NEFYDD HARDD OF NANT CONWY
By Darrell Wolcott
Virtually the only time you will encounter the 12th century Gwynedd man, Nefydd Hardd (the handsome), is when you read the
names of the 15 men honored as "Founders of the Noble Tribes of Gwynedd." Even then, the only thing said about the man
is what was claimed in a medieval tale. First found in the c. 1590 Wrexham Ms I, 45, and expanded by various 17th to
19th century writers, the tale is a mythical explanation of how Cwm Idwal in Nant Conwy was named. A typical account  reads:
"He was of Nant Conway, and lived in the time of Owain Gwynedd, who gave Idwal his son to
be fostered by him; but he, for what reason I know not, caused Dunawt his son to kill the young prince at a place called of
him, Cwm Idwal; wherefore Nefydd and his posterity were degraded, and of gentlemen were made bondsmen. His son, Rhyn,
to expiate that murther, gave the lands whereon the church of Llanrwst was built, whose grandchild was steward to Llewelyn
ap Iorwerth, Prince of Wales."
Early pedigrees  cite Nefydd Hardd as the "son of Ieuan ap Ysbwys ap Sir Iestyn" but continue corruptly with
Cadwgan ap Elystan Glodrydd. A much earlier pedigree  cites the men of Nant Conwy as including a "Rychwyn ap Heilyn ap
Glannog". When charted, the two name-strings align to produce Nefydd Hardd born c. 1105:
915 Glannog 
1105 Nefydd Hardd
It is true that Owain Gwynedd had a base son named Idwal who would have been perhaps 3/4 years younger than Dunod, son of
Nefydd Hardd. It may have been true that Idwal was sent to be reared by Nefydd Hardd, a man whose ancestors had long
been Lords of Nant Conwy and who were descended from the First Gwynedd Royal Dynasty.  It is, however, unreasonable
to suppose Nefydd Hardd played any role in the death of young Idwal. No credible source confirms that Idwal was killed
as a youngster, but since he is never mentioned among those who divided up the lands owned by Owain Gwynedd after his 1170
death, it is likely that Idwal did not outlive his father. But Nedydd Hardd did have sons and grandsons who sired families,
all of whom married into noble Welsh families. While a nobleman could have his lands seized for committing a serious
crime against his king, the punishment might include death or exile but not loss of nobility. That rank was ancestral,
not a mere privilege granted by the king. Thus, we reject the claim that Nefydd and his posterity were made into mere
bondsmen. Even the mythical tale claims a descendant of his became a steward to the Prince of Wales, but that prince
could NOT have been Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, who died in 1240.
Other sources  claim that Madog Goch ap Iorwerth of this family served as steward to an unnamed "Lord of Wales".
But he was not a grandchild of any son of Nefydd Hardd. He is cited  as Madog Goch (1270) ap Iorwerth (1235) ap Gwrgeneu
(1200) ap Cyfnerth (1170) ap Rhufon (1140) ap Nefydd Hardd (1105). We suggest that son called "Rhyn" in the tale
was actually Rhufon. The only "Lords of Wales" whom this Madog Goch could have served were kings of England or their
We do think it likely that after the death of Nefydd Hardd (probably before 1170), that Owain Gwynedd gave the Lordship of
Nant Conwy to his own son, Iorwerth Drwyndwn, since that man's "disability"  prevented him from ever becoming king even
though he was Owain's eldest in-wedlock son. He was also given the manor at Dolwyddelan in Nant Conwy.
It is thus possible that the loss of the Lordship to the family of Nefydd Hardd helped create the legend that Nefydd must
have committed a grievous crime against the king, and the existence of a Cwm Idwal in Nant Conwy provided a logical "scene
of the crime". A Welsh "cwm" was a mountain valley which had no river or stream flowing through it. Cwm Idwal
does contain a Lake Idwal, but there is no credible source which identifies which Idwal gave it its name.
The question which is nowhere answered is "Why was Nefydd Hardd named as founder of one of the 15 Noble Families of Gwynedd?".
Had he been disgraced like the tale claims, surely the honor would have been assigned to an earlier ancestor of his
family, perhaps his father or grand-father. We suspect he was honored by this designation for something both notable and laudable
about his life, which was unknown to those who originated the tale about him, and remains unknown today.
Philip Yorke, "Royal Tribes of Wales", 2nd edition, 1877, pp 188/189, in the material added by Richard Williams on "The 15
Tribes of North Wales"
Pen. 287, 799; Harl. 1977, 182
His ancestry is shown in our paper at the link below:
The descendants of Cunneda, which daughtered-out with Cynan Tindaethwy in the 9th century
Inscription on his tombstone in the churchyard at Llanrwst, which
calls him "Chief steward of the Lord of Wales"
 Pen. 177, 157
He was born with nasal holes in his face, but no nose. His nickname means "broken nose" but he was actually "flat nosed"