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                                       POWYS SUCCESSION AFTER 823
                                               By Darrell Wolcott
 
          In previous articles on this site, it has been argued that Cyngen ap Cadell had no sons to succeed him and that he probably didn't have a sister named Nest either.  And even if he did, the kingship of Powys did not merge into Gwynedd but was continued by the dynastic family...the heirs of Brochwel Ysgithrog.  So who did rule Powys after Cyngen?
 
          Cyngen ap Cadell had come to power at his father's death in 808.  It was probably fairly early in his reign when he commissioned the Pillar of Eliseg and had it erected, according to traditional lore, over the grave of his ancestor, Eliseg ap  Gwylog.[1] But it would seem no sooner than he had created a memorial to honor the man who had "annexed the inheritance of Powys from the power of the English", that old foe was about to reverse his fortunes.  The 823 entry in the Brut y Tywysogyon tersely reports "the Saxons....took the kingdom of Powys for their own."  There is no hint of how this occurred, but one might assume Cyngen had suffered a defeat on the battlefield that was more overwhelming than a normal skirmish, yet the king survived it.
 
        What exactly did it mean that the Saxons took Powys for their own?  Did they station an army in Powys? Send in droves of settlers to occupy the land? Slaughter thousands of its residents and seize their homes and possessions?  We doubt any of those drastic things happened.  The objective of controlling land in that era was not in the physical possession of it, but in receiving the rents, taxes, tolls and other income which people pay to use it.  The outside conqueror would not want to remove the residents nor take over the burden of routine governmental and judicial chores; they would simply want the income these people formerly rendered to their king and his lesser Lords. The fact that Cyngen survived whatever untenable situation he faced suggests a deal was struck with the Saxons. Something along the lines of either agreeing to serve as their puppet underking or stepping down in favor of another man who would. 
 
         Although we cannot know the agreements reached between the Powys family and the Saxons (almost certainly under Coelwulf, king of the Mercians), the transition did not seem to affect everyday life among the people or surely we would find some hint of rebellions, retaliation and suffering in the chronicles.  And whether Cyngen immediately went into exile in Rome or remained in place until old age overtook him, his successor must have also agreed to the puppet role.  No doubt the royal warband was dissolved or disarmed and replaced by a Saxon military contingent to make sure the taxes and rents were collected and turned over to the Saxon king.  We can only speculate on these matters, but there are slivers of data in the chronicles which may provide clues.
 
         For about 20 years after the capitulation of Powys, no military events or even isolated murders of Welshmen are recorded.  The Saxons appear to have controlled north Wales all the way to the River Conwy.[2]  Egbert had succeeded to the kingship in Mercia, forced Wessex and Northumberland to recognize him and by 830, was proclaimed king over the whole realm of Britain.[3] In 844, king Merfyn Frych of Gwynedd died; the battle of Cedyll is recorded the same year but it is unclear if the two events are related.  Other battles now became more frequent; one would see this as evidence the Welsh had began to reassert their independence.  Rhodri Mawr was now directing the resistance in Gwynedd and fighting was noted in South Wales as well.[4]
 
          We shall pause here to introduce a wholly speculative scenerio, but one which may have led to the recovery of Powys' kingdom.  The year is 863; the peace in much of Wales has been broken by renewed war with their neighbors.  Rhodri Mawr is making a name for himself as a power on the battlefield.  He is joined by the local king in Rhos, a man named Caradog and called "Freich Fras".[5]  The puppet king in Powys was the eldest son of Aeddan ap Cyngen ap Brochwel and his name was Cadweithian. Life was good for him as the Saxon regent in Powys; he declined to join the rebellion which was afoot elsewhere in Wales.  But his younger brother, Brochwel ap Aeddan, was ready to throw off the yoke of the Saxons.  Entering into an alliance with Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd and Caradog Freich Fras of Rhos and Tegeingl, they confronted Cadweithien with a choice; exile from Powys or death. He gathered his loyalists and left the country for an unknown destination; the combined forces of the three north Wales warbands were now able to battle the Saxons on even terms for the first time in a generation.  Rule in Powys was restored to the dynastic family in the person of Brochwel ap Aeddan, a man who was revered by his descendants for many generations.  Thus ends our diversion into pure speculation.
 
         The Brut does record for the year 863 "Cadweithian was expelled" but does not say who he was, what part of Wales he lived in, what title he may have held, or why he was expelled. Our portrayal of him was suggested by the following: (1)  The name is phonetically similar to both Gwaeddan and Aeddan and he might well have belonged to the Powys family; (2) the fact that this man was expelled suggests he stood in someone's way, someone not necessarily wanting to kill him; and (3) a brother might react in that manner more readily than other men seeking his removal.  So far as I am aware, no previous attempts have been made either to identify Cadweithian nor to explain why Brochwel ap Aeddan was venerated by his descendants.  Nor even to suggest how and when Powys slipped out from under the rule of the Saxons. 
 
         The "received" view that the Powys dynasty ended during the ninth century rests upon similar speculation and conjecture made by other historians.  Not only is there no credible evidence that Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr inherited Powys, there is evidence that he actually lived on the Lleyn Peninsula in Gwynedd.[6]  The anti-Powys bias was so infused into the early accounts that even after acknowledging it stood as a territory wholly apart from Gwynedd, it's kings were given false pedigrees to show they obtained their position only through maternal descent from Rhodri Mawr.  The first genealogical invention was Llewelyn ap Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr; Triffyn is the only son listed for Merfyn in the first manuscript to cite the prodigy of Rhodri.[7] And if the Brut entry for 904 which reports "the son of Merfyn was slain by his own folks" was speaking of Merfyn ap Rhodri as most suppose, we suggest that son would have been named if Merfyn had more than one. The only use the genealogists had for this Llewelyn was to assign a daughter to him and claim that daughter married Owain ap Hywel Dda and delivered Powys to her son, Maredudd ap Owain.  [See UPDATE #1]
 
         When Llewelyn ap Seisyllt came to power early in the 11th century, all these genealogical fictions now bore fruit: his only claim to the rule of Powys, said the Rhodri Mawr faction, had been obtained by his marriage to the daughter of Maredudd.  We would agree his claim to Deheubarth came from that marriage since Maredudd was not survived by any legitimate sons. And since no paternal pedigree of Llewelyn has yet surfaced, he was further linked to Rhodri Mawr maternally. [See UPDATE #2]  His mother is cited as Prawst ferch Elise ap Anahard.[8]  This appears to be the same Elisedd who was brother to Idwal Foel ap Anarawd; both were reported slain in 942.  This lady seems to occur a full generation or more too early to be the mother of Llewelyn (c. 980-1023) but it is biologically possible if she were newly-born when her father was killed. See Appendix I below. 
 
         When we combine these late genealogical fictions with the sources who report that the family of Brochwel Ysgithrog was not usurped of Powys until 1063, it might be well to consider that Llewelyn ap Seisyllt actually inheirited Powys from his paternal ancestors.  The search for them has long been delayed and thought unnecessary by the claims his rights were obtained maternally.
 
            We shall conclude this segment of our discussion with a chart which suggests the actual dynastic succession following the reign of Cyngen ap Cadell:
 
                                    715  Brochwel ap Eliseg
                             ______________l______________
                            l                                                   l
                 745  Cadell (obit 808)                   750  Cyngen
                            l                                                   l
                 775  Cyngen (obit 856)                 785  Aeddan
                         d.s.p.                         ____________l________
                                                          l                                    l
                                            815  Cadweithian            820  Brochwel
                                                   expelled 863                         l
                           _____________________________________l
                           l                         l                          l
                 850  Selyf[9]     855  Gwaeddan[10]     855  Rhodri
                          +                        +
                   ancestor of            ancestor of
              Sir Gruffudd Fychan     Evan Blayney
 
 
NOTES:
[1] Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1872, pp 289
[2] Brut y Tywysogyon entries for 816 and 823 record Saxon victories in Rhufoniog and at Degannwy on the Conwy in Rhos. These territories would lie in the path of a westward push from Chester toward the heartland of Gwynedd.
[3] British Museum Cotton Ms Clepoatra B v under date 830 as translated by Thomas Jones in "Brenhinedd y Saesson", 1971, Cardiff.
[4] Brut y Tywysogyon entry for 848 records hostile activity between Brycheiniog and Gwent.
[5] This man and his descendants has long been confused with the sixth-century Caradog Freich Fras of Gwent.  Even though separate coats of arms have been assigned to the two men, most people still continue to confound them.  The Life of St. Collen as told in Llanstephan MS 34 clearly says his ancestor was the Caradog Freich Fras who was the son of Llyr Merini, not the one of the same name who suffered a broken arm in battle at Hiraddug in Rhos. The epithet actually means "large arm", not "strong arm", and refers to injuries which caused one arm to be larger than the other.
[6] ABT 7(o) describes Triffyn ap Merfyn as "of the lineage of the men of Rhiw in Lleyn".  Rhiw is a parish encompassing the southern tip of the peninsula.
[7] ibid
[8] ABT 7(f)  We believe a generation is omitted in this pedigree, that Prawst was "ferch Elise ap Idwal Foel ap Anarawd"
[9] ABT 20 calls Selyf "ap Brochwel ap Aeddan ap Elisse ap Gwylawg" while HLG 2(f) calls him "ap Brochfael ap Aeddan ap Kyngen ap Elisse ap Gwylawg".  Using Harleian Ms 3859 to resolve these differences, we believe the "Cincen filli Brochmail filli Elized" who has a son "Aedan" provides us with all the missing generations in the later sources.  This would make Selyf "ap Brochwel ap Aeddan ap Cyngen ap Brochwel ap Eliseg ap Gwylog".
[10] Dwnn i, 299 and Dwnn ii, 23 cite "Gwaeddan ap Brochwel ap Aeddan ap Cyngen ap Eliseg".  Like the preceeding note, we believe Cyngen ap Brochwel ap Eliseg is meant. 
 

APPENDIX 1 - Ancestry of Prawst:
 
                               820  Rhodri Mawr (ob 878)
                                              l
                                  850  Anarawd  (ob 916)
                       ______________l___________
                       l                                        l
           880  Idwal Foel  (ob 942)         885  Elise  (ob 942)
                                                                l
                                                      942  Prawst=====Seisyllt
                                                                          l
                                                               979  Llewelyn
 
         The relationships in this chart are chronologically suspect in several aspects.  First, we have Elise bearing a daughter in his late 50's, who bears a son in her late 30's.  Secondly, we have two brothers killed on the battlefield with the eldest past 60 years of age.
 
         The 942 entry in the Brut actually says "Idwal ap Rhodri and his brother Elisedd were slain by the Saxons"; historians claim that "ap Anarawd ap Rhodri Mawr" was meant.  Other versions of the Brut make Elisedd the son, instead of brother, of Idwal but again render their father as Rhodri.  There is no assurance the men in the Brut entry were descendants of Rhodri Mawr at all, their Rhodri may have been an entirely different person.
 
          We would prefer a lady born c. 960/965 as the mother of Llewelyn ap Seisyllt and suspect this Prawst was conjured up by the medieval genealogists to link him to Rhodri Mawr.  [See UPDATE #3]
 
UPDATES:
 
      Since writing this paper in 2004, subsequent research has added to, or revised, our beliefs about the following matters:
 
#1 - The "Llewelyn ap Merfyn" mentioned here is further treated in our paper "The Men Of Lleyn - How They Got There".  We suggest he was a son-in-law of Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr, who married an heiress daughter after the death of her father and brother.  This Llewelyn ap Pasgen was the ancestor of Marchweithian and of Collwyn ap Tangno.  We do believe this Llewelyn had a daughter who married Owain ap Hywel Dda. The "Men of Lleyn" paper is at the link below: 
 
#2 - We later suggest that Llewelyn ap Seisyllt was the grandson of former Powys king Brochwel II ap Aeddan II, with Seisyllt being a younger brother of King Cadell ap Brochwel II.  Our first assignment of this ancestry to Llewelyn was in our paper "End of the Powys Dynasty", at the link below:
 
#3 - Prawst ferch Elise was, in our paper "Maredudd ap Owain - King of Deheubarth", identified as a daughter of Elise ap Idwal Foel, a lady born c. 960.  We suggest Idwal Foel had both a brother and a son named Elise.  We  further posit that Prawst had a sister who was married to Maredudd ap Owain of Deheubarth.  The "Maredudd ap Owain" paper is at the link below: