MAREDUDD ap OWAIN, KING of DEHEUBARTH
By Darrell Wolcott
Although Owain ap Hywel
Dda lived until 988, he had turned over active rule of his kingdom to a son, Einion, about 975. Owain spent his
final years compiling his paternal and maternal pedigrees, now extant as Harleian Ms 3859. Another son, Cadwallon ap
Owain had died young in 966, while younger brothers of Einion ap Owain were Maredudd and Llywarch. 
Einion, as acting king, was
engaged in defending Deheubarth from both Saxon raids and from the leading men of Gwent; the latter probably battled over
Gower, lands which had once been attached to Glywysing before the latter was incorporated into Glamorgan. The Gwent
brothers, Hywel and Iestyn ap Owain ap Morgan Hen, killed Einion in battle in 984 while his father was yet living, so he never
became king in his own right.
His younger brothers may have
exercised joint rule until 987, when Llywarch was blinded...perhaps by orders from Maredudd . When their father finally
died the following year, Maredudd was officially installed as king of Deheubarth. His nephews, the sons of Einion, were
teens or younger and not yet eligible for kingship.  However, even before Maredudd succeeded to his father's crown,
he was already a king...in Gwynedd.
In 986, Maredudd had entered
Gwynedd and, in battle, killed its king, Cadwallon ap Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel. That man had taken the kingship of Gwynedd
in 985 after his brother, Hywel ap Ieuaf, was killed by invading Saxons. Several earlier men, all grandsons of Idwal
Foel, had battled for the Gwynedd kingship and at least 4 of them had been killed in the effort.  Most historians
attribute Maredudd's intervention in Gwynedd's affairs to a pure power grab as a neighboring king taking advantage of internal
chaos. We should like to propose another explanation.
No extant sources identify
the wife of Maredudd ap Owain, but do name a son and two daughters which he fathered. We suggest he married a daughter
of Elisedd ap Idwal Foel and was claiming Gwynedd as a cousin-by-marriage of the local contenders. He was not yet the
king of Deheubarth, but may have represented a granddaughter of Idwal Foel in seeking the Gwynedd kingship. His rule
in north Wales was punctuated by incursions from the Black Host of Scandinavian sea raiders. In 987, Godfrey Haroldsson
captured 2000 men of Anglesey and ravaged the island. Maredudd was forced to ransom them at a penny per head, an admission
that he had failed to protect his subjects and was unable to defeat Godfrey militarily. One suspects he was upbraided
by the sons of Meurig ap Idwal Foel, who had a better claim to rule Gwynedd, and agreed to ransom the hostages to forestall
their rebellion. When Owain ap Hywel Dda finally died in 988, Maredudd
became king of Deheubarth while still holding Gwynedd.
In 992 while dividing
his time between the two kingdoms, his nephew, Edwin, the eldest son of Einion, ravaged Deheubarth and took hostages.
The king hired a band of mercenaries to help free those hostages. That same year, Maredudd's only legitimate son, Cadwallon,
died as a pre-teen lad. In 993, the hostages Maredudd had been given by the sons of Meurig ap Idwal Foel  managed
to escape back to Gwynedd. In 994, those men (Idwal and Elisedd ap Meurig) attacked Maredudd's men at Llangwm  and
defeated him. While one of his nephews, Tewdwr ap Einion, fell in that battle, Maredudd was able to return safely to
Deheubarth. But his kingship of Gwynedd was lost.
By about 998, Edwin
ap Einion became of full age for kingship and may have felt that Maredudd was merely an interim king serving during Edwin's
youth and had proven to be ineffective in battle. Einion had been the eldest son, and it was his lineage which was entitled
to rule after the death of Owain ap Hywel Dda. Was it mere good fortune that Maredudd died in 999 or did Edwin somehow
arrange that? Maredudd was a man in his low-to-mid 50's who had a young daughter still living at home, probably not
more than 6 years old when he died. We all know this lady as Angharad who married both Llewelyn ap Seisyll and Cynfyn
ap Gwerystan of Powys. But we have never been offered any cogent explanation for how her first marriage came about.
Our tentative identification of the wife of Maredudd ap Owain not only explains his claim to the kingship of Gwynedd but places
his young daughter in the manor of Seisyll with the young Llewelyn:
945 Seisyll of Powys 950 Maredudd ap Owain
Most would identify the father of Prawst as Elisedd, brother of Idwal Foel. That man was killed in 942 and we believe
any daughter of his would have been too old to marry Seisyll and to have borne Llewelyn c. 979. Certainly, he could
not have had a second daughter young enough to be the mother of Angharad ferch Maredudd ap Owain. By our identifying
him as a son of Idwal Foel, both daughters would be the right age for the above marraiges.
death of Maredudd in 999, his nephew Edwin ap Einion claimed the kingship of Deheubarth. There is reason to believe
that Maredudd had a base son named Rhain, and that Edwin considered the children of Maredudd a threat to his rule. While Rhain
 managed to escape to Ireland, the widow and young daughter of Maredudd, it is reasonable to assume, fled Deheubarth
and were taken in and given refuge by a sister, whose husband was a Powys baron. Llewelyn ap Seisyll would
have been a young man in his low 20's and, we think, was the designated edling of the Powys king...the ageing Cadell ap Brochwel
who had no sons of his own.  The betrothal of that man with the heiress of a former Deheubarth king would have been
considered a socially and politically important alliance. And she was, under our scenerio, resident in the home of the
parents of Llewelyn and was his first-cousin as well. When they married c. 1010, their first son would not
only be a future king of Powys, but have maternal ties to both the Gwynedd and Deheubarth royal dynasties.
The cleric at Minevia who penned the
Brut obituary of Mardudd called him "the most praiseworthy king of the Britons". The record of his reign is one of war
and famine in his lands and he seems to have had to buy, not fight, his way out of troubles both in Gwynedd and Deheubarth.
Perhaps this was praiseworthy to a pacifist monk. Historian John Lloyd accepted this description rather reluctantly
, but the earlier Dr. David Powell issued this opinion: "Maredudd, however, who had once conquered North Wales,
and for a long time had got possession of South Wales.....was now obliged to relinquish the one, and was scarcely able to
maintain the other".  Modern writers have tended to compare his joint rule (for a while) of Gwynedd and Deheubarth
with the political accomplishments of Hywel Dda, but we suspect an elderly orator alive in 999 might have said "I knew Hywel
Dda, Hywel Dda was my friend. You, Maredudd, are no Hywel Dda".
Unlike various other modern
historians, we reject the notion that Maredudd had any sway at all in Powys. It was then, and had been for centuries,
ruled by the family descended from Cadell Ddyrnllwg and Brochwel Ysgithrog. We also doubt that Brycheiniog was then
deemed an appanage of Deheubarth, although modern historian Kari Maund suggested that possibility.