THE ENIGMATIC ELYSTAN GLODRYDD
By Darrell Wolcott
Said to have been "Prince
of Fferlys" in the era of Gruffudd ap Cynan of Gwynedd and Bleddyn ap Cynfyn of Powys, Elystan was included as one of the
five founders of "Royal Tribes of Wales" when that list was compiled in the 12th century. He is wholly absent from
the chronicles and annals of Wales, where not even his obit is recorded. His only mention in John Lloyd's
classic "History of Wales" is a note on page 406 where he says "of whom nothing is recorded on any good authority".
After reading what
various medieval writers say about Elystan, one can certainly agree they were anything but "good authority". His bogus
biography can be summed up as:
King of Gloucester and Hereford, and by conquest King of Fferlix, which is the territory between the Wye and the Severn.
This district Elystan won from Dryffin ap Hwgan, King of Brecknock....He was born in the castle of Hereford, AD 933, and was
named after the Saxon king Athelstan, who was his godfather. He was living in AD 1010 but was killed in a civil broil
at Cefn Digoll in Powys".
It is only in early
pedigree manuscripts where we learn a man named Elystan and called Glodrydd was a son of Cuhelyn ap Ifor ap Seferus ap Cadwr
and descended from Tegonwy ap Teon. His father apparently held the cantref of Buellt; it is only men descended from
Elystan who we find holding the former Fferlys lands later called Radnor (comprising Ceri, Maelienydd and Elfael).
His ancestry is shown in this chart:
765 Iorwerth Hirflawdd
990 Elystan Glodrydd
Since our dating is wholly
inconsistent with an AD933 birth for Elystan, let's first look at some marriage matches cited for the earlier folks in his
820 Rhodri Mawr
850 Anarawd 865
880 Idwal Foel
880 Morgan Hen
895 Mereddon ferch Cadwr(b) 915 Lleuci
900 Seferus ap Cadwr(c)
(a) This marriage is cited by
Mostyn 212b, 58 and Llfyr Baglan, 95
(b) This marriage is found
in Dwnn ii, 100
(c) This marriage is cited
in Dwnn i, 297 & 313; Dwnn ii, 152
The three marriage matches shown in this chart confirm that Cadwr was born c. 865, with a daughter and son born c. 895/900.
In the following generation, we find:
_____________l________ Tudor Trefor 900
940 Sissely(b)===Dyngad 930
(a) Dwnn i, 297 &
313 say Ifor ap Seferus married Isabel ap Tryffin ap Cadell, king of Powys, or Tryffin descended from Cadell. While
this identifies the lady as a part of the First Powys Dynasty, insufficient lineage data is given to date her.
(b) Dwnn ii, 307
cites this marriage, calling the lady "Cecily", the English spelling of her name.
comfort in our dating is provided by the sister of Ifor ap Seferus, we find confirmation with the next generation:
900 Seferus Tudor Trefor 900
930 Ifor Gronwy 935
960 Cuhelyn(a)=====Gwen 970
990 Elystan Glodrydd
Pen. 138, 359; Pen. 128, 69; and Pen. 142, 108 say that Gwen ferch Gronwy ap Tudor Trefor was the mother of Elystan Glodrydd,
thus the apparent consort of Elystan's father, Cuhelyn ap Ifor.
It was this identification
of Elystan's mother as only child and heiress of Gronwy ap Tudor Trefor, which gave rise to the false claims that
Elystan was born in Hereford and became "king" of Hereford and Gloucester. As we showed earlier, the notion that
Tudor Trevor's lands extended south to Hereford and Gloucester came from misidentifying the mother of Tudor Trefor as a lady
from that region. His mother was Rienigar ferch Lluddoca ap Caradog Freich Fras of Rhos, not the 6th century Caradog
Freich Fras of southeast Wales. Not only did Tudor Trefor not own any lands south of the Severn, his son Gronwy predeceased
him and thus never held any of his father's lands. The tale that Tudor's "Hereford lands" went to his granddaughter
was concocted to explain why no such lands were found in possession of his surviving sons. But if Rienigar inherited
any land from her father, it was in Rhos....not near Hereford.
Accordingly, the "biography"
of Elystan Glodrydd falsely places him in Hereford and Gloucester. It is also untrue that was was born during the reign
of Saxon king Athelstan, who died in 942 and could not have been his godfather. This tale owes its origin to the similarity
between the names "Elystan" and "Athelstan"...the men were wholly unconnected. The territory called Fferlys had been
owned by Elystan's paternal ancestors for over 500 years. If it were in the hands of the Brecknock kings at Elystan's
birth, he did no more than recover a part of his patrimony which had been seized earlier by outsiders. But no early sources
confirm this tale.
that Elystan was killed in 1010 in a civil broil is found in a footnote in Dwnn i, 139 written by it's editor, Sir Samuel
Meyrick. He gave no source for the claim, but other late manuscripts say he lived until 1067. We would reject
the 1010 obit outright (although some man named Elystan may have been killed then) since his son and heir, Cadwgan, was not
born until c. 1020. While the 1067 obit sounds reasonable, it is little more than a medieval writer's guess.
What we can say
with some certainty is that we don't know of a single event in the life of Elystan Glodrydd. Evidence that he once
existed is confined to the pedigree manuscripts. Even there, we find evidence of two men called Elystan, each having
a son named Cadwgan. One was born c. 955 in Powys, the other born c. 990 in south Wales...probably in Buellt.
The latter is probably the one who was given the nickname "Glodrydd" or "the illustrous" for unknown reasons.
That two men were conflated
by the genealogists can be seen by the wives assigned to Elystan and his son Cadwgan. Numerous Dwnn citations say Elystan
married Gwenllian ferch Einion ap Owain ap Hywel Dda, while two of those same sources say he also married Gwladys ferch Rhun
ap Ednowain. Gwenllian was born c. 970, while we date Gwladys to c. 1005. Also, two separate coats of arms
are assigned to a father-son pair named Elystan and Cadwgan: Argent 3 boar's heads couped sable, and Gules a lion rampant
reguardent or. The first coat is very similar to the arms of Ednowain Bendew of Tegeingl, which inserts a chevron between
the boar's heads. We suggest the Elystan and Cadwgan who are assigned these arms shared common ancestors with Ednowain
Bendew. The other coat, we think, belongs to the Buellt/Fferlys men who lived a generation later than the Powys men
with the same names.
Cadwgan ap Elystan is
assigned 3 wives: Angharad ferch Llawr born c. 995; Jane ferch Brochwel
ap Aeddan born c. 1035; and Efa ferch Gwrgan, sister of Iestyn, born c. 1035. The first wife is consistent with a c.
985 Cadwgan, son of a c. 955 Elystan. The other wives are consistent with a c. 1020 Cadwgan, son of a c. 990 Elystan.
880 Hywel Dda
970 Gwenllian(a)==Elystan 955 975 Lleuci==Llawr 960
(a) Several Dwnn citations say Elystan
married this Gwenllian. See Note 8
(b) Jesus Coll Ms 20, 30/31 says the mother
of Gronwy ap Cadwgan ap Elystan was Angharad ferch Llawr, and that the mother of Angharad was Lleuci ferch Maredudd ap Owain
ap Hywel Dda. It also makes Elystan a son of Cuhelyn, but that Elystan was born a full generation too late to be the
man in this chart
Maredudd ap Owain (obit 999)
had a younger daughter, Angharad, who was mother to both Gruffudd ap Llewelyn, born c. 1011, and Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, born
c. 1025. We would identify Llawr as the son of Aelan (c. 930) ap Alser (c. 895) ap Tudwal Gloff (c. 865) ap Rhodri Mawr
(c. 820); this Llawr is cited in Pen. 142, 101 and Pen. 177, 135 but neither of those manuscripts mention his wife or daughter.
Rhun 975 Aeddan 975 Ithel Ddu
990 Elystan(a)=====Gwladys 1005
Brochwel 1005 Gwrgan 1005
(a) This marriage is cited
in Dwnn i, 139 and Dwnn ii, 152
(b) This marriage is cited in
Dwnn i, 313 and Dwnn ii, 152. It also occurs
in Dwnn i, 139 where the lady is called "Elen"
(c) This marriage is cited
in Dwnn 1, 271, 313 & 332; and Dwnn ii, 152
Gwladys ferch Rhun ap Ednowain (who
is usually incorrectly called Ednowain Bendew, a man born c. 1020) appears to be a lady of north Powys and probably from the
same ancestry as Ednowain Bendew of Tegeingl. Some modern sources would extend her ancestry to Rhun ap Ednowain ap Gwaithfoed,
and while there is no ancient authority we can find to confirm it, it is chronologically possible this Ednowain was a brother
of Gwerystan ap Gwaithfoed (grandfather of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn) and of Elystan ap Gwaithfoed (ancestor of Eunydd ap Morien).
Indeed, that Elystan may well be the c. 955 Elystan in our Family 1 chart:
915 Gwaithfoed of Powys
950 Gwerystan 955 Elystan
985 Cynfyn Morgeneu 985 985 Cadwgan
1025 Bleddyn Morien 1015
990 Elystan of Fferlys
(a) This pedigree of Eunydd
of Dryffin Clwyd is cited in Pen. 134, 349; Pen. 138, 126 & 169; and Pen. 178(1), 61) The ancesty of Bleddyn ap
Cynfyn is well-known from many sources; the other two families in the chart are the subject of this paper)
(b) This assignment is speculative;
it is equally as likely the ancestor of this Cadwgan ap Elystan was Gwrydr Hir ap Caradog ap Lles Llyddog; Gwrydr Hir
was the father of Gwaithfoed of Tegeingl who was the grandfather of Ednowain Bendew. It was that branch of the Powys
family whose arms featured 3 boar's heads. Gwrydr Hir was born c. 920 and this c. 955 Elystan might have been another
son of his, but no early citations mention an Elystan ap Gwrydr Hir
Returning to the families shown
in our Family 2 chart, we identify Jane ferch Brochwel ap Aeddan as a lady of the First Powys Dynasty, daughter of the
3rd man named Brochwel ap Aeddan:
685 Eliseg (a)
750 Cyngen (b)
785 Aeddan I
820 Brochwel I
850 Selyf I
880 Aeddan II (c)
945 Selyf II
970 Nest (d)
975 Aeddan III (e)
1005 Brochwel III
(a) Son of Gwylog ap Beli,
he is the man for whom Eliseg's Pillar was erected in Ial c. 810/20 by his descendant, Cyngen ap Cadell
(b) Brother of Cadell,
whose son Cyngen erected Eliseg's Pillar. That Cyngen died in 856 without heirs. The kingship of Powys was continued
through his first cousin. Aeddan ap Cyngen ap Brochwel
(c) His younger brother,
Beli ap Selyf, was the first of four families to use the string of male names "Gwyn ap Gruffudd ap Beli ap Selyf ap Brochwel
(d) This lady married
Gwerystan ap Gwaithfoed and was mother to Cynfyn, father of Bleddyn. It was her bloodline as daughter to a Powys king
by which Cynfyn was later named interim king of Powys in 1023 when no male heirs of the Royal Family were yet old enough to
(e) His younger brother,
Beli II ap Selyf II, continued the naming sequence begun 100 years earlier, resulting in the second string of men
named "Gwyn ap Gruffudd ap Beli ap Selyf ap Brochwel ap Aeddan".
The final family shown in our
Family 2 chart was the Royal Family of Glamorgan which descended, through Morgan Hen, from the ancient Caradog ap Bran
ap Llyr Llediath.
880 Morgan Hen
945 Idwallon(a) Gwerystan 950
975 Ithel Ddu Cynfyn 985
1005 Gwrgan(b)===daughter 1020
1035 Efa(c) 1040
(a) His brother, Hywel ap Owain, was
king of north Gwent while another brother, Iestyn ap Owain, ruled southern Gwent. Idwallon ruled the lands west of Gwent later
called Morgannwg or Glamorgan
(b) This marriage is cited in Mostyn
Ms 212b, 117; the lady was a daughter of Cynfyn by his first marriage and only half-sister to Bleddyn ap Cynfyn
(c) She married the c. 1020 Cadwgan
ap Elystan of our Family 2 chart
(d) King of Glamorgan and another
of the 5 Founders of Royal Families of Wales. One of his wives was Denys ferch Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, born c. 1055
While the cited marriages clearly
point to an Elystan born c. 955 and an Elystan born c. 990, Bartrum conflates them in his charts by portraying a single c.
970 Elystan and a single c. 1000 Cadwgan....dates which fall about half-way between the two separate men. He omits the
Elystan marriage to the c. 1005 lady, but shows a single c. 1000 Cadwgan marrying ladies born c. 995 and c. 1035. He
also omits the Sian ferch Elystan born c. 1025 who married Cadifor ap Gwaithfoed. We identify this man, born c.
1010, as a brother of Cydrich and son of Gwaithfoed of Ystrad Tywy.
Since the conflation of
the two families continues with the children assigned to Cadwgan ap Elystan, a follow-up paper titled "Children of Cadwgan
ap Elystan" will attempt to separate them.