut notice does not identify Iarddur beyond saying his father's name was Merfyn.  That name was not unique to Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr.  A Iarddur ap Merfyn ap Rhodri ap Brochwel ap Aeddan of Powys would occur c. 920 and would be a better candidate for the drowning victim than a 65+ year old son of Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr.
[10] His brother, Tangwel, was father of Marchweithian; the latter man held land in Is Aled, Rhufoniog probably as a grant for services to King Gruffudd ap Llewelyn.
[11] See the paper "The Legendary Kingdom of Seisyllwg" for a discussion of Cadell's lands, at the link below:
[12] We suspect, however, that certain forest lands throughout the kingdom of Gwynedd were deemed to be owned by the king for his hunting pleasure.  One such forest in Rhos was granted to Tudwal Gloff, the illegitimate son of Rhodri Mawr.