THE UNOFFICIAL "HISTORY" OF ELYSTAN OF POWYS
By Darrell Wolcott
In our paper "The Enigmatic Elystan Glodrydd",
we discussed a Powys man named Elystan, who had a son named Cadwgan, born a full generation earlier than the well-known Elystan
Glodrydd of Buellt. Although the 13th century heralds assigned wholly different coats of arms to these men, virtually
everyone who compiled Welsh pedigree manuscripts has conflated them into a single man. We now have completed sufficient
research to construct a speculative scenario related to the first of these men.
We suggest the Powys Elystan was born
c. 955 and lived in the commote of Gorddwr. The arms later assigned to him  suggest the early heralds believed he
descended from the same ancestors as Ednowain Bendew ap Neiniad. He is probably NOT identical to Elystan ap Gwaithfoed
of Powys, the man who had brothers Gwerystan and Ednowain. We think he WAS a son of Gwrydr Hir ap Caradog, the man who
was also the father of Gwaithfoed of Tegeingl. That extended family can be charted as:
855 Lles Llyddog of Powys 
885 Gwynnog Farfsych
920 Gwrydr Hir 915
Gwaithfoed of Powys
955 Elystan (b)
(a) Known sons of Gwrydr
Hir include Gwaithfoed of Tegeingl, grandfather of Ednowain Bendew, and the base son, Idnerth Benfras of Maesbrook.
The arms assigned to both those men include boar's heads as a main device. There are, however, no known citations which
mention an Elystan ap Gwrydr Hir
(b) This Elystan is cited
as the ancestor of Einudd ap Morien (Einudd son of Gwenllian) and he was a brother of Gwerystan, the father of Cynfyn.
A third brother was Ednowain, father of Rhun. The arms assigned to this branch of the family feature a lion rampant
citation disclosing a c. 955 Elystan is found in Jesus College Ms 20, item 31. The text recites the maternal ancestry
of a "Gronwy ap Cadwgan ap Elystan" as follows:
820 Rhodri Mawr
865 Tudwal Gloff
880 Hywel Dda
965 Llawr==================Lleuci 980
995 Angharad==============Cadwgan 985
The citation does not give the ancestry
of Llawr; that man in our chart is sometimes called Llawfrodedd Farfog.  Item #30 of this same pedigree mentions
a Hywel ap Gronwy ap Cadwgan ap Elystan, but continues with "ap Cuhelyn ap Cadwr" etc....these being men in the ancestry of
Elystan Glodrydd of Buellt (Actually, the citation omits "Ifor" as father of Cuhelyn and "Seferys" as father of Ifor).
We believe both citations (with the noted omissions excepted) are accurate standing on their own, but that these
were two different families which included men named Hywel ap Gronwy ap Cadwgan ap Elystan. We further believe
the two citations were linked by the manuscript's author, who wrongly believed both referred to the same family.
have shown, in other papers on this site, the propensity of early Welsh families to repeat long strings of male names which
had previously been used by a cousin branch. The practice occurs far too frequently to have been coincidental.
It was done on purpose, likely to honor some noble achievement by the earlier man or men. Even so, you might be thinking,
those were all cousins in a single extended family. Are you suggesting that Elystan Glodrydd occurs in a "cousin" line
with Elystan of Powys? Actually, yes we are!
Once we chart both families
side by side, it becomes clear that by positing a single marriage not found in the available sources, not only would the two
families be in-laws of each other, but the c. 1020 Cadwgan ap Elystan Glodrydd would be the maternal great-grandson of the
c. 955 Elystan of Powys. Also, the c. 1020 Idnerth ap Cadwgan ap Elystan of Powys would be the first-cousin of Gwladys,
mother of the c. 1020 Cadwgan. We show that posited marriage in red in this chart:
930 Ifor of Buellt 915 Gwaithfoed of
Powys 920 Gwrydr Hir
945 Ednowain 955 Elystan of Powys
Rhun=====Sian 990 985 Cadwgan (a)
990 Elystan Glodrydd========Gwladys 1005 1020
1025 Sian (c) 1020 Cadwgan (d)
1050 Idnerth (e)
(a) He married Angharad ferch Llawr as shown in the
chart which immediately precedes this chart
(b) Dwnn ii, 307 cites his grand-dauighter, Annes ferch
Llewelyn ap Idnerth, married Bleddyn ap Tudor ap Rhys Sais of Maelor. Bleddyn was born c. 1085 and Annes was born
c. 1090, far too early to have been a grand-daughter of the c. 1050 Idnerth ap Cadwgan
(c) As cited by Pen 140, 347, she married Cadifor ap
Gwaithfoed, a great-grandson of Gwrydr Hir born c. 1010. We added her to the chart to show that both men named Elystan
had one son and one daughter, both bearing the same names, respectively
(d He married twice, both being ladies born c. 1035.
For their names and sources for the marriages, refer to the paper mentioned in Note 1 below
(e) He is found in many sources as the ancestor of the
men of Ceri in the 12th century
The c. 1018 marriage of Gwladys ferch
Rhun  to Elystan Glodrydd was not the first time the families of the two Elystans had inter-married. Return with
us to the young family of Gwrydr Hir about the year 971. He had married Arddun ferch Tudor Trefor  and his sons were
now teenagers. Their uncles (brothers of their mother) were Gronwy, Dyngad and Llyddoca, sons of Tudor Trefor (who was
now in his low 70's, but still alive).
While yet in his early 30's, Elystan's
uncle Gronwy died.  He had married Tangwystl ferch Dyfnwal, a lady of Dyfed, and they had a daughter, Gwenllian,
about 1 year old.  Her mother was perhaps 16 years old and living far from her own birth family. We believe
Tangwystl and her infant daughter were taken in by Gronwy's sister, Arddun, and that baby Gwenllian grew up in the household
of Gwrydr Hir, and came to regard his sons as more like uncles than first-cousins. Some 13 years later, Gwenllian married
Cuhelyn ap Ifor of Buellt, and about 990, bore him a son whom they named Elystan . We also think his namesake, Elystan
of Powys, became the child's godfather.  What was so special about Elystan of Powys for this young couple to name
their son after him? Let us follow him over the next dozen years as he grew into manhood.
Elystan's great-grandfather had been
Lles Llyddog, the leader of an army which had expelled a colony of Danes from northeast Wales barely three generations earlier.
 This trait had resurfaced frequently in the men who descended from Lles  and we suggest young Elystan excelled
at war games and battle tactics. We also think he was an unnamed participant in the action cited in the Brut entry for
"Brycheiniog and all the lands
of Einion ap Owain were ravaged by the Saxons, with Aelfhelm their leader, and Hywel ap Ieuaf; and Einion slew many of their
Einion ap Owain ap Hywel Dda
was acting for his aged father, the King of Deheubarth. The Saxon man was Earl of Mercia and his ally, Hywel ap Ieuaf
ap Idwal Foel, was King of Gwynedd. We suggest Einion had sent emissaries to Buellt and Powys seeking military assistance.
Powys king Cadell ap Brochwel ap Aeddan declined to interfere officially since both Mercia and Gwynedd were his next-door
neighbors, and neither had threatened his lands. Instead, we think he sent for Elystan ap Gwrydr, a young warrior who's
reputation was known to him. He asked Elystan to assemble a group of his cousins and other close friends and go to the
aid of Einion….not as a Powys army, but simply as young adventurers seeking the spoils of battle. Elystan was then about
age 28 and unmarried. The men he recruited were mostly his unmarried cousins and other boyhood friends.
As Elystan's little warband journeyed toward the action in Deheubarth, it reached Buellt where they joined up with a group
of locals who had also volunteered to help Einion fight Saxons. Among these men was a 23 year old Cuhelyn ap Ifor.
When they finally engaged the enemy, Elystan positioned his men and led the charge. During the battle, he noticed
that Cuhelyn was facing multiple Saxons who had backed him into a no-win position and, ignoring those with whom he was sparring,
sprang to the aid of Cuhelyn. His furious defense of the young Buellt man inspired his little army to emulate his bravery,
and very soon the battle was over with not a single Saxon left standing.
While it had been only
a small foraging party which they had come upon, Elystan's men displayed the same valor a few days later when they linked
up with Einion's army to confront the Earl's main army. It didn't require very many clashes before Aelfhelm withdrew
from the field and, mourning his dead, he and his men headed back to Mercia in full retreat. When Hywel ap Ieuaf realized
his ally had fled, he made swift tracks back toward Gwynedd. As a reward for his role in the victory, Einion offered
Elystan his daughter, Gwenllian, in marriage. And young Cuhelyn feted Elystan as the best warrior he'd ever seen
and his personal hero. Five years later, Cuhelyn wed Elystan's cousin, Gwenllian ferch Gronwy, and named his first son
We think, however, it was another
event which lead Elystan of Buellt to name his son Cadwgan just as Elystan of Powys had done. This event has been incorrectly
attributed to Elystan of Buellt, but we believe it was the actual event that ended the life of Elystan of Powys. One
part of the bogus biography of Elystan Glodrydd states:
"He was living in 1010, but
was killed in a civil broil at Cefn Digoll in Powys."
We know that Elystan Glodrydd of Buellt
did not die in 1010, his son Cadwgan was not born until c. 1020. The lady who married this Elystan was only about 5
years old in 1010. If any such death actually occurred at Cefn Digoll, it happened to an earlier Elystan. We now
turn our attention to Cefn Digoll; what and where is this in Powys?
In the commote of Gorddwr (now wholly
within Shropshire) stands the elevated range called Long Mountain, on which there is a circular ridge known as Cefn Digoll,
meaning "the ridge not lost". Whether that name denoted that adjacent ground HAD been lost in some early battle, or
simply that the ridge never ends because it is circular in shape, is a matter for individual speculation. This ridge
had been the site of a battle in 630 between Cadwallon ap Cadfan and Edwin of Northumbria, in which Penda of Mercia had sided
with Cadwallon. In 1295, it is the place where the army of Edward I finally captured Madog ap Llewelyn ap Maredudd,
the last Welsh rebel taken in that king's war to conquer Wales. In 1485, it was the place where Henry Tudor camped awaiting
Welsh reinforcements as he was en route to Bosworth Field. So Cefn Digoll was neither a manor nor a village. Anyone
who was killed there was not engaged in horseplay at the local tavern, he was engaged in military operations. The
1010 broil may have been "civil" in that its participants were all men of Powys and not foreign invaders, but we suggest it
was more fiercely contested than the word "broil" connotes. So what were Powys men fighting about in 1010?
We think that was the
year that Powys King Cadell ap Brochwel finally died at an age near 70. The king had left an only child, a daughter
named Nest. She was married to the king's penteulu, Gwerystan ap Gwaithfoed, and had an eldest son named Cynfyn. But
there was no reason to seek a new king that was only maternally related to the Royal Family, King Cadell had two brothers
who both had sons old enough to become king. Seisyllt ap Brochwel had an eldest son, Llewelyn, who was then about
age 31, and Selyf ap Brochwel had an eldest son, Aeddan, then about age 35. Some of the leading men of Powys thought
Aeddan had the best claim to be the new king since he was the eldest of the two cousins. Others supported Llewelyn,
on the grounds that his father had been King Cadell's next eldest brother while Aeddan's father had been the king's youngest
When no agreement could be reached
between these opposing groups, they decided to settle the issue in the usual Welsh manner....on the battlefield. Both
factions met in Gorddwr near Long Mountain. The first objective of each side was to secure for themselves the favorable
position at Cefn Digoll. After the side supporting Llewelyn ap Seisyllt had gained that ridge, the other side soon
acknowledged defeat and fled the field. Casualties on both sides were not numerous, but the now 55 year old Elystan
ap Gwrydr Hir had fallen, together with his son-in-law, Rhun ap Ednowain. It is not known if Aeddan ap Selyf
was also killed, but his victorious cousin was now the new king of Powys.
Elystan's daughter, Sian,
was now widowed at barely 20 years old, and she had a 5 year old daughter, Gwladys. Sian's older brother, Cadwgan (and
his new wife Angharad ) proposed taking his sister and her child into his own household. His now-widowed mother,
Gwenllian, suggested that both her children join her at Elystan's manor at Trelystan, where Cadwgan would now be "the man
of the house"
As Gwladys grew to maturity,
her mother regaled her with stories of grandpa Elystan's heroic deeds as a young man and how he gave his own life fighting
alongside her father. More importantly, she grew up with her uncle Cadwgan as her father-figure. When
she turned 13, Gwladys was given in marriage to Elystan ap Cuhelyn of Buellt , the namesake and godson of her grandfather.
The couple had but two children, a son and a daughter. They named the son Cadwgan and the daughter Sian just as the
elder Elystan had done. We suspect the names were chosen by Gwladys to honor her mother and uncle and to inspire her
husband to become as "illustrious" as his own namesake.
Thus began multiple
generations of same-named children. When the older Cadwgan named sons Idnerth, Ieuaf, and Gronwy, the younger Cadwgan
also gave sons those three names (although he had several other sons). In the next generation, the elder Idnerth ap
Cadwgan named his sons Llewelyn, Madog, Ifor and Ednyfed, so the younger Idnerth ap Cadwgan gave 4 of his 6 sons those same
names. Both men named Ieuaf ap Cadwgan named a son Hywel and both men named Hywel ap Ieuaf named a son Gwrgeneu.
Both men named Gronwy ap Cadwgan named a son Hywel. Each of these same-named men can be separated only by placing
them on the timeline as determined by future marriages and their occurrence in Brut entries.
While the event scenarios
recited above are NOT "history" since no early citations can be found to confirm them, they DO explain many "results"
which ARE historically known. They are simply our suggestion as to what may well be "the rest of the story".
 The arms of the two men named Elystan are described in our paper "The
Enigmatic Elystan Glodrydd" elsewhere on this site
 His pedigree is given in ABT 1b
 Pen. 142, 101; Pen. 177, 135
 Dwnn i, 139; Dwnn ii, 152
 Dwnn ii, 397
 No obit cited, but Dwnn i, 297 & 313 say that Gronwy died during
his father's lifetime
 Pen. 138, 358 and Pen. 142, 198 call the child Gwen and say she was
heiress to Gronwy ap Tudor Trefor
 ibid, this Gwen was the mother of Elystan Glodrydd. ABT 11 cites
his father as Cuhelyn ap Ifor
 Most biographies of Elystan Glodrydd say he was named after his godfather,
who they incorrectly identify as King Aethelstan of Wessex, a man who died many years before Elystan was born
 See the paper "The Retaking of Northeast Wales" elsewhere on this
 These include Gwerystan ap Gwaithfoed who led the warband of King
Cadell ap Brochwel c. 980/1000; Cynfyn ap Gwerystan who led troops to help Irish King Sitric Silkbeard retake Dublin
from Brian Boru in 1014; and Bleddyn ap Cynfyn who won the Battle of Mechain against the sons of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn in 1069
 Dwnn i, 138, 271, 288, 313 & 332 all cite this marriage
 As shown on the 2nd chart presented above
 Dwnn i, 139: Dwnn ii, 152