OSBWRN WYDDEL OF CORS GEDOL
By Darrell Wolcott
While called "the Irishman",
Osbwrn is said to have descended from the Norman man Gerald of Windsor and his wife, the infamous Nest ferch Rhys ap Tewdwr.
This ancestry was suggested by Sir William Betham, Ulster-King-At-Arms and perhaps the foremost authority on the Geraldine
family. Sir Betham believed that Osbwrn was a son of John fitz Thomas fitz Gerald. It is less clear, however,
whether he meant the grandfather of John was named Gerald or simply that John fitz Thomas bore the surname "FitzGerald".
The traditional pedigrees of
Osbwrn  make him 4th after Gerald of Windsor, a construction which is immediately suspect. Gerald was clearly born
c. 1070/75 while the known descendants of Osbwrn point to about 1235 for his birthdate. One should expect 4 intervening
generations, with Osbwrn 5th after Gerald. The citations all agree he descended from Maurice, son of Gerald. That
son was yet a child in 1109 when Owain ap Cadwgan ap Bleddyn took him, his siblings and his mother hostage in a raid on Gerald's
castle. Probably born between 1100 and 1105, Maurice is later identified as the man who accompanied Richard Strongbow
to Ireland in 1169/70 as a "key supporter" of that invasion.
This Maurice is assigned two
sons, Gerald fitz Maurice and Thomas fitz Maurice who died about 1205 and 1215, respectively. It is the younger
son, Thomas, who supposedly was the father of the John fitz Thomas identified as Osbwrn's father. That John came "of
full age in 1229" and was made Baron of Desmond in 1259. Both he and his eldest son, Maurice, were slain in battle in
Ireland in 1260. This yields the following chart:
1070/75 Gerald of Windsor
1100/05 Maurice 
? Thomas, died c. 1215
1208 John, died 1260
which spans 100 years with only 2 generations is less than credible. We suspect the individual citations on which this
construction was based contained the same problem we mentioned with Sir Betham's pedigree: a man was called Maurice
fitz Gerald, but his father's name was NOT Gerald...his surname was FitzGerald. We would recast the pedigree as:
1070 Gerald of Windsor
1100 Maurice (a)
1140 Maurice (b) 1130
Gerald (c) 1135 Thomas (d)
1170 Thomas 1165
1208 John (f)
(a) Was already
married in 1130 when he and wife Edgidia made a gift to Norwich Cathedral
(b) The Maurice
FitzGerald who was among the fighting men of Richard Strongbow for his 1169/70 Irish invasion
(c) The eldest
son of Maurice, son of Gerald of Windsor, who also went to Ireland in 1169 and became its Lord Justiciary and 1st Baron of
Offaly, dying in 1205
(d) The middle
of 3 brothers, who died c. 1215 in Ireland
son of the eldest son who inherited his fathers titles and was ancestor of the Dukes of Leinster in Ireland
representative of a junior branch of the family, made Baron of Desmond in 1259 and slain in battle in 1260 with his eldest
son, Maurice. His younger son, Osbwrn, moved to Wales.
Whatever his true
ancestry, Osbwrn was born and raised in Ireland and spoke the Goidelic version of the Celt language and was thus called "Wyddel"
or "Irishman". His coming into Wales is noted by several conflicting medieval writers. Gutyn Owen of the late
15th century claims that Osbwrn came to Gwynedd with Gruffudd ap Ednyfed Fychan. His story holds that this Gruffudd
was involved in some scandal regarding the wife of King Llewelyn ap Iorwerth and left Gwynedd until it blew over. When
he felt it safe to return, he brought Osbwrn with him together with "a troop of 100 men well-mounted upon grey horses" to
serve Llewelyn, thus obtaining his king's forgiveness.
A different story is told
in an 18th century volume of pedigrees by John Ellis of Tai Croesion. This writer dates the coming of Osbwrn to Wales
as c. 1200 and says nothing of Gruffudd ap Ednyfed Fychan. Instead, he claims that Osbwrn had slain, in a personal encounter,
another "Irish Earl" and sought refuge in Wales.
The noted Robert
Vaughan of Hergest fixed the date of Osbwrn's coming to Wales as 1237 and repeated the story about bringing 100 horsemen to
serve Prince Llewelyn. Vaughan continues by saying that Llewelyn accepted this offer, and gave him as wife the daughter
and heiress of Cors Gedol who was the king's ward. The final word was offered by the historian, W.W.E. Wynne of Peniarth,
who believed it was "somewhat later than 1237" that Osbwrn came to Wales.
Our own belief is
that Osbwrn came to Gwynedd nearer to 1260 (when in his mid-20's) and it was Llewelyn ap Gruffudd to whom he offered his services.
The earlier Llewelyn ap Iorwerth died in 1240 when we think Osbwrn was yet a small child. And we would reject both tales
which claim some scandal in either Gwynedd or Ireland was involved in his coming to Wales.
As the younger son of
an Irish peer, Osbwrn had no future titles as his inheritance and could expect no more land nor honors than those his elder
brother might choose to give him. We suggest he was aware of some distant kinship with the kings of Gwynedd and received
his father's permission to become "his own man" over in Wales rather then spend his life in the shadow of his older brother.
We would also date his emigration a bit prior to 1260, because if his father and older brother had already been killed in
battle, he would have become the new Baron of Desmond since his brother's son was yet an infant.
Thus we can accept
the young man, bringing 100 horsemen provided by his father, approaching Llewelyn ap Gruffudd with an offer to join his army
as a loyal adherent to his cause. And since his family clearly held the large manor of Cors Gedol in Ardudwy, Meirionydd,
it is reasonable to believe that Llewelyn ap Gruffudd gave him the young heiress of that manor to be his wife.
The lady is not
named, but the land was within the Lordship of men descended from Asser ap Merwydd Goch, son of Collwyn ap Tangno. Her
father likely died as a young man with no sons or brother which required the Gwynedd king to make both the young
heiress and her lands temporary wards of the crown. She was probably age 13 or 14 when Llewelyn rewarded his new ally
with her hand in marriage. This marriage brought two sons, Cynwrig and Einion, who shared the lands called Cors Gedol. Osbwrn
appears on the Meirioneth Lay Subsidy Roll of 1292/93 where he was the second-largest landowner listed in Lanaber, Ardudwy.
There was also a
young lady called a sister of Osbwrn who, by her marriage, must have been born near 1265, and was probably a daughter
of Osbwrn. Her name isn't recorded , but she married Cynwrig ap Llewelyn...that Llewelyn being a base son of
Dafydd ap Llewelyn Fawr. Cynwrig, then, was the son of a first-cousin of King Llewelyn ap Gruffudd.
Not much is known
of Einion ap Osbwrn, except he had 4 sons who inherited parts of the original Cors Gedol manor. A number of medieval
sources claim that the portion received by Gronwy Llwyd ap Einion was called Cae Gronwy Llwyd and was forfeited. Land
was only subject to forfeit for treason, but none of the sources offer any such incident. The single source  which
includes an explanation says that his Cors Gedol lands were "forfeited" but instead he was given Cae Gronwy Llwyd, a larger
tract of land. This could simply mean that he gave up his alloted share of Cors Gedol to his brothers in return for
a larger tract nearby, possibly having been granted to Osbwrn later in his career of service to the king.
Osbwrn's other son, Cynwrig,
apparently received the portion of Cors Gedol which contained his father's living quarters and he was usually described as
"of Cors Gedol". Born c. 1265, Cynwrig married Nest ferch Cynwrig ap Madog ap Cadifor ap Cynillin ap Gwaithfoed of Meirionydd
, a lady born about 1275. Their only known son was Llewelyn ap Cynwrig, born about 1295.
Two wives are cited
for Llewelyn ap Cynwrig. Marged ferch Madog y Athro of Maelor  was born c. 1310, while Nest ferch Gruffudd ap Adda
ap Gruffudd ap Cadifor ap Cynillin  was born near 1300 and was probably his second wife. Near the end of his life,
Llewelyn was honored with a 1 year appointment as High Sheriff of Meirionydd for 1373. The only known son of Llewelyn was
Gruffudd, born c. 1325.
Llewelyn ap Cynwrig married Efa ferch Madog ap Elisse ap Iorwerth ap Madog ap Gruffudd ap Owain Brogyntyn ap Madog ap Maredudd
ap Bleddyn ap Cynfyn , a lady born c. 1335. Like his father, Gruffudd served a term as High Sheriff of Meirionydd
in 1391. Beside two daughters , he was survived by a son named Einion.
Among other families
, Einion ap Gruffudd was the ancestor of Dr. David Yale born c. 1550 and holder of Plas Grono in Ial. His grandson, David
Yale son of Thomas, emigrated to America in 1637. A son of that David Yale was named Elihu, a merchant who became wealthy
as Governor of the British East India Company. While Elihu was born in America, he spent the majority of his life in
India and England. When Cotton Mather asked Elihu Yale for a contribution to support a struggling new school in Connecticut
in 1718, Elihu sent a carton of goods which were sold for 800 pounds sterling. It was said to be the largest single
gift the school received in its first 100 years of existence, and the Collegiate School of Connecticut changed its name to
Yale University in his honor.