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Parents and Children of the Lord Rhys
                           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 [1] is cited as the mother of Maredudd ap Bleddyn, while a daughter of Brochwel ap Bledrus y Moelwyn [2] 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 [3]
 
                 Llywarch )
                 Cadwgan )  o wraig arall
 
                 Madog )
                 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. [4]
 
          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. [5]  Hywel was born c. 1005 and first came to power in 1033 [6]; 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. [7] 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. [8]  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. [9]
 
          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. [10]
 
         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 welcomed.
 
         We present this chart showing our identification of Bleddyn's first wife:
 
                                                      Einion  940
                                                          l
                 990 Earl Leofrig              Edwin  970
                 ________l_____                 l
                 l                       l                 l
    1017  Aelfgar   1020  Ealdgyth===Hywel  1005     Cynfyn  985
                                                  l                                  l
                                     1038  daughter=========Bleddyn 1025
                  _________________________l_________
                 l              l            l                 l                l               
            Madog      Rhiryd   Cadwgan   Llywarch  Gwenllian     
             1053       1054       1055         1058        1057       
 
            Madog 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.
 
             One 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 [11], 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.[12]
 

NOTES:
[1] ABT 1(d)
[2] ABT 8(c)
[3] ABT 8(b) calls Haer "ferch Gillyn ap Y Blaidd Rrudd".  Peter Bartrum would delete the "ap" to accord with those citations which make her the daughter of Blaidd Rhudd. We think Blaidd Rhudd had a son named Cyllin, a brother of this Haer.
[4] See the paper "The 1039 Battle at Rhyd y Groes" at the link below:
[5] These nephews of Hywel were Maredudd ap Owain (1063-1072) and Rhys ap Owain (1072-1078)
[6] Rhydderch ap Iestyn of Dyfed ruled Deheubarth from 1023 to 1033, when he was reported slain by the Irish.  He was probably a first-cousin by marriage of Edwin ap Owain ap Hywel Dda, who was named king in 1023 because Hywel ap Edwin was yet a teenager,  By 1033, Hywel was "of full age" for kingship.
[7] See the paper "The Consorts and Children of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn" at the link below:
[8] op cit Note 4 for the story of Eadwine, brother of Earl Leofrig, coming to Deheubarth to aid Hywel ap Edwin and being killed by Gruffudd ap Llewelyn
[9] While two daughters are cited for Rhiwallon, older brother of Bleddyn, no wife is ever named for him.  We think it possible the two sons of Cynfyn married two sisters who had grown up as hostages at the Powys royal manor
[10) This lady from Twrcelyn in Anglesey was a daughter of Brochwel ap Bledrus y Moelwyn ap Aelan, a Gwynedd nobleman.  Angharad ferch Brochwel ap Bledrus y Moelwyn is elsewhere cited as the mother of Sandde Hardd.  It is quite possible this is the same lady who was mother to Iorwerth ap Bleddyn, and that she was not married to the father of either child.  We see some evidence to indicate a few well-born Welsh ladies never married, but instead bore children for various men of Lord rank or above.  Thus, Iorwerth ap Bleddyn was either a half-brother of Sandde Hardd or they were first-cousins...sons of sisters.
[11] Bleddyn's mother was Angharad ferch Maredudd ap Owain ap Hywel Dda; Maredudd was king of Deheubarth until his death in 999
[12] Rhys ap Tewdwr was the grandson of Cadell ap Einion ap Owain ap Hywel Dda; whether by early death or other disqualification, neither Cadell nor Tewdwr ever held kingship.  Deheubarth kings were of the line of Cadell's brother, Edwin.