THE FIRST WIFE OF BLEDDYN AP CYNFYN
By Darrell Wolcott
Bleddyn was the Powys
man, son of an interim king and half-brother of King Gruffudd ap Llewelyn, who "took the sovereignty of the land of Powys
from the lineage of Brochwel Ysgithrog, which was contrary to right". It was the male descendents of Bleddyn who became the
Second Royal Dynasty of Powys; he himself had descended from the noble, but non-royal, family headed by Cassanauth Wledig
of the 5th century.
Most authorities agree
that Bleddyn had children by 3 different ladies, but identify only two of them. Haer ferch Blaidd Rhudd  is cited
as the mother of Maredudd ap Bleddyn, while a daughter of Brochwel ap Bledrus y Moelwyn  was the mother of Iorwerth
ap Bleddyn. Some medieval writers assumed Maredudd was the eldest son since the Powys kingship was continued through
his descendants for over 150 years.
Among the papers of Welsh
Herald Lewis Dwnn was an old book called Llyfr Achau (literally "genealogy book") of unknown date and authorship. It
was included by the editor of his pedigree collection which was published in two volumes in 1866, and forms the first 64 pages
of volume ii. On page 10 is a section called "Plant Bleddyn" which reads:
Maredudd o Haer ferch Gyllyn 
Cadwgan ) o wraig arall
Rhiryd ) o wraig arall
Iorwerth o'r pedwyrydd wraig
In fact, Maredudd
was the youngest son who did not become king until after all his brothers were dead. The 4 sons shown by "another
wife" were actually by Bleddyn's first wife, and Iorwerth was not by a "third wife" but by a mistress. So who was his
first wife and why has her identity been lost to history?
We can't answer
either question by reference to ancient sources, but our analysis of recorded events and other cited marriages during his
era leads us to believe she was a Deheubarth lady, the unmentioned daughter of Hywel ap Edwin ap Einion. This Hywel
was king of Deheubarth when Gruffudd ap Llewelyn rose to power in 1039 as the king of Powys. Gruffudd invaded Deheubarth
in 1039 and again in 1041, seeking to oust Hywel and take the kingdom once held by both his mother's father and his own
father. While he was not fully successful until he finally killed Hywel in 1044, he did manage to capture Hywel's wife
in the 1041 expedition. Elsewhere, we identified that lady as Ealdgyth, daughter of Earl Leofrig of Mercia. 
Hywel apparently had no
sons; when Gruffudd was killed in 1063, it was the sons of Hywel's brother Owain who became the new kings of Deheubarth. 
Hywel was born c. 1005 and first came to power in 1033 ; he probably married shortly afterward. To assume that
he and Ealdgyth had birthed no children at all for the 7/8 years they were married is to suggest one of them was sterile.
One of the highest priorities of a Welsh king was to marry and father a son to carry on his dynasty. Lifetimes
of 11th century Welsh kings were often short, so they wasted no time getting about the production of heirs. One would
think that if a wife had not produced ANY child within 4/5 years, the king would put her aside and find a lady who could do
so. However, if his wife had proven fruitful by delivering one or more daughters, he might continue trying for
a son a bit longer. We suggest Ealdgyth had given Hywel at least one daughter, who was yet a toddler in 1041 and seldom
out of her mother's sight. In this case, she would have kept the child with her when Gruffudd captured her and took
her home to his manor at Rhuddlan. And if she'd had more than one daughter, the oldest would scarcely be past age 7;
all would have been at their mother's side when she was captured.
We posited elsewhere
that Gruffudd took Ealdgyth, not as a wife or mistress, but as a hostage.  Her father was a powerful man in Mercia,
the English earldom which bordered Powys, and had previously sent his brother to assist Ealdgyth's husband in his 1039
battle with Gruffudd.  By holding Leofrig's daughter (and her babies) as his hostages, housing them in his manor
as honored guests, with all the respect and honor due a lady of her breeding, Gruffudd might expect to greatly reduce the
chances that Mercia would interfere militarily with his plans to rule all Wales, by force when required.
We would further suggest
that when the youngest daughter reached puberty (about 1052/53) and was eligible to take a husband, that Gruffudd sent Ealdgyth
home to her father as he had previously assured Leofrig he would do. It was, we say, during this period when Gruffudd
first met Aelfgar, the eldest son of Leofrig. In 1055, Aelfgar was outlawed when false charges were brought
against him by the Godwin clan. Aelfgar had fled to Ireland, gathered some mercenaries and landed in Wales to seek assistance
from Gruffudd. Had he and Gruffudd been strangers before that landing, we doubt his entourage could have come ashore
without a fight.
We also suggest that the
daughter of Ealdgyth who turned 14 in 1052 was given by Gruffudd to his youngest half-brother, Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, as his wife.
It is also possible that another daughter, perhaps a year or two older, was earlier given as wife to Gruffudd's other half-brother,
Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn. 
Between 1053 and 1060,
we think Bleddyn had 4 sons and a daughter by this half-Welsh, half Saxon lady. The sons were Llywarch, Cadwgan,
Madog and Rhiryd while the daughter was Gwenllian. We believe this wife died before 1064, and Bleddyn then married Haer,
who bore him Maredudd and a daughter, Hunydd. Perhaps between the time he was widowed and when he remarried, Bleddyn
had Iorwerth by a willing mistress. 
It may have been the mixed ancestry
of his first wife which caused early writers to avoid identifying her, or even purge those sources which did. The matriarch
of the Second Powys Dynasty, one might argue, simply had to be of pure Welsh blood; evidence to the contrary would not be
We present this chart showing
our identification of Bleddyn's first wife:
990 Earl Leofrig Edwin 963
1017 Aelfgar 1015 Ealdgyth===Hywel 997
1038 daughter=========Bleddyn 1025
l l l
Rhiryd Cadwgan Llywarch Gwenllian
1054 1055 1058 1057
and Rhiryd were killed in 1088 during a raid into Deheubarth. Llywarch married but no children or obit date are known.
Cadwgan ruled Powys until his death in 1111. Gwenllian married Caradog ap Gruffudd of lower Gwent.
final reason for believing that Bleddyn ap Cynfyn had married a Deheubarth princess is found in his obit. In 1075, he
was murdered by Rhys ap Owain ap Edwin. He did not fall in battle, but according to his obit, his death was accomplished
by guile and treachery. We suggest he laid claim to rule in Deheubarth and arranged a meeting with Rhys ap Owain to
discuss the matter, who agreed to receive him in peace. But without warning, Rhys killed him. While one might
argue that Bleddyn's claim was merely through his mother , his sons invasion of Deheubarth in 1088 seems to have been
to stake a claim via their mother. If our identification is correct, she had been born into the ruling branch of the
family, while Rhys ap Tewdwr (the king in 1088) descended from a cousin branch which had never before held kingship.