THE "SONS" OF OWAIN ap CADWGAN ap BLEDDYN
By Darrell Wolcott
Most readers will know
Owain primarily for his reputed role as abductor of the infamous Nest ferch Rhys ap Tewdwr in 1109, taking her and her young
children from the castle of her husband Gerald of Windsor. Before discussing two sons attributed to Owain, we
should first place his life firmly on the timeline of history.
Owain was the
eldest son of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn; he is first noted in the Brut in 1106. The incident where he supposedly abducted
Nest ferch Rhys is recorded in 1109 when both Owain and Nest would have been about 25 years old. In that era, men did
not marry that young, especially if their father were still alive. His father was killed in 1111. For the
four years following 1109, Owain is depicted as an outlaw leading a small band of friends and kinfolks, raiding and looting
and burning the manors of Normans in Wales. He went into hiding when pursued by armies sent by King Henry, only
to emerge and continue as before. Such a lifestyle is not exactly compatable with a man having a kidnapped woman
and small children in tow, especially one as well-known as Nest. In 1114, he was pardoned by that king and granted
knighthood, but was killed while on a military mission for Henry in 1116. He could not have been much past the age of
30; we would assign his birthdate to c. 1085. There is no record that Owain ever married. But did he have one or more
sons, by Nest or other ladies? The noted Welsh genealogist Peter Bartrum makes Owain the father of Llewelyn and Einion,
both by very thin authority.
LLEWELYN AP OWAIN:
Unmentioned by any historians,
this man occurs brieflly in the Welsh annals and chronicles under the year 1128 and possibly in 1129. His identification
as a son of Owain ap Cadwgan ap Bleddyn of Powys and Ceredigion is problematical and almost certainly incorrect.
The earliest manuscript
to mention him is the Rolls version of Annales Cambriae , a Latin document thought to have been written about 1286.
Here, we find this entry:
"1128 - Lewelin filius Owini
captus est a Maredut, traditusque Johannis filio scilicet Pain"
This is usually
translated "Llewelyn ap Owain was seized by Maredudd, who handed him over to Payne fitz John". The latter was the
Norman sheriff of Shropshire and Herefordshire. Without placing the report into any surrounding context,
neither man can be identified with any degree of confidence.
A bit later,
about 1288, another version of Annales Cambriae contains a parallel entry:
"1128 - Lewelin
filius Owein ab avunculo suo Mareduc capitur"
read this to say "Llewelyn ap Owain was seized by Maredudd, his mother's brother". We do not know if the author of this
manuscript had access to sources beyond those available to the scribe who penned the earlier version, or if he simply assumed
the cited Maredudd was a man he knew who had a sister married to a man named Owain.
appears in the Peniarth Ms 20 version of the Brut y Tywysogyon, written in Welsh in the 14th century, as:
"1125 rect 1128
- And Llewelyn ab Owain was seized by Maredudd his uncle, his father's brother, and placed in the hands of Payn fitz John;
and the latter sent him to the castle of Bridgenorth to be interned".
We don't have
a copy of the Welsh text, but editor Thomas Jones gave the above translation when he published the Brut in 1952. Note that
while Maredudd is again identified as the uncle of Llewelyn, here he becomes the brother of Llewelyn's father, not his mother.
The last phrase concerning what Payne did with the prisoner is absent from all earlier reports.
14th century version of the Brut, the so-called Red Book of Hergest version, cites:
1128 - Ac yna y delit Llywelyn ap Ywein y gan Varedud ap Bledyn, y ewythyr, vrawt y hendat. A hwnnw a'c rodes yn llaw
Baen ap Jeuan, y gwr a'e hanuones ygharchar hyt yghastell Brwch".
1955 work, editor Thomas Jones translates this as "And then Llywelyn ab Owain was seized by Maredudd ap Bleddyn, his uncle,
brother to his grandfather. And he placed him in the hands of Payn fitz John, the man who sent him to prison in the
castle of Bridgenorth".
here another evolution of the identification of Maredudd. He now becomes the great uncle of Llewelyn, the brother of
his grandfather. By identifying Maredudd as the man who was king of Powys, the author of this chronicle apparently knew
that Maredudd ap Bleddyn did not have a brother named Owain but did have a brother who named a son Owain. While not
mentioned in the report, it is from this report that Bartrum and others claim the man seized was Llewelyn ap Owain ap Cadwgan
ap Bleddyn; no other sons of Bleddyn named a son Owain. Thus, we have a "correction" to the earlier scribe who had changed
Maredudd from a maternal to a paternal uncle. Now Maredudd is two generations older than Llewelyn. Clearly, the
revisions here were for the sole purpose to make the citation "fit" a particular family.
version of the chronicles called Brehinedd y Saesson, a Welsh manuscript of c. 1461, says:
1128 - Ac y delhis Llywelyn ap Owein Moredud a'y rodi yn llaw Payn vab Jhon y gadw yn gastell Brugge"
Thomas Jones, in 1971, translates this as: "And Llywelyn ap Owain seized Maredudd and placed him in the hands of Payn fitz
John to be kept in the castle at Bridgenorth".
we have reverted back to the terse report from the earliest sources; this version knows nothing of the identity of Maredudd
nor any relationship with Llewelyn, but reverses the roles of the men.
first sceptical of the identification of this Llewelyn as a son of Owain ap Cadwgan for several reasons. If he were
also a son of Nest ferch Rhys as Bartrum claims, he could not reasonably be older than 18 in the year 1128. And if Nest
were his mother, how did such a child of hers escape the attention of historians? Even if Owain ap Cadwgan had fathered
this Llewelyn by an unknown consort, it seems unlikely he ever knew Owain; such a child would surely have been raised by his
mother during Owain's outlaw years, and still a child when Owain was killed in 1116. He could not have been old enough
in 1128 to make a claim for part of Owain's lordships, so why should Powys king Maredudd ap Bleddyn seize and imprison him?
It is when we read the
accounts found in the annals and chronicles for the 3 to 4 year period immediately following 1028 that a different identify
for Llewelyn seems indicated. From 1029 to 1032, we are told of an internecine war between the grandsons of Trahaearn
ap Caradog, probably over lands in Arwystli. This former interim king of Powys and Gwynedd was killed in 1081, leaving
4 sons. It appears Owain ap Trahaearn was the eldest and received the lordship of Arwystli. Llywarch ap Trahaearn
became lord of Cydewain, but it isn't known what shares the younger brothers, Meurig and Gruffudd, received. But their
obits are recorded in 1106, slain by Owain ap Cadwgan for unknown reasons.
No obit is recorded for
Owain ap Trahaearn, but he was born c. 1065 and would have been past age 60 in 1128. Llywarch ap Trahaearn was a bit
younger and known to have been a loyal ally of King Henry I. We suggest the survivor of these brothers died
in 1128 and the next generation of first-cousins began to battle each other for the family lands. It isn't known whether
the sons of Owain invaded Llywarch's lands or if the sons of Llywarch sought to take Owain's lands.
As we read the events cited for
the years 1128 to 1132, you will notice how the names coincide with the family of Trahaearn ap Caradog:
1035 Trahaearn, ob 1081
Gruffudd 1065 Owain 1070
Llewelyn Ieuaf Iorwerth
Maredudd Madog Iorwerth
The earliest of the 1128 reports names a
Llewelyn ap Owain and a Maredudd, one of which seized the other. In 1129, we find:
Maredudd ap Llywarch killed the son of Meurig, his first cousin, and blinded the sons of Gruffudd, his other two first
2. Ieuaf ap Owain slew Maredudd
The bloodshed continued in 1130
1. Llewelyn ap Owain killed
Iorwerth ap Llywarch
2. Llewelyn ap Owain was blinded
by Maredudd ap Bleddyn
3. Ieuaf ap Owain was killed
by his first cousins, the sons of Llywarch
4. Madog ap Llywarch was
killed by Meurig, his first cousin
The two final reports are:
1131 - Meurig was blinded
1132 - Iorwerth ap Owain was slain.
Of the 10 grandsons of Trahaearn
ap Caradog depicted in our chart, every one had either been killed or blinded by 1132. Although still a child in 1132,
Hywel ap Ieuaf ap Owain emerged as Lord of Arwystli by 1162. And Robert ap Llywarch, a man not mentioned in the family
wars (perhaps because he was yet in his early teens), appears to have become Lord of Cydewain. Why modern historians
think a son of Owain ap Cadwgan became embroiled in the wars between the grandsons of Trahaearn ap Caradog is something I
shall leave for them to explain. Only by serial "emendations" to the record over the passing of time do we arrive
at wording which says that the 1128 Llewelyn ap Owain was a great-nephew of Maredudd ap Bleddyn.
Should we instead identify him
as Llewelyn ap Owain ap Trahaearn, the 1128 Maredudd who seized him could have been a brother of his mother since there is
no record of who that Owain married. But we find it much more likely the men were first-cousins and it signaled
the opening blow in the coming family war. Thus, we would identify Maredudd as a son of Llywarch ap Trahaearn.
EINION AP OWAIN:
This brings us to Einion, the other claimed son of Owain ap Cadwgan. He is unknown to the Brut chroniclers and the early
genealogists, first appearing in pedigrees written near the year 1600. A single family line is mentioned whose residences
and marriage connections place it in Brecknock/Glamorgan....far from either Powys or Ceredigion where Owain ap Cadwgan and
his father held lands. And in only two of these late pedigrees are there sufficient generations listed to make
them chronologically stable. One of those calls the son of Owain ap Cadwgan "Einion" while the other calls him
Llyfr Baglan, 127 Harleian
Ms 5835, 21/22
Gronwy Fychan Gronwy
text is not clear as to whether these are two separate generations or are cited as a single man. It first says one son
of Einion was "Gronowe" then digresses with other data. Later, it continues "Gwrgey aforesaid was father to Gwrgenay
Fychan" but there was no previously-mentioned "Gwrgey", only "Gronowe"
to LB 127, Llywarch and Gronwy were brothers, with Llywarch not the father of any later-cited men. Four other citations,
all of which contain too few generations, make Rhun a son of Gronwy ap Llywarch...but none of those mention a son of Owain
ap Cadwgan named either Einion or Ieuan. Three of them say "Rhun ap Gronwy ap Llywarch ap Gwrgan ap Gwrgeneu Fychan
ap Owain ap Cadwgan", a construction which is 2 generations deficient.