YNYR GWENT AND CARADOG FREICH FRAS
By Darrell Wolcott
Many modern family
pedigrees trace their lineage back to Caradog Freich Fras and identify him as a son of Ynyr Gwent. No ancient sources
confirm this relationship between those men and no Welsh scholars known to this writer repeat that claim. A single
manuscript, the Life of St Tatheus, speaks of a "king of both Gwents"
named Caradog, son of Ynyr "the most noble". If the events related in this manucript are historical, St Tatheus came
to Gwent from Ireland about the time St. Cadog was born (c.505). While this is consistent with the floruit of the sixth
century Caradog Freich Fras, the father of that man is invariably cited as Llyr Merini. Some assume that to be a descriptive
nickname denoting a connection with the sea and believe his actual name was Ynyr. On no more evidence than so far produced,
we would not accept that conjecture; in fact some authorities have suggested that the Ynyr in St Tatheus' Life was actually Caradog's
son. In any event, he is nowhere called Ynyr Gwent.
suspect Iolo Manuscripts give St Tatheus a pedigree which dates him to c. 580 in order to be able to identify his Ynyr
with the Ynyr Gwent born in the final quarter of the sixth century who occurs in the Life of St Bueno.
But if St Tatheus first met St Cadog as a child as stated by his biographer, this identification fails badly; St Cadog would
have been a very old man in 580 if, indeed, he was even still living. The bogus Iolo pedigree also makes St Tatheus
a brother of St Sampson, a man who is said to be contempory with St Dubricius (c. 460-540).
The only ancient pedigree
which seems to say there even was a Ynyr Gwent living in that era is found in Bonedd y Saint, where two pedigrees are listed
consecutively, given below in familiar forms of spelling:
44. St Ceido ap Ynyr Gwent
45. St Madrun ferch Vortimer...
Some recensions of this
manuscript join those citations to make it appear that Madrun was the mother of St Ceido and thus the wife of Ynyr Gwent.
Since the daughter of Vortimer can be closely dated to c. 440/450, by joining two unrelated pedigrees we appear to produce
a Ynyr Gwent of the mid-fifth century. But those recensions continue by giving St Ceido a brother named
Iddon and a sister named Thegiwc of the same parents. Both Iddon and Tigiwg occur in the life of St Bueno as children
of the sixth-century Ynyr Gwent, who were living during the reign of Gwynedd king Cadwallon ap Cadfan (c. 620-634). Furthermore,
if St Ceido is the "St Cetiau" mentioned in the Life of St. Oudoceus he was living c. 575/585 when Oudoceus succeeded St.
Teilo to the Diocese of Llandaff. Thus the Ynyr Gwent cited as the father of St Ceido could not have married a daughter
of Vortimer and the two pedigrees should not be combined.
therefore, there never was a Ynyr Gwent living in the fifth century and the evidence is not compelling that the "noble Ynyr"
found in the Life of Tatheus was an historical figure; in any event his Caradog was never called Freich Fras. The only historical Ynyr Gwent was born in the mid-sixth century and was father to the three
children named earlier. No extant manuscipts identify either his wife nor his ancestry. Modern attempts have been
made to connect him with the descendants of Anwn Dynod but only through wild conjecture; our dating of the latter makes
that hypothesis untenable. Unless he should be identified as some man better known by another name, there is little
information available to show a relationship with those families known to rule in Gwent during his era. NOTE:
One of the Goths in the possible ancestry of the c. 485 "Teithfallt", who some cite as the father of Tewdrig, might have been
named "Ynyr". See our paper "Another Look at Teithfallt of Gwent" at:
When we turn our attention
to Caradog Freich Fras, most people associate that name with the Arthurian Era. The legendary history has this
to say about him:
"Caradog Freich Fras, which means Caradog with the strong arm, was lord of Gloucester
in right of his father and was a grandson of Brychan, Prince and Lord of Brychieniog. He was contemporary with King
Arthur, who lived about the year 490, and was one of the Knights of the Round Table and Lord Keeper of the Dolorous Tower.
Caradog was Lord of Brychieniog after the death of all the sons of Brychan his grandfather. He was also Lord of Fferlys
which lies between the Severn and Wye; he obtained it by conquest. Caradog was the son of Llyr Merini, Lord of Gloucester,
by Gwenllian daughter of Brychan. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Cawrdaff."
A number of obvious fictions
are contained in this account. His nickname does not mean "strong arm", but "large arm". He suffered some kind
of injury which resulted in one arm being larger than the other. His patrimony was probably Ewias north of Gwent and
no sources place his father in Gloucester. None of the early Brychan manuscripts cite either a daughter named Gwenllian
nor one that married Caradog's father. One medieval tract names the mother of Caradog as "Dywedd verch Aflaw wledig"
which, if accurate, would make him a first cousin of King Arthur. Another, however, says that lady was married
to Awstl Gloff of Dyfed. His descendants are found in Fferlys and Brecknock, and while he did live in the era assigned
to the legendary King Arthur, only the medieval romances clearly place
The pedigrees of Caradog
Freich Fras generally comprise three groups; those which make Llyr Merini a son of Einion Yrth ap Cunedda and thus place him
in Gwynedd; those which say Llyr Merini was a son of Meirchion Gul and thus make Caradog a first cousin of Urien Rheged
and Llywarch Hen of the Men of the North; and those which place his ancestors in Ewias in southeast Wales and among the descendants
of Bran ap Llyr Llediath. The first group should be rejected since they were drafted in reference to another man
also called Caradog Freich Fras whom we shall meet later. The second group appear to have arisen by mistaking a Meirchion
in other pedigrees with the better known man of that name in far north Britain. Since the final batch at least place
the man in the area most associated with him, we shall attempt to reconcile the differences between the manuscripts of
this group. These citations appear as:
1. Kariadoc freichfras ap Llyr merini ap y Keiliog myngrudd ap
Marinwy ap Ethrys ap Eidion darianlas...
2. Caradog vreichfras ap Llyr ap Merini ap Echrys ap Iddon darianlas
3. Kradoc vraichvras ap Llyr merini ap Merinwch
4. Kariadoc freichfras ap y Kelioc myngrudd ap Eidol darianlas...
One possible consolidation of
the data gleaned from these citations, keeping the names in the sequence which occurs most often, might be:
Iddon Darianlas (blue shield)
Ceiliog Mynrudd (the red-maned cock)
Freich Fras (large arm)
The estimated birthdate of Caradog puts
him in about the same generation usually claimed for King Arthur and is within 5 years of those estimates made by other scholars.
Such a Caradog would be contemporary with the man cited in the Life of St Tathieu and has led to the speculation that Llyr
Merini's real name was Ynyr, but there is nothing to indicate Caradog Freich Fras actually ruled the whole of Gwent around
the beginning of the sixth century. In fact the ancestors of Meurig ap Tewdrig and the families descended from Eudaf
Hen appear to be better candidates for such a role.
But his association with
Ewias, Fferlys and Brychieniog place him in close proximity to Gwent and we can see him as a member of another branch
of the old family of Silures. To test the chronological possibility of such an identification, we have made a
composite chart of those families thought to have their base in or near Gwent:
265 Gwrgan Frych
325 Iddon darinlas
415 Y Ceiliog myngrudd
445 Llyr Merini
475 Caradog Freich Fras
The family on the left is that
which produced Morgan Hen of the ninth century, who ruled most of southeast Wales which by then was called Morgannwg. The
ancestry earlier than shown in our chart goes back to Bran ap Llyr Llediath. With our assumption that the man
named Meirchion found earlier in the pedigrees of Caradog Freich Fras is the same Meirchion who occurs in the Gwent family,
we at least find the chronology does fit. Since no better efforts are to be seen elsewhere, we offer this pedigree
as a good possibility.
We now return to the earlier mention of a second man called Caradog Freich Fras, a man of the ninth century wholly unrelated
to the familiar man of that name. He occurs in the medieval pedigrees as the father of Llyddocca, whose daughter Rienigar
married Ynyr ap Cadfarch and gave birth to Tudor Trevor. And despite various medieval pedigrees to the contrary,
this Caradog was the father of the Gwgan Gleddyfrydd who appears in the pedigrees of Llywarch Hwlbwrch, Braint
Hir and Iarddur ap Cynddelw. Perhaps there was also a sixth-century Gwgan Gleddyfrydd, but not as a son
of the earlier Caradog Freich Fras.
pedigrees identify both Caradogs as the same man, but as far back as the early sixteenth century, the Life
of St Collen made it clear there were two men called Caradog Freich Fras; the one to which the ancestry of St.
Collen is traced was "not Caradog Freich Fras who broke his arm doing battle at Hiradduc and the break made one arm larger
than the other, but Caradog Freich Fras ap Llyr Merini, the king". Separate coats of arms have been assigned to each
of these men; in southeast Wales, the arms of the sixth-century Caradog are "sable, a chevron between two spearheads erect
argent, embrued gules". But the arms of the Caradog of north Wales are "azure, a lion rampant per fess or and argent
within a border argent charged with eight annulets sable".
The descendants named for the
Gwynedd Caradog place him in the area of Tegeingl; while a Battle of Hiradduc is not mentioned in the chronicles, there was
an area called Hiraddug in what is now the commote of Rhuddlan. Some would identify him as the Caradog ap Meirion
of Rhos who was killed by the Saxons in 798 but this man lived at least a couple generations earlier than the Caradog
found in pedigrees of his descendants. A chart will illustrate:
Caradog Freich Fras
850 Llyddocca Cadfarch
885 Gwaethfoed 885
915 Glannog 900
980 Gwyryd Goch
Llywarch Hwlbwrch 1020
Most authorities identify
Llywarch Hwlbwrch as an officer at the court of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn; the reign of the latter began in 1039 and ended in 1063.
Dating Llywarch to 1015 cannot be wrong by as much as a generation; perhaps 1000/1030 should be the extreme ranges.
Our placing Tudor Trevor at c. 900 is consistent with his having married a daughter of Hywel Dda and again cannot be as much
as a full generation wrong. Thus, the dating of both these men points to c. 815 for the birth of the Caradog Freich
Fras in their pedigrees.
The early Gwynedd genealogists,
having evidence that a man of this name did, in fact, rule some territory in north Wales sought to connect
him with the family of Cunedda. But by confusing him with the earlier Caradog, they cast pedigrees which dated
their Caradog to c. 475. Believing him to be the son of Llyr Merini, their pedigrees make the latter a son of Einion
Yrth ap Cunedda. In fact, the ancestry of the c. 815 Caradog Freich Fras is nowhere recorded. But we suspect those modern
scholars who place him in the Rhos family which included Caradog ap Meirion of the eighth century are on the right
track. One manuscript includes the following language:
"Gwgan Gleddyfrydd ap iarll
Gwnnllewedd brenin Tegeingl ap brennin Manaw"
A translation of this
might read "Gwgan red sword, son of the Earl of the white host and king of Tegeingl, son of the king of Man". Our rendering
of "white host" (gwynllueodd) may have simply distinguished his army from that of the "black host" or Danes who attacked Tegeingl
from the sea. If we should identify this king of Tegeingl as the man also called Caradog Freich Fras, we must next offer
some evidence that his father was a king of the Isle of Man. Our choice for that role is Hywel ap Caradog, the king
of Rhos who battled Cynan Tyndaethwy for Mon (Anglesey) in 813/816. One version of the chronicles calls him, incorrectly,
"of Manaw" but it is clear that he held rule in Mon for about three years. If that same error was made in this pedigree
by reference to that version of the Brut, then Hywel ap Caradog ap Meirion fits in every respect. Thus, the
ninth-century Caradog Freich Fras could be a son of the same Hywel ap Caradog:
745 Caradog obit 798
780 Hywel obit 825
815 Caradog Freich Fras
It is unfortunate that
the Rhos pedigree from Harleian Ms 3859 terminated with Hywel or the confusion which still exists between two men named Caradog
Freich Fras might never have arisen.
 Cotton Ms Vespasian A xiv
 George Owens "The Description of Pembrokshire", London, 1906, Part iii, pp
285. The argument is offered in notes to this work made by Egerton Phillimore
 A collection of manuscripts made by Edward Williams aka Iolo Morgannwg, many
of which appeared here for the first time and may well have been composed by Iolo himself. His pedigree makes St Tatheus
a son of Anna ferch Meurig ap Tewdrig; such a lady would not occur until c. 570
 See the paper entitled "Composite Lives of St Beuno" at the link below:
 The compilers of "Lives of the British Saints" date St Dubricius to c. 450
 ibid, St Oudoceus is dated to c. 545
 See the paper entitled "Anwn Dynod ap Maxen Wledig" at the link below:
 John Burke "Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies", London, 1844, pp 566/567
 In the King Arthur romances, it is claimed his arm was injured by a snake
which was entwined around it; the true reason he was called "large arm" is not known
 Bonedd y Arwyr, 31 cites the mother of Arthur as a sister of this lady
 Jones, Williams & Pughe "The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales", Denbigh,
1870, pp 427, 431
 Peniarth Ms 128 and 152 make Llyr Merini a son Meirchion Gul ap
Gwrwst Ledlwm ap Ceneu ap Coel Hen; that Meirchion was born c. 445
 Peniarth Ms 132, 133, 134, 140, 176
 Mostyn Ms 113
 Peniarth Ms 131
 Peniarth Ms 132 also see National Library of Wales Journal, vol xiii,
part 2, pp 107/108 for various other pedigrees assigned to Caradog Freich Fras
 P C Bartrum "A Classical Welsh Dictionary", 1993, pp 102 estimates his birthdate
as c. 470
 The full pedigree appears in "Rethinking the Gwent Pedigrees" at the link
 Dwnn ii, 307
 Pedigrees of these three men can be found on pp 102/104 of the National
Library of Wales Journal, vol xiii, part 2
 For a discussion of a possible sixth century man of this name, see "In Search
of Gwgan Gleddyfrudd" at the link below:
 Hafod Ms 119 and Llanstephen Ms 34
 Melville Richards "Welsh Administrative and Territorial Units", Cardiff,
1969, pp 91
 Harleian Ms 3859, 3 cites his pedigree; Bartrum suggests this identification
in his "Classical Welsh Dictionary", pp 103
 Dwnn ii, 61; Peniarth Ms 133
 The confusion of Manaw for Mon in the description of Hywel is discussed
in "The Governance of Gwynedd, 754-825" at the link below: