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Marchweithian, Lord of Is Aled, Rhufoniog
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Ednowain ap Bradwen
Who Was Sir Robert Pounderling?
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Gruffudd ap Rhys, the Homeless Prince
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Maredudd Gethin ap Lord Rhys
The 'Next Heir' of Morgan of Caerleon
Maredudd ap Ednowain Bendew
The Unknown Cadwgan
                             KING OF ENGLAND MEDIATES WELSH DISPUTES
                                                By Darrell Wolcott
 
          On pages 247/249 of the Text of the Book of Llan Dav [1], the c. 1150 author [2] relates how a land dispute between two Welsh kings was resolved peacefully by inviting the King of Wessex to hear the competing claims and determine which side had made the best case.
 
          At issue, according to this account, was the possession of two commotes: Ystrad Yw and Ewias.  Morgan Hen of Morgannwg and Hywel Dda of Deheubarth both claimed the commotes should lawfully belong to their kingdom.  The Wessex king who arbitrated the dispute was King Edgar, who ruled in favor of Morgan Hen.
 
         When the earliest "History of Wales" was written [3], it was clear to its author that the above account contained a "palpable anachronism". [4]  Hywel Dda is known to have died in 949 while Edgar did not become king of Wessex until 969.  After consulting with other Welsh antiquarians, it was decided that it was actually Owain, the son of Hywel Dda, who represented Deheubarth in this dispute. [5] This was then given to us as "history".
 
         No one seemed to be concerned that the lands in dispute, which lay adjacent to Gwent in Morgannwg, were not even close to any part of Deheubarth.  Why would a Deheubarth king lay claim to those commotes but not to any of the rest of Morgannwg which separated Deheubarth from Ystrad Yw and Ewias?
 
        We suggest the account of the matter found in the Text of the Book of Llan Dav is, in fact, a conflation of two separate events:
 
        1.  The Brut entry of 935 says "Gruffudd ap Owain was slain by the men of Ceredigion."  This Gruffudd was a younger brother of Morgan Hen, and he held local rule in Gower which was then a part of Morgannwg. [6]  We believe that Hywel Dda immediately laid claim to Gower and this was challenged by Morgan Hen.  Rather than plunge the whole of south Wales into war, the two Welsh kings submitted their dispute to Wessex King Athelstan.  He ruled in favor of Hywel Dda, probably on the grounds that Gruffudd of Gower had been the aggressor in the action that brought his death and that the current inhabitants of Gower were largely men descended from the ancestors of the men of Deheubarth, not from ancestors of Morgan Hen. [7]
 
         2.  The Brut entry for 960 says "Owain ravaged y Gorwydd".  Y Gorwydd refers to the cantref of Gorfynydd [8] in the Glywysing/Glamorgan part of Morgannwg.  We believe that Morgan Hen had just died (near age 75) and his kingdom was divided between his sons, Owain and Morgan the younger [9]; that Owain received the Gwent/Gwynllwg portion and his brother, Morgan, received the Glywysing/Glamorgan part.  The brothers, however, could not agree whose portion should include the commotes of Ystrad Yw and Ewias which lay north of the two major parts of Morgannwg.  We suggest the younger Morgan unilaterally took possession of the two commotes, and Owain retaliated with a strike deep into Morgan's portion. The elders of Morgannwg counselled both brothers to submit their quarrel to arbitration by the Wessex king just as their father had done 25 years earlier.  This time, it was King Edgar who heard claims presented by Owain ap Morgan Hen (not Owain ap Hywel Dda) and Morgan his brother (not Morgan Hen).  Edgar ruled in favor of Owain and thereafter the two disputed commotes were ruled by "men of Gwent". [10]
 
           One subsequent event related by the author of the Book of Llan Dav [11] concerns a 983 election held by "all the clergy and people of Morgannwg" to determine which of two competing factions would represent their interests at the Court of King Athelred the Unready of England.  We suggest the previous such representative had just died without a clear successor in place.
 
          Thus, we would posit that Owain ap Morgan Hen had been representing Morgannwg at the King's Court [12] when he died in 983 at a time when none of his sons had yet attained "full age" for kingship. [13]  In that event, Owain's part of Morgannwg would be temporarily ruled by the cousin branch of the family which descended from earlier Gwent King Nowy ap Gwriad.
 
           The two factions who competed in the 983 election are cited as "Rhodri and Gruffudd, sons of Elisse" versus "Owain, Idwallon, Cadell and Cynfyn, sons of Morgan Hen".  Rhodri and Gruffudd were sons of Elisse ap Nowy and men 28/30 years old in 983.  If still alive, any sons of Morgan Hen would be men past age 60 (we have already suggested that Morgan Hen had but 2 sons, Morgan the younger who died in 974 and Owain who died in 983).  While not unusual to find brothers ruling jointly while they were young men [14], no case of brothers holding joint rule in their declining years can be cited. 
 
          We suggest the author erred in calling the father of the four named sons "Morgan Hen".  Just 6 pages earlier [15] in the text, he had mentioned the same four sons simply as "filiorum Morcant".  If they were actually sons of Morgan ap Morgan Hen, they would have been men in their 30s when they faced the sons of Elisse in this election.  Accordingly, the election was between the rulers of the two major parts of Morgannwg.
 
          Although Peter Bartrum calls the 4 named men sons of Morgan Hen, his only source for this is the 983 election account mentioned above.[16]  Many sources do cite a son of Morgan Hen named Owain, but we believe it was the death of that Owain which made the 983 election necessary.  If the 4 named sons were really nephews of Owain ap Morgan Hen as we believe, only Idwallon had a known family. 
NOTES:
[1]  Reproduced from the Gwysaney Manuscript by J. Gwenogvryn Evans and published in book form in 1893
[2]  Evans suggests the copyist of the charters and author of various remarks throughout the manuscript, was Geoffrey of Monmouth about 1150
[3]  Dr. David Powell, "Historie of Cambria", 1584
[4]  Edward Williams (Iolo Morgannwg), "Iolo Manuscripts", page 374.note 1
[5]  ibid
[6]  P C Bartrum, "Welsh Genealogies 300AD - 1400", vol 1 page 43
[7]  See our paper "Ancient Lordship of Gower" at the link below:
[8]  John E Lloyd, "History of Wales" 2nd edition, page 345, note 85
[9]  For the likely existence of a "Morgan the younger", see our companion paper "The Ancestry of Iestyn ap Gwrgan" at the link below:
[10] BLD, 279 mentions Caradog ap Gruffudd ap Rhydderch of Gwent Uwch Coed as ruling Ystrad Yw, and Rhydderch ap Caradog ap Rhydderch of Gwent Is Coed ruling Ewias in the time of William the Conqueror.  These men were direct descendants of Owain ap Morgan Hen
[11] BLD, 252
[12] It is possible that his brother, Morgan ap Morgan Hen, once held the honor of Morgannwg at the English Court, but we suggest he died in 974
[13] We have posited in earlier papers that noble Welshmen of this era were not eligible to hold kingship prior to attaining their "full age", i.e. age 28.  See the paper at the link below:
[14] Until his death in 920, Clydog ap Cadell ap Rhodri Mawr shared rule in southwest Wales with his brother, Hywel Dda, and both attended the court of Wessex King Edward the Elder
[15] BLD, 246
[16] op cit Bartrum, vol 5, pp 63, 66 & 72