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The Consorts and Children of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn
The First Wife of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn
The Brief Life of Gruffudd ap Maredudd
Owain Brogyntyn and his Family
Eunydd son of Gwenllian
Sandde Hardd of Mortyn
The Floruit of Einion ap Seisyllt
Cowryd ap Cadfan of Dyffryn Clwyd
Owain ap Cadwgan and Nest ferch Rhys - An Historic Fiction?
The "sons" of Owain ap Cadwgan ap Bleddyn
Marchweithian, Lord of Is Aled, Rhufoniog
Osbwrn Wyddel of Cors Gedol
Bradwen of Llys Bradwen in Meirionydd
Ednowain ap Bradwen
Who Was Sir Robert Pounderling?
Eidio Wyllt - What Was His Birthname?
Gruffudd ap Rhys, the Homeless Prince
The Children of Lord Rhys
Maredudd Gethin ap Lord Rhys
The 'Next Heir' of Morgan of Caerleon
Maredudd ap Ednowain Bendew
The Unknown Cadwgan

              ELIDYR MWYNFAWR CONTESTS RHUN AP MAELGWN FOR GWYNEDD 
                                         By Darrell Wolcott
 
      One of the oral traditions of Wales concerns a tale in which the husband of Maelgwn's daughter makes an expedition to Gwynedd to contest Rhun ap Maelgwn for his kingdom.  Elidyr "the gentle giant" [1] from Strathclyde in north Britain, is said to have sailed his army to Arfon to claim Gwynedd on behalf of his wife, the legal heir of Maelgwn, against the claim of Maelgwn's illegitimate son, Rhun.   
 
      The tale is recounted in the Robert Vaughn 'notes to the triads' in NLW Ms 7857D and the 17th century Panton Ms 51, and is quoted by Rachel Bromwich on page 111 of her 1961 work "Trioedd Ynys Prydein", as follows:
 
      "After the death of Maelgwn….many of the nobility of the Cambria disdained to yield subjection to Rhun, his son, being a bastard begot upon Gwalltwen the daughter of Afallach, Maelgwn's concubine, especially the nobility of Arfon, who privately sent unto Elidir Mwynfawr aforesaid to come speedily to Cambria, to aid him in the recovery of that kingdom in right of his children by Eurgain, the daughter and heir of Maelgwn".
 
      "But Rhun. having had intelligence of their conspiracy, came and forced them of Arfon to yield obedience and fealty unto him against all others, so that when Elidir landed in Cambria, he found Arfon men, in whom he most confided, to be his utter enemies and ready to give him battle, who fought with them at Aber Mefydd in Arfon where Elidir was slain."
 
      This tale is the only source for the claim that Rhun ap Maelgwn was a base son, by a mistress of Maelgwn.  Even if true, that probably would not have been a legal barrier to Rhun being Maelgwn's heir under Welsh law of that era.  But if it were a legal bar as to Rhun, why should we assume a legal daughter of Maelgwn would have preference over the sons of Maelgwn who were born in wedlock?  Eurgain had a full brother named Einion [2] and Alser son of Maelgwn is mentioned in Welsh Triad #42.
 
      Perhaps the purpose of Elidyr's expedition to Gwynedd was something other than to claim Gwynedd in right of Maelgwn's daughter.  If the earliest sources about the expedition did not include his motive, that might have been supplied by early historians when they noted who Elidyr had married. [3] It is only when we read what is said to have occurred after Elidyr was killed in Arfon, that we raise these questions.
 
      In the Chirk Codex of Welsh Laws [4] we find this explanation for why the law granted 14 specific privileges to the men of Arfon:
 
      "Here Elidyr Mwynfawr, a man from the North, was slain, and after his death the men of the North came here to avenge him.  The chiefs, their leaders, were Clydno Eiddin, Nudd Hael son of Senyllt,  Mordaf Hael son of Seruan, and Rhydderch Hael son of Tudwal Tudclyd, and they came to Arfon.  And because Elidyr was slain at Aber Mewyddus in Arfon, they burned Arfon as a further revenge.  And then Rhun, the son of Maelgwn, and the men of Gwynedd assembled in arms and proceeded to the banks of the Gweryd in the North, and there they were long disputing who should take the lead through the River Gweryd."
 
      The account continues, saying Rhun sought legal opinions from the elders of Gwynedd as to who was entitled to take the lead.  After being told the honor belonged to the men of Arfon, they advanced on the van and were valorous there.  And then on account of the length of time they remained in arms, their wives slept with their bond servants, and on that account, Rhun granted them fourteen privileges.  The list of these legal privileges then follows, none of which are material to the Elidyr tale. 
 
     
                       

      Other than the following three things (a) Elidyr's death in Arfon; (b) a retaliatory raid on Arfon by Elidyr's friends; and (c) Rhun's raid on the Men of the North), all said to have occurred in the lifetime of Rhun ap Maelgwn, we don't know the date of any of these events.  If we assume the Elidyr expedition occurred shortly after Maelgwn's death, then it should be placed c. 547/548. If Elidyr had allies in the North who raided Arfon to avenge his death, that should be expected to occur mere weeks, not years later. Rhun's northern raid would then follow within a season. Based on our pedigree of his family, we think Rhun would have been age 42/44 during those raids.
 
      Yet when we examine the Men of the North which the tale claims came to Arfon to avenge the killing of Elidyr, we find NONE of them were actually related to Elidyr nor were any of them even contemporary with Rhun.  Clydno was from the Edinburgh area of the North and 6th in descent from Coel Hen. [5]  We date his birth c. 545 so he was born about 50 years later than Rhun.  He was either an infant at the time of these events, or they did not occur until c. 570 when Rhun was past age 65.
 
      The three Hael cousins said to have laid waste to Arfon were also from the Edinburg area, but they descended from Anwn Dynod ap Maxen. [6]  Their dates of birth were c. 450/455  and they would have been nearly 100 years old when Maelgwn died in 547.  We therefore must conclude that none of the 4 men named in the tale could have been warriors during the time that Rhun was active on the battlefield.  This is not to say the entire tale is false.  Elidyr, born c. 510, may well have raided Arfon and been killed there about the year 548.  His friends and relatives may have avenged his death soon after, but they did not include any of the 4 men mentioned in the tale.
 
      This chart shows the ancestry of Elidyr Mwynfawr, together with his known first-cousins in Strathclyde:
 
                               390  Ceretic Wledig [7]
                                              l
                                  420  Cinuit
                                              l
                              450  Dyfnwal Hen
                 ________________l_________________________
                l                             l                      l                     l
480  Gwrwst Priodol    480 Gwyddno     480 Clinoch    485 Cynfelyn
                l                             l                      l                     l
510 Elidyr Mwynfawr    510 Neithin[8]  510 Tudwal[9]  515 Clinog [10]
 
 
      Some have suggested that one of the men who came to Arfon to avenge the death of Elidyr was actually Rhydderch Hen (c.540), son of Tudwal ap Clinoch (see chart), not the 100 years earlier Rhydderch Hael and his cousins. [11]  While Rhydderch Hen WAS related to Elidyr, he was barely born when Maelgwn died.  It seems more likely that the original tale only identified "Men of the North" as Elidyr's avengers, and later copyists inserted names of prominent northern men without checking the timeline.  His first-cousins, shown above, would be better candidates.
 
      Should we choose to omit the questionable elements in the tale, we are left with:
 
      1.  Elidyr Mwynfawr of Strathclyde, the husband of Maelgwn's daughter, mounted an expedition to Arfon in Gwynedd during the reign of Rhun ap Maelgwn, and was killed in the battle.   
      2.  Subsequently, other Men of the North came to Arfon and laid it to waste by burning.  They were not immediately opposed by Rhun, so he must not have been nearby when the raid occurred.
      3.  Upon learning of this raid, Rhun assembled an army to avenge the damage.  Exactly where this expedition went, or what it accomplished, is not known.  "Aber Gweryd" is the Welsh name for the Firth of Forth, which is nowhere near the route an army might take to reach Strathclyde, so one wonders whose lands Rhun meant to attack.
      4.  Rhun and his army campaigned in the North for several months, being away from home so long that their wives sought temporary lovers in their absence.  Perhaps he did not know the identity of the men he sought, so took his revenge on the lands of dozens of Men of the North.

NOTES:
[1] Most modern sources say "Mwynfawr" meant "the wealthy". Literally, "mwyn" means "mild or gentle" and "fawr" means "large" 
[2] Bonedd yr Arwyr 28(d) and BBCS 18, 57 mention Einion ap Maelgwn
[3] Triad #44 identified Eurgain ferch Maelgwn Gwynedd as wife of Elidir Mwynfawr
[4] Aneurin Owen, "Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales", vol 1, page 105
[5] BGG 3 cites Clydno Eidin (545) ap Cynwyd Cynnwydyon (510) ap Cynfelyn (480) ap Athrwys (450) ap Mar (415) ap Ceneu (380) ap Coel (340)
[6] ByS 18 cites "Nudd Hael (455) ap Senyllt (425) ap Cedic (390) ap Dyfnwal Hen (360) ap Ednyfed (330) ap Maxen (279), which omits Anwn Dynod (300) as father of Ednyfed.  BGG 9 cites "Mordaf (455) ap Seruan (425) ap Cedic (390) ap Dyfnwal Hen".  BGG 8 cites "Rhydderch Hael (450) ap Tudwal Tudclyt (420) ap Cedic (390) ap Dyfnwal Hen".  Triad #2 calls each of the three men "Hael" and says they were "Three Generous Men of the Isle of Britain". The triad does not mention that the men were cousins
[7] The pedigree of Ceretic Wledig in Harl 3859 only extends back 6 more generations to c. 200.  It is likely his family branched off the line of Cunedda's ancestors since both men held lands between the Roman walls, and both held the rank of Wledig shortly after the Romans left Britain
[8] Probably the eldest branch of the family of Dyfnwal Hen, he is cited in Harl 3859
[9] Harl, 3859, 6
[10] Harl. 3859,7
[11] A full discussion of men descended from Anwn Dynod can be found in our paper "Anwn Dynod ap Maxen Wledig" at the link below: 
This is NOT the same Maxen Wledig who assumed the purple in 383, and was slain in 388. We identify the father of Anwn Dynod as Maxentius, son of Emperor Maximianius Herculius