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Ancestors and Children of the Lord Rhys

                                MAREDUDD GETHIN ap LORD RHYS
                                           By Darrell Wolcott
         This Maredudd was the youngest in-wedlock son of Lord Rhys and his wife Gwenllian ferch Madog.  His story, as told by the Brut, ends in 1201, when he was killed in battle in the commote of Carnwyllion in Deheubarth. Historian John E. Lloyd [1] believed him too young to have had a wife or children.  His nickname, "the fierce" was likely applied to him many years later by genealogists [2] seeking an easy way to distinquish him from two of his brothers also named Maredudd. Modern Welsh genealogist Peter Bartrum [3] assigns this Maredudd both a wife and two children. [See Appendix I for what various authorities believed about Maredudd] 
          We think Maredudd was a bit older than Professor Lloyd believed, born perhaps 1170, and was survived by a wife and children in 1201.  Apparently Bartrum, like Lloyd, believed he was born as late as 1180 because his published charts not only attach a family to him, but misstate his death as 1210 to allow him to live nearer 30 years than to have died at age 21. Welsh men of that era did not begin families at least until their late 20's, and usually not until their 30's.  His Brut obit says Maredudd held the castle at Llandovery as his share of his paternal lands.  Located in the far northern part of Cantref Bychan, the entire commote of Hirfryn in which the castle was situated was then deemed the lordship of whomever held the castle.           
           In fact, however, this part of Cantref Bychan was not among the lands which Henry II confirmed to Lord Rhys.  The king had previously granted Hirfryn and Llandovery to his baron, Richard fitz Ponz, father of the first Walter Clifford.  But when Henry II gave Lord Rhys all of Ceredigion and most of Ystrad Tywy in 1177, Rhys also took Cantref Bychan and evicted the Clifford family from Hirfryn.  Their claim was a matter for the courts; Lord Rhys, and especially his sons, tended to enforce their land claims on the battlefield. [see Appendix II for the "ownership" of Llandovery after 1201 and until 1244]
          We shall now try to piece together the story of the family of Maredudd Gethin from what scanty evidence has been left behind, filling in the blanks with what we hope are reasonable assumptions.  The wife, now widow, of Maredudd Gethin was Gwenllian Fychan, a daughter of Sir Hywel of Caerleon in Gwent [4] and descended from a family which had held all of lower Gwent three generations earlier.  Her branch of the family also held land in the adjoining cantref of Gwynllwg.  Gwenllian Fychan, in 1201, had a toddler daughter named Gwenllian and she also had an infant son named Gruffudd. We estimate these children were then aged about 3 and 1. 
          The first person to take a role in the future of this little family was Gruffudd ap Lord Rhys.  He was not only an older full-brother of Maredudd Gethin, but at least nominally was the ranking Lord of Deheubarth.  His wife was Matilda de Braose, daughter of the notorious William de Braose [5], lord of Brecknock and Builth and governor of Gwynllwg.  Matilda was perhaps 15 years older than her sister-in-law and had sons near the same age as Gwenllian ferch Hywel, who was about 18.  We suggest that Gruffudd ap Lord Rhys secured Llandovery Castle with his own men and escorted the bereaved widow and her babies to his own home at Dinefwr, feeling it was unsafe for them to remain at the castle.  Back home, the young family came under the care of Matilda.  Gwenllian ferch Hywel would require a new husband to help raise her babies and a safe place to live until the boy was ready to take his place among the Deheubarth royal family.  As it happened, the matter was left to Matilda because just 23 days later, her husband died [6].  Gruffudd ap Lord Rhys was only in his mid-40's and had suddenly taken ill. 
           Hywel of Caerleon is cited as having two daughters named Gwenllian, one who married Gwilym ap Aeddan [7] of Gwent Uwch Coed and one who married Maredudd Gethin.  The latter is usually called "Gwenllian Fychan", but it is possible these were two marriages by the same lady.  Widowed young with small children, a single Gwenllian might have been matched with a young Gwent nobleman soon after the death of Maredudd Gethin. But if these were two different ladies, we have no idea who the widowed Gwenllian took as her second husband.
          After Gruffudd ap Lord Rhys died, his remaining brothers began staking claims to his lordship of Deheubarth and even to some of his lands.  His sons, Rhys Ieuanc and Owain, were still teens when manhood was thrust upon them with the loss of their father, and they had to enter the fray as armed combatants [8].  We think their mother, Matilda, returned to de Braose lands and took the family of her "ward" Gruffudd ap Maredudd Gethin with her; Deheubarth was about to become a battleground.  She then may have visited Sir Hywel at his manor in Gwynllwg where he resided after abandoning Caerlleon to the Normans.  One can't be sure if it was affection for his daughter (he had many) or the fact that Matilda's father was the Norman governor of Gwynllwg, but Hywel apparently agreed to give his daughter and her new family a smallish manor not too distant from his own in Gwynllwg.  This was the site which would, in the next generation, grow into Cyfoeth Maredudd...the manor of Maredudd the Wealthy. 
          Young Gruffudd ap Maredudd Gethin, and his sister Gwenllian, grew up in the relative solace of the mountains of northern Gwynllwg.  When sister Gwenllian turned 14, she was given in marriage to a nobleman of neighboring Senghenydd, Ifor ap Cadrod [9], who had descended from the Einion ap Cadifor (many wrongly call him Einion ap Collwyn) involved in the "conquest of Glamorgan" tales.[10]  Nothing is recorded of the life of Gruffudd beyond his marriage to a lady of Is Cennin, Sioned ferch Rhys ap Gronwy ap Einion [11], and the birth of a son, Maredudd, in 1234/35. [12]
          We shall explore the details in a subsequent paper [13], but when this boy was 14 years old, he was declared the sole heir of Morgan of Caerleon, son of Hywel.  Among his inheritance was the Lordships of the Gwent commotes Edeligion and Llebenydd.  This did not include the town and castle of Caerleon which, although located in Edeligion, had in 1235 been given over to William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke by Morgan ap Hywel (under duress he was to later claim). [14]  But it also included the manor of Manchen in Gwynllwg where Morgan of Caerleon actually resided. [15]     
             When he attained manhood, Maredudd used his inherited wealth to make major upgrades to his father's manor and it became known as Cyfoeth Maredudd.  About 1260, he married a lady of Ceri, Mawd ferch Cadwallon ap Madog. [16]  They had a daughter (name unknown) [17] and a son, Morgan. [18]  Maredudd then turned his attention to another asset he believed was part of his paternal inheritance, the commote of Hirfryn and Llandovery Castle.  It had been held by his grandfather but was taken away when Maredudd's father was just an infant.  These lands had been in the hands of Rhys Mechyll ap Rhys Gryg when that man died in 1244.  The wife of Rhys Mechyll was another Matilda de Braose, the grand-niece of the Matilda that had acted as protector of Maredudd's father.  This Matilda was the mother of an eldest son, Rhys Ieuanc ap Rhys Mechyll, who was perhaps 25 years old when his father died.  He had done something to earn his mother's enmity and she began to dispose of her husband's property when he first fell ill, just to deprive her son of it.  Hirfryn and Llandovery Castle had been put into the hands of a brother of Rhys Mechyll, Maredudd ap Rhys Gryg.  We cannot say exactly how Maredudd ap Gruffudd used his influence with the de Braose lady nor used his wealth in presenting his claim to the brother of Rhys Mechyll, but by about 1265 the old patrimony of Maredudd Gethin ap Lord Rhys came full-circle as the lordship and home of his grandson, Maredudd ap Gruffudd.  He died there in 1270.  Almost immediately, Rhys Ieuanc swooped in and grabbed it as his own inheritance.  That man died the following year, but his son was another Rhys, called Wyndod, who claimed Hirfryn. 
          The son of Maredudd ap Gruffudd was Sir Morgan, born about 1265 and knighted sometime before 1307.[19]  When grown, he made his home at the manor of Tredegar in northern Gwynllwg.  Although he believed it was part of his inheritance, he never tried to contest Rhys Wyndod for possession of Hirfryn.  But the Clifford family did, filing a lawsuit which was still pending when Edward I conquered Wales in 1282.  Not long thereafter, the English courts awarded Hirfryn to John Gifford on behalf of his wife, a direct lineal descendant of the first Walter Clifford.
          Sir Morgan ap Maredudd, who married Crisly ferch Dafydd ap Meurig Goch [20] descended from Aeddan ap Seisyll of Abergavenny, lived comfortably at Tredegar, dying there in 1332, leaving only a daughter, Angharad. [21] The progeny of Maredudd Gethin ap Lord Rhys had now daughtered-out and our story ends. 
           Many of the assumptions we have made in our discussion are examined in more detail in the Appendices which follow our footnotes, and in the companion paper "The 'Next Heir' of Morgan of Caerleon" at the link below:

[1] J.E. Lloyd, "A History of Wales",1912 2nd edition, pp. 580, 618
[2] The earliest mention of Maredudd being called "Gethin" is c. 1500 in Peniarth Ms. 131, 208
[3] P.C. Bartrum, "Welsh Genealogies AD 300-1400", 1974, chart "Rhys ap Tewdwr 4"
[4] Pen. 131, 208
[5] Annales Cambriae, entry for 1199
[6] op cit Lloyd, p 618.  Maredudd Gethin was killed on July 2 and Gruffudd ap Lord Rhys died on July 25, both in 1201
[7] Harleian Ms 1975, 21; Harleian Ms 5835, 39
[8] Gruffudd ap Lord Rhys, designated by his father to be his successor, had an older brother, Maelgwn, who became his bitter enemy.  This armed conflict continued after 1201 with the young sons of Gruffudd.  A third son of Lord Rhys, Rhys Gryg, sided with Maelgwn.  The sibling in-fighting continued until 1216, when Llewelyn ap Iorwerth imposed an apportioning of lands between the parties
[9] Harl. 4181, 210
[10] See our papers on the conquest of Glamorgan at the links below:
[11] Harl. 5835, 4; Dwnn i, 220; Dwnn ii, 100
[12] Pen. 131, 208
[13] See the paper "The 'Next Heir' of Morgan of Caerleon" at the link below:
[14] Charter Rolls (chancery), 19 Hen III, m. 12.  Later the same year, Morgan joined with Llewelyn Fawr of Gwynedd and attacked the castle, burning it to the ground.
[15] ByT 1236
[16] Pen. 128, 3551a; Harl. 2414, 48
[17] Pen. 128, 351a cites the marriage of a daughter of Maredudd ap Gruffudd to Ieuan Foel of Pengelli descended from Idnerth Benfras
[18] Pen. 131, 208
[19] Cal. Rot. Pat. Edward I, 1300-7, p. 520 mentions "Morgan ap Maredudd, knight"
[20] Llyfr Baglan, 42; she is called Gwenllian in Dwnn i, 220
[21] She married 3 times; Pen. 131,208; British Museum Add 9865, 160; Bodleian Add. C-179, 4

       a.  Ieuan Brechfa:
           The earliest writer to mention the family of Maredudd Gethin was Ieuan Brechfa, in his pedigree manuscript about 1500.  Now bound with the works of other writers into Peniarth Ms 131, Brechfa wrote on page 208 under the heading "Sons of Lord Rhys by his legal wife":
        "Maredudd Gethin ap Lord Rhys was lord of Cyfoeth Maredudd in Morgannwg and Caerlleon in Usk and Llanymddyfri...the son of Maredudd Gethin was Gruffudd ap Maredudd, lord of Llanymddyfri...the mother of Gruffudd ap Maredudd Gethin was Gwenllian Fychan ferch Sir Hywel ap Iorwerth ap Owain Wan lord of Caerlleon...this Gruffudd was father to Maredudd ap Gruffudd of Castle Mechan and Llanymddyfri....the mother of that Maredudd was a noble woman of Is Cennen"
         Cyfoeth Maredudd was actually in Gwynllwg and it was Maredudd ap Gruffudd ap Maredudd Gethin who held it.  Nor did Maredudd Gethin have any connection with either Caerleon or Usk; Usk had been lost to the Gwent family in 1158 and Caerleon during the lifetime of Hywel ap Iorwerth (1155/1215) but Maredudd ap Gruffudd did hold the lordship of the commote in which Caerleon is located.  The only known holding of Maredudd Gethin was Llandovery, indicated here by the archaic spelling "Llanymddfri". 
          Gruffudd ap Maredudd held land in Gwynllwg, but not Mechan; that was inherited by his son from Morgan ap Hywel.  He never pressed any claim to Llandovery since, during his lifetime, it was fought over by other descendants of Lord Rhys. 
           Interestingly enough, Brechfa believed that Maredudd ap Gruffudd was the son of a noble lady of Is Cennen which rather well describes Sioned ferch Rhys ap Gronwy.  Later pedigrees follow Brechfa in this; none call his mother a daughter of Morgan ap Hywel, but cite Sioned as the wife of Gruffudd ap Maredudd Gethin.
         b.  Sir John Lloyd:
              Lloyd would reject most of this pedigree in his classic "History of Wales From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest". He mentioned no issue surviving Maredudd ap Lord Rhys, and must have believed his was too young to marry.  He may have been influenced by the description applied to Maredudd in his obituaries: "inclitus adolencens" and "gwas ieuanc", the Latin and Welsh terms for "young lad".  Those terms most likely were applied to Maredudd in 1185 when he first took the battlefield with his older brother, Rhys Gryg.  The Brut obit called Maredudd "a terror to his enemies, the love of his friends, like a flash of lightning between armed hosts". These words still describe a young man, but hardly a teen. 
         In his genealogiocal charts, Lloyd portrays Maredudd ap Gruffudd as the son of Gwerfyl ap Morgan ap Hywel Caerleon, but no sources actually name such a daughter.  Lloyd does not indicate who he believed the father of Gruffudd to have been, but certainly did not think it was Maredudd ap Lord Rhys.  His comment about the death of Maredudd ap Gruffudd in 1270 sums up his belief.  The Brut report says that man was "lord of Hirfryn and died in his castle at Llandovery", to which Lloyd, in his companion work "A History of Carmarthenshire [Vol I, p. 195]" responded:
           [the castle of Llandovery] "with the commote of Hirfryn, had been held for a short length of time before his death in December, 1270, by Maredudd ap Gruffudd, of the house of Caerleon; this was an exceptional arrangement, for which no dynastic reason can be adduced".
            By failing to recognize his descent from Maredudd ap Lord Rhys, Lloyd was wholly unable to explain his presence at Llandovery.
          c.  Peter Bartrum:
               In his "Welsh Genealogies, AD 300-1400" on the published chart called "Rhys ap Tewdwr 4", Bartrum follows Brecfa by calling this son of Lord Rhys "Maredudd Gethin" following by "d. 1210".  He is assigned to Bartrum's Generation 5 defined as roughly 1150-1185, with which we agree.  His wife is shown as Gwenllian Fychan ferch Hywel of Caerleon, per Brechfa. 
               The issue of Maredudd Gethin are shown as Gwenllian, who married Ifor ap Cadrod (unmentioned by Brechfa but cited by Harleian Ms 4181, 210) and a son, Gruffudd.  Bartrum gives this man two wives, Jonet (Sioned) ferch Rhys ap Gronwy of Is Cennen (cited by Harleian Ms 2289, 211 and described without naming by Brechfa) and Gwerfyl ferch Morgan ap Hywel of Caerllion.  Having no early source for this marriage, Bartrum cites the genealogy chart in John Lloyd's book.  We shall show in a companion paper how this marriage was surmised and why the lady's name is actually unknown.  The only son of Gruffudd ap Maredudd Gethin is shown as Maredudd, born c. 1234 and died 1270.  Bartrum does not indicate which of the two ladies he believed was the mother of that man.  But neither does he portray Maredudd ap Gruffudd as other than born in wedlock.
           Although Gruffudd ap Lord Rhys took custody of the lands of his brother Maredudd Gethin in 1201, he died less than a month later.  His sons, Rhys Ieuanc and Owain, both yet teens, then took possession of Llandovery.  In 1203, their eldest uncle, Maelgwn, evicted these young men.  He and their father had been bitter rivals for supremacy in Deheubarth and that feud was carried over to the sons of Gruffudd.  By 1204, these sons had reached their 20's and had attracted sufficient support to strip Maelgwn of all his holdings, including Llandovery.  They held it until 1210, when their uncle Rhys Gryg, supported by King John, forced them to surrender it.  In 1213, the brothers petitioned the king, saying they were the only descendants of Lord Rhys who did not now have any share of his former lands.  The king then required Rhys Gryg to hand over Llandovery to Rhys Ieuanc and Owain.
          Elsewhere in Deheubarth, the sons of Lord Rhys battled each other for coveted shares of their patrimony, attacking each other's castles.  Finally, in 1216, Llewelyn Fawr of Gwynedd was asked by King John to restore peace in Deheubarth by dividing it among the claimants in a fair manner and obtaining their agreement to abide by the terms of the treaty.  Llandovery was part of the share allocated to Maelgwn although his major lands were in Dyfed and Ceredigion.  While he still held Llandovery as late as 1222, he must have made a trade with his brother Rhys Gryg sometime before 1227.  In that year, Rhys Mechyll, the eldest son of Rhys Gryg seized his aging father and demanded possession of Llandovery as the price for his freedom.  That man appears to have held the castle until his death in 1244. 
            We have spoken of the period following 1244 in the main text of this paper, in the prelude to its recovery by the grandson of Maredudd Gethin in the 1260's.  This chart shows the Deheubarth family members who, at one time or the other, held Llandovery:
                                   1123  Lord Rhys
             l                        l                       l                       l
1155 Gruffudd  1155  Maelgwn  1165  Rhys Gryg  1170 Maredudd 
             l                                               l                    Gethin
1185 Rhys Ieuanc                   1200  Rhys Mechyll
1186   Owain                          1202   Maredudd