EINION vs IESTYN ap GWRGAN - THE CONQUEST OF GLAMORGAN
By Darrell Wolcott
While history tells us
that Glamorgan was invaded by the Marcher Lord Robert fitz Hamo about 1090/91, most students of Welsh history are familiar
with the semi-legendary tale of the role of the Welshman named Einion who, when Iestyn reneged on his promises, assisted
in his defeat by the Normans. While probably a part of the oral lore of Glamorgan since the 13th or 14th century, the
earliest written appearance of this tale seems to be that given c. 1539 by John Leland:
"Justine Lord of Glamorganshir
had great troble with Theodore Prince of Wales. Justine desired help of Inon, a Walsch man borderer onto hym, promising to
hym his doughtter with greate landes. Inon got help of Haymo Erle of Glocestre, and had 12 or 13 knightes of his, and
bette the Prince of Wales. Justine kept no promise with Inon. Wherefore Inon and the xii knightes drave Justine
away and occupied his landes."
Obviously, the "Prince
of Wales" mentioned here was Rhys ap Tewdwr who was actually prince only of Deheubarth. Leland does not identify the
"Einion" beyond saying he was a Welshman from a kingdom which bordered on Glamorgan.
Humphrey Lloyd told the
story in Latin a generation after Leland and calls Einion "Aeneas sonne to Cediuorous". When Dr David Powel wrote
his "Historie of Cambria" in 1584, he repeated the story calling Einion "ap Cadiuor ap Colhoyn". It was the belief of
Humphrey Lloyd that Einion was one of the brothers of Llewelyn ap Cadifor ap Collwyn who unsuccessfully battled Rhys ap Tewdwr
at Llanwddach (St. Dogmaels) in 1091.
A manuscript supposedly
written in the 15th century cites an Einion ap Collwyn ap Tangno; it is this man whom Lewys Dwnn seems to identify as
a Gwynedd man who became a nobleman of Morgannwg. Most modern writers follow Dwnn, including Peter Bartrum who claims
the name Cadifor was improperly inserted between Einion and Collwyn. Nothing
about the early citation suggests that its Einion ap Collwyn ap Tangno was identical to the Einion in Leland's tale,
and the fact that a 15th century poet called the 1091 Einion a "man from north Wales" is no more than the same
assumption Dwnn made 150 years later. The truth is nobody really knows which Einion appears in Leland's tale, but certainly
no part of Gwynedd borders the lands of Iestyn ap Gwrgan.
When we apply a timeline
to the Leland story, whether or not historical, we should expect an Einion who was induced to assist Iestyn oppose Rhys ap
Tewdwr by promises of a daughter in marriage and "great lands" to be an unmarried man about 25/28 years old who held
(or expected to inherit) only modest paternal lands and was no friend of the Lord of Deheubarth. We place Iestyn's birth
c. 1040 and his wife, Denys ferch Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, about 1055. A daughter of marriagable age in 1091 would have been
born c. 1075/78. Thus, we would date the "legendary" Einion to c. 1065.
While Collwyn ap Tangno, born
c. 1010, could have had a son Einion at age 55, no such son is mentioned in the earliest pedigrees. Furthermore,
that Collwyn was Lord of Eifionydd, Aududwy and Lleyn in Gwynedd. We suggest that one should be looking in Ystrad
Tywy for an Einion ap Cadifor ap Collwyn, much as thought by Humphrey Lloyd. The sons of Cadifor Fawr ap Collwyn
ap Gwyn, Lord of Blaen Cuch in the north of Dyfed and et uxor Lord of Cilsant in Carmarthenshire, are known
to have lost a battle to Rhys ap Tewdwr in 1091. While no Einion is cited among those brothers, he may have been an
unacknowleged base son whose half-brothers alloted him little or none of their father's lands when he died, also in 1091.
Such a man would presumably have little attraction as a spouse for a local nobleman's daughter. All these possibilities
make him a good candidate for an Einion who went over to Glamorgan to fight for Iestyn, get a wife of good breeding and
obtain his own lands. Cadifor Fawr was born c. 1030 or about where we'd place the father of an Einion born c. 1065.
And he would have come from lands which did border Iestyn's lands.
Later writers continued to embellish
the Leland tale with their own conjectures. Iolo Morgannwg says it was Iestyn who hired Fitz Hamo and his men as
mercenaries to war against Rhys ap Tewdwr. Also joining Iestyn was "Einion, the son of Collwyn, Lord of Dimetia and
Cardigan, with a thousand men" and "Cedrych, the son of Gwaethfoed, Lord of Cardigan, with an additional thousand".
Iolo claims that after this army defeated Rhys and the Normans departed, contention sprang up between Iestyn, Einion and Cedrych.
The latter two went after the Normans, cited the injustice of Iestyn's conduct, and invited them to return to Glamorgan and
help them take it from Iestyn and share it among themselves. Supposedly the men of Glamorgan were hostile toward Iestyn
and he could count on little or no support beyond his own warband of about 300 men.
Sir Edward Mansel gave a
similiar account of the conquest of Glamorgan in which he says after Einion and Cedrych came to assist Iestyn, it was Einion's
idea to hire the Norman mercenaries. Supposedly Einion knew Sir Robert fitz Hamo "as he had been brought up with him
in some part from boyhood". After the battle was won and Rhys killed (a falsehood embedded in the tale), Iestyn had
paid the Normans handsome rewards but refused to keep his bargain with the two Welshmen. Einion had been promised
Iestyn's daughter Nest in marriage and the manor of Denys Powys, while Cedrych was to receive 300 pounds in gold and the lordship
of St Tathan. So Einion went after the Normans who then returned and demanded Iestyn complete his bargain with his two
Welsh allies. When he refused, the combined armies of Einion, Cedrych and fitz Hamo attacked his castle at Cardiff and
caused Iestyn to flee. Since the Welsh contingent had led the fighting and suffered heavy losses, Sir Robert fitz Hamo
and his "12 knights" took all the best lands leaving Einion and Cedrych only the mountainous areas.
This account contains obvious
errors since Rhys ap Tewdwr was not killed until 1093 and then while battling Bernard Neufmarche in Brycheiniog. And
Cedrych ap Gwaethfoed of Ystrad Tywy, not Ceredigion, could not have joined Einion to assist Iestyn; that man was born c.
1000. But his descendants are found in Senghenydd, so perhaps a son or grandson of Cedrych would fit
the chronology of the tale. It has been shown by others that the 12 knights named as companions of fitz Hamo include
several men not found in Glamorgan until many years later, long after this era.
We suspect the entire tale had
as its purpose the denigration of the reputation of Iestyn ap Gwrgan. There is no historical evidence that Iestyn was
a tyrant hated by his leading men, or that his sons had been allowed to dispossess those men from their paternal homes.
In fact, this bias against Iestyn is of medieval origin; in his own era, he was included with Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, Gruffudd
ap Cynan, Rhys ap Tewdwr and Elystan Glodrydd as "founders of the 5 Royal Families of Wales". The writers of the 15th
and 16th centuries virtually deified Rhodri Mawr and his clan, expanding a pro-Gwynedd bias which had infected earlier writings.
Perhaps Iestyn's "tyranny" was in holding a kingdom in Wales while not being descended from Rhodri.
A more believable account
of the events in Glamorgan, should we not reject the tale entirely, would have Sir Robert fitz Hamon invading Iestyn's
lands in exactly the same manner in which other Marcher Lords were overrunning Welsh territory in that era. While the
king of England gave no financial or military assistance to them, he did give the Marchers warrant to seize whatever
land in Wales they could. Iestyn may well have sought assistance from neighboring tribes to resist the Normans, promising
the usual rewards of land and daughters in marriage. His principal allies in Powys and Fferlys could offer no help;
they themselves were busy fending off Norman incursions into their lands. Perhaps a young Einion ap Cadifor Fawr from Dyfed/Ystrad
Tywy did recruit a group of young landless men for this adventure who, with Iestyn's army, stopped the advance of Fitz Hamon.
But when he sought the hand of Nest ferch Iestyn in marriage, was told that part of the offer was only meant for a young nobleman
of pure Welsh blood...not the offspring of an unfree mistress even if his natural father has been Cadifor Fawr. Enraged,
Einion took his men to the other side of the battle and a renewed attack by Fitz Hamo drove Iestyn from Glamorgan.
But all these speculative scenerios
assume some historical truth is to be found in the tale. The Brut knows nothing of a war between Iestyn and Rhys ap
Tewdwr; one should think that if Rhys coverted Glamorgan, he would have renewed his attack against Fitz Hamon once
Iestyn had fled. The only hostilities known between Deheubarth and Glamorgan occurred in the 1080's and it was the men
of Gwent who invaded Rhys' lands, not vice versa. We suspect that the tale was embellished with the Einion and
Cydrich roles since descendants of those men were found to occupy the most rugged part of Glamorgan, and those two
men (at least as they were identified by tellers of the tale) were not native to that part of Wales.
Virtually all the extant
pedigree material which cites marriages relevant to the players in the tale are of late date; one must decide if they
were composed simply to bolster the tale, or if the tale took form after reading these marriage connections from much
earlier and now lost manuscripts. The Einion in the tale is cited as having married Nest ferch Iestyn, but which came
first - the tale or the citation? If we are permitted to use the genealogical data found in 17th century and later
sources, we could make the case that Einion came from Dyfed, Cydrich from Cantref Bychan and that both their families intermarried
with each other and with the family of Iestyn:
(1) Cydrich ap Gwaethfoed of
Ystrad Tywy is said to have married Nest ferch Tangno, sister of Collwyn. But if we suppose the original source
merely called her a sister of Collwyn, she may well have been a daughter of Gwyn ap Rhydderch and aunt of Cadifor Fawr ap
Collwyn ap Gwyn. Such a lady would be a much more likely spouse for a man from Cantref Bychan than a lady far to the
north in Gwynedd. Collwyn ap Gwyn was born c. 995 and Collwyn ap Tangno c. 1010; conceivably, a sister of either might
fit as a wife to Cydrich born c. 1000.
(2) Gwrgan ap Ithel Ddu, the father
of Iestyn, is said to have married a daughter of "Gwyn ap Collwyn". As shown by Peter Bartrum, later manuscripts
all transpose these names in the Dyfed family from the correct sequence of Collwyn ap Gwyn. A daughter of that
Collwyn (and sister of Cadifor Fawr) would occur c. 1025 and fit well with Gwrgan of c. 1010.
(3) Cadifor (other sources call him Meurig)
ap Cydrich is said to have married Myfanwy ferch Gwrgan, a sister of Iestyn. The son of Cydrich would occur c. 1035
and a daughter of Gwrgan c. 1045.
(4) The Einion who supposedly married
Nest ferch Iestyn may have been born as early as 1060 and Nest c. 1070. If we identify him as a son of
Cadifor Fawr ap Collwyn, it would give us an additional linkage between the Dyfed and Glamorgan families and would not
require a 16th century tale to explain how the family of a Gwynedd man (Einion ap Collwyn ap Tangno) ended up in Glamorgan.
It is thus reasonable
to believe that the descendants of both Einion and Cydrich held lands in Senghenydd, Glamorgan as a result of marriages
into its Royal Family which may have occurred several years before the Fitz Hamo conquest. Cadifor/Meurig ap Cydrich
could have married Myfanwy as early as 1060, while Einion might have married Nest as early as 1085. It isn't necessary
to suppose that these men sided with Fitz Hamo to receive either their lands or their wives. In fact, a reasonable assumption
would be that they joined Iestyn to oppose the invasion as they already numbered among Iestyn's leading men...probably a brother-in-law
and a son-in-law of King Iestyn.
While many Glamorgan families proudly
trace their ancestry to "Einion ap Collwyn", we seriously doubt he either assisted the invasion of Fitz Hamo, was a Gwynedd
man or was the son of anyone named Collwyn. Bartrum's opinion that he was a son of Collwyn ap Tangno has little to recommend
it beyond the Mansel and Stradling versions of the tale, neither of which rises to the level of credible sources. We
think the man in the Glamorgan pedigrees who held land in Senghenydd was a son of Cadifor ap Collwyn of Dyfed and Ystrad Tywy.
 Lucy Smith, editor "The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1536-1539",
Vol 3, pp 38
 Thomas Twyne, translator "The Breuiary of Britayne", 1573, pp 79/80
 ByT 1091 tells of the battle of Rhys ap Tewdwr with sons of Cadifor ap Collwyn,
identifying them only as "Llewelyn and his brothers"
 Pen. 50, 85 but the same page gives pedigrees of the legendary Brutus
and King Arthur which inspire little confidence. Other sources which cite such a son of Collwyn ap Tangno date from
1580-1645. All appear to draw upon the various published versions of the tale from Leland
 Dwnn ii, 63
 "Pedigrees of the Welsh Tribal Patriarchs" from National Library of Wales
Journal, vol xiii, pp 141
 Lewis Glyn Cothi (c. 1447-1486) poem printed in G.J. Williams "Traddodiad
Llenyddol Morgannwg", pp 34
 HLG 9b cites a "Kynon ap Collwyn" which Bartrum thinks is an error for "Einion"
 ByT 1091 cites his obit
 "Iolo Manuscripts" pp 377-380
 "An Account of the cause of the Conquest of Glamorgan by Sir Robert fitz
Haymon and his twelve knights", 1591, contained in Llanover Ms II, p 19
 Edward Stradling wrote a tract "Winning of the Lordship of Glamorgan out
of the Welshmen's hands" about 1565 in which he named the 12 knights of Fitz Hamo, claiming himself to be a direct descendant
of one of them named Sir William le Esterling
 Ralph Griffiths "The Norman Conquest and the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan"
in Glamorgan Historian, Vol 3, pp 153-169, shows the Stradling list to be fiction and based on no more than his knowledge
of old Glamorgan families living in Glamorgan in his own lifetime; his "ancestor" le Esterling did not come to England
earlier than 1270 and no Stradling was found in Glamorgan until the 1290's
 This slander against Iestyn is found in Sir Edward Mansel's manuscript
 Cae Cyriog Ms. pp 141 (mid to late 1600's)
 George Clark's "Limbus Patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae", 1886, pp 77
 ibid, pp 44 and Cae Cyriog Ms. pp 141
 ibid, pp 131