ELIDYR MWYNFAWR CONTESTS RHUN AP MAELGWN FOR
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"  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
"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  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.
 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  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.  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.  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 
450 Dyfnwal Hen
480 Gwrwst Priodol 480 Gwyddno
480 Clinoch 485 Cynfelyn
510 Elidyr Mwynfawr 510 Neithin 510 Tudwal
515 Clinog 
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.  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
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.
 Most modern sources say "Mwynfawr" meant "the wealthy". Literally, "mwyn"
means "mild or gentle" and "fawr" means "large"
 Bonedd yr Arwyr 28(d) and BBCS 18, 57 mention Einion ap Maelgwn
 Triad #44 identified Eurgain ferch Maelgwn Gwynedd as wife of Elidir Mwynfawr
 Aneurin Owen, "Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales", vol 1, page 105
 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)
 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
 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
 Probably the eldest branch of the family of Dyfnwal Hen, he is cited in Harl
 Harl, 3859, 6
 Harl. 3859,7
 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