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Ancestors and Children of the Lord Rhys

                                        ANCIENT LORDSHIP OF GOWER
                                                By Darrell Wolcott
         The territory comprising early Gower was the western-most part of Morgannwg, being the lands roughly situated between the rivers Tywi and Tawe.  In the era of Hywel Dda, it comprised the commotes Iscennen, Cydweli, Carnwyllion and Ynys Tawe...the latter also called "Lower Gower", the peninsula jutting south into the Bristol Channel.  It is the same territory some medieval writers wrongly called Rheged, and it was taken from Morgannwg by Hywel Dda, who included it as a part of Deheubarth. 
         That "Rheged" notion comes from an early claim by the Rice family of Newton that their paternal ancestor was Urien Rheged ap Cynfarth Oer, a king of north Britain in the 6th century.  That family asserts their 13th century ancestor, Elidyr II ap Elidyr, styled himself "fitz-Urien" whom they took to mean Urien Rheged.  Various medieval writers expanded the claim to say that Urien had been forced from his northern kingdom by Saxon incursions, relocated to south Wales where he expelled the Irish from Gower and renamed it after his old kingdom[1].
         As we argued in another paper[2], the ancestor of the Rice family was actually a 9th century man from Rhos named Pasgen ap Urien who was wholly unrelated to the 6th century Urien Rheged.  That Pasgen was granted the lordship of Gower and "was lord of Cydweli, Carnwyllion, Iscennen and all Gower, and he made all the castles within its boundries"[3].  So why was this refugee from Gwynedd not only welcomed in south Wales, but eventually granted a Lordship?
         Return with us to the early years of the 9th century; Merfyn Frych entered Anglesey in 816 to expel Hywel ap Caradog, claiming it as the maternal grandson of Cynan Dindaethwy, the last male heir of the First Gwynedd Dynasty.  One assumes Hywel retreated to his paternal lands of Rhos, but probably refused to recognize Merfyn's right to rule any of Gwynedd.  Hywel himself was descended from a junior branch of the Cunedda Dynasty[4] and was a distant cousin of Cynan Dindaethwy, while Merfyn Frych was only related through his mother.  We are told that Hywel died in 825, but he was only a man near 40 so Merfyn may have had a hand in his demise.  In any event, Hywel's sons were only 5/10 years old in 825, so we suspect Merfyn Frych extended his rule to their appanage of Gwynedd east of the river Conwy.
          History is silent about events of the next 20 years, but we would posit that the two sons of Hywel (Caradog and Urien) were raised at Merfyn's manor; when the eldest reached full age, he was granted the lordship of Rhos and history knows him as Caradog Fraich Fras[5].  Since Merfyn died, or was killed in battle, in 844 it was probably Rhodri Mawr ap Merfyn who allowed Caradog to rule most of his father's lands.  We further would conjecture that the younger boy, Urien ap Hywel, was given a sister of Rhodri for his wife.   The putative son of such a marriage was Pasgen ap Urien, who was residing in Rhos late in the 9th century when the Danes invaded it[6].  The Lord of Rhos was his first-cousin, Gwgan Gleddyfrydd ap Caradog Fraich Fras who fell battling the Danes.  Thus, about 892/893, Pasgen took his two young sons (Ynyr and Gwgan) and fled; his eldest son, Llewelyn, was already 14 years old and no longer at his father's bed and board.  That Pasgen fled to the south of Wales seems certain, but who welcomed him there and why?
          If our suggestion concerning the wife of Urien is correct, then Pasgen would have been a first-cousin of the sons of Rhodri Mawr.  While Anarawd and Merfyn ap Rhodri held lands in northwest Wales and were themselves under attack by Danish sea raiders, Cadell ap Rhodri had moved to Ceredigion to look after his mother following the death of Rhodri Mawr.  We suggest it was his cousin Cadell who gave shelter to Pasgen and his young sons. Cadell had married a sister of Llywarch ap Hyfaidd, King of Dyfed, and had a son named Hywel who was near the age of Pasgen's sons.  Within the space of a half-generation, Llywarch and his brother were both dead; about 905, Hywel ap Cadell married the heiress of Dyfed, Elen ferch Lywarch[7]. 
          This chart shows the conjectural relationship of Pasgen with the family of Rhodri Mawr:
                  790  Merfyn Frych                   780  Hywel of Rhos
               __________l_______                ________l_______
               l                              l                l                          l
820  Rhodri Mawr       835  daughter===Urien 820        Caradog 815
               l                                       l                         Freich Fras
    851  Cadell                      850  Pasgen
         Although the ruling family of Dyfed became extinct in 904, there were junior cadets of the old Deisi Dynasty still holding appanages of that kingdom.  Seisyll ap Cynfyn was lord of Gower with his manor in Cydweli; he had descended from Teudos ap Cadwgan ap Caten of the early 8th century.  When Hywel ap Cadell (later known as Hywel Dda) began to assemble his new kingdom of Deheubarth about 910, we think he installed Pasgen (and his now adult sons) in Gower to bring it within the "family" and loyal to Hywel's rule.  It is possible, however, this move occurred as early as 904 at the instigation of Cadell if we assume Cadell ruled Dyfed from 904 until his death in 910.
          Pasgen ap Urien likely died shortly after 910 and his son Ynyr become Lord of Gower[8].  His descendants included Einion ap Llywarch of Iscennin[9], the later Gruffudd ap Nicholas of Dinefwr and the illustrious Sir Rhys ap Thomas.

[1] Iolo Ms, 457/458
[2] Refer to the paper "Pasgen ap 'Urien Rheged' Lord of Gower" at the link below:
[3] Pen. 131, 295
[4] Harleian Ms 3859, 3
[5] This is the Caradog Freich Fras of Rhos, born c. 820, not the Caradog Freich Fras of Gwent born c. 475; see the paper "Ynyr Gwent and Caradog Freich Fras" at the link below:
[6] Refer to "The Retaking of Northeast Wales" at the link below:
[7] The manner in which Cadell ap Rhodri Mawr and his son, Hywel Dda, usurped the kingdom of Dyfed, which included Ystrad Tywy, is related in the paper "The Legendary Kingdom of Seisyllwg" at the link below:
[8] The authorities are divided as to whether Ynyr was the son of Pasgen and father of Mor, or if those names should be reversed yielding Ynyr ap Mor ap Pasgen
[9] For a fuller discussion of Pasgen's descendants in Deheubarth, see the paper "Einion ap Llywarch of Carmarthenshire" at the link below: