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                      HYFAIDD ap BLEDDRI versus SONS OF RHODRI MAWR
                                             By Darrell Wolcott
 
          "Hyfaidd, with all the inhabitants of the kingdom of Dyfed, driven by the might of the sons of Rhodri, had submitted himself to King Alfred's royal overlordship." [1]
 
           Bishop Asser, an intimate companion of Alfred the Great of Wessex (871-899) , used the above statement to describe the situation in south Wales as it existed about the year 880.  He did not, however, give us any details concerning the reasons for Hyfaidd's contention with the sons of Rhodri, but seems to infer that Hyfaidd was the innocent victim of oppression by the Gwynedd brothers.  We think Asser knew only what Hyfaidd had told King Alfred about the problem, and he never interviewed Anarawd, Cadell and Merfyn to hear their side of the dispute. Subsequent events tell us that the king not only DID obtain both sides of the story, but imposed a settlement that both sides readily accepted.
 
          Before we examine this dispute and settlement more closely, we should first describe the principal men involved and the situation in Wales as they would have seen it:
 
THE KINGDOM OF DYFED:
 
          Hyfaidd ap Bleddri was, as we chart the family, paternally descended from Dyfnwallon ap Arthgen, King of Ceredigion. [2]  Bleddri had married the heiress of the king of Dyfed when that Royal Family daughtered-out after ruling almost 400 years. Our charts show:

 
                         Kings of Dyfed            Kings of Ceredigion
 
                       710  Tewdos
                                  l                              Seisyll  700
                    740  Maredudd  ob 796                l
                 _________l_______                Arthgen  735
                l                             l                      l
        775  Owain                    785  Dau ======= Dyfnwallon  770
                l                         _______l__________
                l                         l                              l
  810  Tangwystl=====Bleddri  802         800  Meurig
              _________l________                 ____ _l_________
              l                              l                l                           l           
 830  Hyfaidd              840  Aleth   830 Gwgan        835  Angharad 
                                                            ob 872                  =
                                                                          820  Rhodri Mawr
                                                                                                       

       The kingdom of Dyfed, which, in the late 8th century, consisted roughly of the present Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire [3], had been ruled for over 300 years by men who descended from the Irish Deisi tribe. By the middle of the 9th century, Dyfed was being ruled by men paternally descended from the Ceredigion Royal family.
 
       There were other important Deisi families in Dyfed, which had branched off the Royal line in the early 700's that spawned a number of well-known noblemen in the 10th and 11th centuries [4], but were not in the line of royal succession.
 
THE KINGDOM OF CEREDIGION:
   .
      Seisyll ap Clydog, a direct male descendant of Ceredig ap Cunedda, was the king of Ceredigion about the year 740.  His kingdom then consisted of the 6 commotes north of the Aeron valley, now called Uwch Aeron.  He seized from Dyfed, the kingdom directly to his south, the 4 commotes now known as Is Aeron.  He may have called the new group of 10 commotes by the name Seisyllwg, but within a generation it was simply an expanded Ceredigion.  We think he also moved his official court to a new location in the conquered territory, probably near where the later Cardigan Castle was erected.
 
      The grandson of king Seisyll, Dyfnwallon ap Arthgen, had two sons.  The younger son, Bleddri, married the heiress of Dyfed.  Meurig ap Dyfnwallon, the eldest brother and eventual king of Ceredigion, was succeeded by a son, Gwgan.  The sister of Gwgan, Angharad, was married to a new Gwynedd king called Rhodri ap Merfyn [5] about 849, as a part of a new military alliance to field an army large enough to meet their enemies in set battle.
 
       King Gwgan was drowned in 872 and the seeds were sown for the conflict we mentioned in our opening paragraph.  While that king died childless, there was a distant cousin line which had earlier branched off the Royal family. [6] The kingship of Ceredigion simply shifted to that family, but there was no heir to the lands which had been personally owned by King Gwgan, except his sister, Princess Angharad.  At least that was the position taken by her husband, King Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd.
 
       Gwgan's extended family thought otherwise.  Hyfaidd ap Bleddri was the eldest first-cousin of Gwgan, and he believed that he was the nearest male heir and that land did not lawfully descend through females unless there were no eligible males to inherit.  Rhodri, we believe, told Hyfaidd that if he set foot on any of his wife's land without invitation, that the next time they met, Rhodri would be riding at the head of the entire Gwynedd army.  Hyfaidd may have grumbled a bit, but he bowed to the threat.  The king of Ceredigion apparently declined to insert himself between the rulers of these much larger kingdoms, so long as he received his legal assessments from the disputed lands.
 
THE DISPUTE IS REBORN:
 
         Barely 6 years later, Rhodri fell in a battle in Gwynedd against Saxon invaders. Hyfaidd wasted little time in seizing one of the manors formerly held by his cousin, Gwgan.  The sons of Rhodri were yet men in their 20's and unproved on a battlefield where their father was absent. But their first raid into Ceredigion was sufficiently impressive to deprive Hyfaidd of any revenue from the disputed lands.  But when the Gwynedd brothers returned home to defend it against further Saxon incursions, Hyfaidd renewed his efforts to extract rents from the disputed Ceredigion land.
 
       About 880, the adult sons of Rhodri Mawr went south to lay waste to Dyfed lands which were clearly subject to King Hyfaidd's rule.  This policy of "if you keep claiming our mother's lands, we will devastate your subjects' lands" resulted in the leading men of Dyfed demanding that their king protect their homes.  Thus, Hyfaidd turned to Wessex King Albert, placing Dyfed under that monarch's protective custody. Albert already held the over-lordship of Brycheiniog, Gwent and Glywysing, each of whom had asked for protection from Danish raiders. [7]
 
       King Alfred invited the Gwynedd brothers to his court to learn why they were harrassing Hyfaidd's lands and what he could do to restore peace between the two parties.  After considering both sides of the dispute, Alfred proposed a settlement on these terms: Hyfaidd would withdraw any inheritance claims to Angharad's lands in Ceredigion, and the brothers would marry ladies of Hyfaidd's family so that their children would inherit the disputed Ceredigion lands as one big extended family.
 
       Hyfaidd had 2 daughters, one now age 14 and the other age 10.  He also had a niece, the daughter of his wife's brother, who was about age 15.  The two oldest ladies would immediately be wed to Anarawd and Cadell, respectively, while the younger lady would be engaged to Merfyn, with that marriage deferred until she turned 14.  Both sides agreed to these terms and peace was restored in Dyfed.  The youngest son of Rhodri, Tudwal, was barely 14 years old and was not involved in either the dispute nor the settlement agreement.
 

                                             815   Imur, son of Gofraid  (a)
      802  Bleddri                                  _____l________
                   l                                     l                        l
     830  Hyfaidd===========daughter  845        Sitric  840
                        ______l_________                             l
                       l                            l                            l
         866  Rheingar (b)    870  daughter  (c)      Angharad (d)  865
 
(a)  Scandinavian king in Ireland, ancestor of the 11th century Sitric Silkbeard
(b)  Married Cadell ap Rhodri Mawr [8]
(c)  Engaged to Merfyn ap Rhodri Mawr [9]
(d)  Married to Anarawd ap Rhodri Mawr [10]
 
        Many of the details we describe in this paper are not recorded in any extant manuscripts.  Unless we have provided a specific source for our statements, they should not be considered "history" but merely our attempt to determine what must have occurred to produce the actual results which ARE recorded.
 

 
NOTES:
[1]  Asser's "Life of King Alfred", entry #80
[2]  See our paper "The Legendary Kingdom of Seisyllwg" at the link below:
[3]  Excluding the Cydweli and Gower areas, which were a part of Morgannwg until the reign of Hywel Dda
[4]  These included Cadifor Fawr and Gwaithfoed of Ystrad Tywy
[5] ABT 6j
[6]  See the paper "Early Ceredigion and Its Rulers" at the link below"
[7] ibid Note 1
[8] see Note 2
[9] No credible sources identify the wife of Merfyn; this identification is ours alone
[10]  Dwnn ii, 100