ap RHODRI, FATHER OF OWAIN "LAWGOCH"
By Darrell Wolcott
We shall leave to
others the question of whether or not Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri was ever, in his lifetime, actually called "Lawgoch".
Instead we wish to inquire into the ancestry assigned to Thomas by modern historians. The entries in Dictionary
of Welsh Biography  claim he was a lineal descendant of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr of Gwynedd. Those notices
date Thomas as born c. 1295 and died in 1363, while Owain is dated as born c. 1330 and died in 1378. If that identification
were correct, the family chart would look like this:
1169 Llewelyn Fawr, obit 1240
1194 Gruffudd, obit 1244
1235 Rhodri*, query as to obit
1295 Thomas, obit 1363
1330 Owain, obit 1378
of 4 brothers, including Owain, Llewelyn and Dafydd. The latter two men styled themselves Prince of Wales; Llewelyn
was killed in 1282 while Dafydd was executed in 1283, both casualties of Edward I's conquest of Wales. The query as
to his obit will be addressed presently
is immediately apparent this chart is suspect...we should expect one additional generation to span the 161 years from Llewelyn
Fawr to Owain ap Thomas. We know that Rhodri ap Gruffudd was born no later than 1237/38, and perhaps 5 years earlier,
because his mother, in 1241, offered him as a child as hostage to Henry III who held her husband and oldest son in the
Tower of London. Thus, we are asked to believe Rhodri was 60-plus years old when he had a son. Our inquiry
will examine various original sources to determine if this is a reasonable assumption. And it should be borne in mind
that none of the extant source documents ever mention the name which follows Gruffudd when speaking of Thomas ap Rhodri ap
Gruffudd. Perhaps he was Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr, but perhaps not.
The first appearance of
Rhodri ap Gruffudd in the sources (after the 1241 mention when he was a toddler) occurs in 1272 when he quit-claimed all his
paternal interest in lands in Gwynedd (and all Wales) to his brother Llewelyn for 1000 marks. He took no part in the
subsequent wars with Edward I and moved to Cheshire. Then in 1278, he filed a petition seeking his rightful share of
Gwynedd on the grounds that he had never been paid the promised 1000 marks. In a hearing at the king's court at Rhuddlan
attended by his brothers, Llewelyn and Dafydd, and by King Edward I, Rhodri admitted that 50 marks had been paid to him but
nothing more. Both his brothers acknowledged the unpaid debt and Dafydd offered his English lands as security
for payment of the 950 marks due. The king then agreed that Rhodri had no claim to any land except as collateral for
It isn't known exactly
when, but after 1272, Rhodri married Beatrice, daughter of John de Malpas of Cheshire. This lady was born c.
1245 and had a daughter, Isabella, from a previous marriage. Beatrice owned several manors and other tracts of
land in Cheshire, and there is nothing to indicate that she and Rhodri acquired other lands during their marriage nor had
any children. At Beatrice's death in 1290, Isabella was 30 years old and married to Richard de Sutton.
Subsequent records indicate that Beatrice's lands had been bequeathed to Isabella since they were either held by, or had been
sold off by, various de Sutton descendants. Where Rhodri lived after her death is not known, but he likely was allowed
to remain as a tenent in one of his widow's manors. In 1294, he petitioned the crown for financial aid and was granted
an annuity of 40 pounds annually.
At some date after
1282 but prior to 1307, Rhodri's brother Owain died without children. Owain had held the Welsh cantref of Llyn
as his share of his paternal inheritance, so Rhodri filed a petition claiming he was the brother of Owain and only near
kin still living and thus entitled to inherit his lands. Although his claim appears undeniably valid, he died before
a judgement was rendered.
With that, no more
is known about the Rhodri ap Gruffudd who can be positively identified as the brother of Dafydd, Owain and Llewelyn ap Gruffudd
and grandson of Llewelyn Fawr. It is not known if he ever received the 950 marks owed him, but he seems to have
died as a man in his 60's owning no lands and existing on a stipend from the king.
The records trail
now picks up with a "Rotheric, son of Griffin and Katherine his wife" who purchased several tracts of land in Cheshire between
1299 and 1305. This was probably the "Roderic fitz Griffin, lord of the manor of Tatesfield" who in 1309/10
presented to the rectory in Surrey, the shire in which Tatsfield is located. Modern historians assume this was
the same Rhodri ap Gruffudd found in the 1241 to 1292 documents, the brother of Llewelyn the Last...and a man, if still alive
in 1310, well past his 70th birthday. The Rhodri who was married to Katherine and held Tatsfield died in 1315/16,
leaving a son, Thomas. Was this the same Rhodri ap Gruffudd profiled in the opening paragraphs above?
extant document yet unearthed which seems to answer that question says no. In 1330 following several unsuccessful petitions,
a "Sir Thomas Rotheryk" filed a claim for the cantref of Llyn, asserting that he was the "nearest heir" to Owain ap Gruffudd
who had held Llyn but died childless. In response to his claim, representatives of the crown found that:
"after his [Owain's]
death, Edward I took the cantref into his own hand because it was held from him in chief. Roderick, brother and heir
of Owain, sought by petitions to have seisin of the same but before it was adjudged to him, he died, wherefore
the cantref was in the hand of Edward, grandfather of the king, and afterwards of Edward his father and is now in the hands
of the present king [Edward III]"
Neither the date
of Owain's death, nor of Rhodri's petition are recorded. But the 1330 document states that Rhodri outlived Owain and
that Edward I was still living when Rhodri died. Accordingly, Rhodri died sometime before 1307, the date of Edward I's
death. He could not, then, have been the Tatsfield "Roderic fitz Griffin" in 1309/1310 nor the "Rotheric son of Griffin" who married Katherine and died in 1315/16. Our original suspicion about the
60 year generation gap in the traditional pedigree appears well-founded: there were 2 separate men called "Rhodri son
of Gruffudd" found in official records between 1241 and 1316.
We admit it tempting
to assume the 1330 "Sir Thomas Rotheryk" must have been the son of the same Rhodri ap Gruffudd who was the brother of Owain,
but the extant copy of his writ does not say that. In fact the document is damaged and in some spots illegible; whatever
relationship which Thomas claimed existed between himself and Owain is missing. To assert that Thomas was the nephew
of Owain is mere conjecture, based upon the historian's question "Why else would this Thomas claim Llyn if he were not
Owain's nephew?" Perhaps because he was financially pressed, knew that he descended from a branch of the 12th century
Gwynedd Royal Family, and further knew that no men descended from Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr were still alive and free to press
a claim. In such a case, he would have been some degree of cousin to Owain and entitled to lodge a claim as "nearest
heir". We would pose this additional question: "If Thomas the petitioner WAS the nephew of Owain, why had all his claims
for Llyn been rejected?" This was not a case where men's memories had been dimmed by the passage of time. Owain (and
his brother Rhodri) had died little more than a generation ago. And the fate of all the men directly descended
from Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr was well-known.
Many extant records cite
a Sir Thomas Roderic of Tatsfield, indicating that he was the son of the 1309/10 "Roderic fitz Griffin, lord of
the manor of Tatesfield" and not the man of that name who died prior to 1307. This Thomas of Tatsfield occurs in
various records dated from 1320 to 1358, with several of those citing him jointly with wife Cicely dating from 1333 forward.
He had received his father's estates in 1315/16 in the ordinary course (without any trustee or wardship) so we assume he was
21 or over by that date. His mother, Katherine, put her dower rights to certain lands in Newton, Cheshire on record
A case could be argued
that Thomas was a prodigal young knight raised by fairly wealthy parents; they left him the manor at Tatsfield, another
in Cheshire and probably one at Dinas in Mechain. We know that in 1333, he held Dinas in-chief and solely in his
own name but had it regranted that year jointly to himself and his wife Cecily. One might guess that was the year
they married. He also owned small tenements in Mechain which were leased out. The fact that John de
Cherleton entered and took possession of those lands in 1338 may indicate Thomas either bought them from de Cherleton and
failed to pay in full, or had pledged them as collateral for a loan which was not repaid. Several London merchants
loaned money to Thomas and recorded their claims and he sold off the Tatsfield lands piecemeal. In 1341, he
gave (sold?) John de Cherleton a future interest in Dinas, reserving only a fee-tail estate in that manor for himself
and his heirs. The Cheshire lands which his parents had assembled into the Maesfen manor were, during the lifetime
of Thomas, reduced to a single residence called Althurst. All these transactions might allow one to believe Thomas was
living above his means and squandering his father's wealth.
Owain ap Thomas was probably
born at Tatsfield about 1330/35; he left England to reside at the court of King Philip VI of France as a young teen,
sometime prior to Philip's death in 1350. When his father died in 1363, an inquest was held to determine who was
entitled to receive his manor at Dinas in Mechain. After interviewing local officials and the tenants who occupied Dinas,
it was held that Thomas had died without heirs. Since his interest in Dinas had been reduced to that of a fee-tail
estate in 1341, it was adjudged to remainderman John de Cherleton Jr. While this decision was overturned in 1365
when Owain returned from France to claim his father's estate, it does show that he was wholly unknown in Powys. This
should not be a surprise, his father and grandfather had long resided in England and considered themselves more English than
We shall leave Owain's
story for another paper, but when England and France went to war in 1369 he fought on the side of France. In 1370, England
adjudged him a traitor and confiscated his lands. Much of what we know about his father's estates comes from the records
of how those lands were subsequently regranted by the crown.
If our suggestion is correct
that Thomas ap Rhodri was only a distant relative of Rhodri and Owain ap Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr, what might this relationship
have been? When we consider that (a) both Thomas and his son, Owain, believed themselves descended from the Gwynedd
royal family and that (b) we find many cases where the noble families of Wales repeated name sequences which had been used
by earlier cousin branches, we suggest the following is the correct chart:
1100 Owain Gwynedd
1169 Llewelyn Fawr
Gruffudd 1225 Owain(1) 1235 Rhodri(2)
ob < 1307
1295 Sir Thomas(3) ob 1363
brother of Llewelyn the Last, Dafydd and Rhodri and the holder of the cantref of Llyn when he died childless
brother of Owain who claimed Llyn but died before his petition was adjudicated
of Owain ap Thomas and unsuccessful claimant of Llyn in 1330
his charts of this family, Peter Bartrum attaches Thomas to Rhodri ap Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr, thus following the single
pedigree source to mention him. To obscure the fact that Thomas was born two generations after that Rhodri, he has assigned
Thomas's birth as "generation 8" (defined by him as c. 1270) even though he admits the man was born c. 1295. He
places Owain ap Thomas in "generation 9" (defined by him as c. 1300) but dates his obit correctly as 1378.
Even Bartrum could not have believed Owain was about 78 years old when John Lamb assassinated him. Was he asked
to gloss over this chronological gap because it would expose a flaw in the genealogy of Thomas and Owain which is
being asserted by Welsh academia? Or was Bartrum merely careless in dating his chart? Clearly Rhodri
ap Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr belongs in Bartrum's Generation 7 (c. 1230, and correctly assigned) while Thomas and
Owain belong in his Generations 9 and 10, respectively.