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Ifor Bach, Lord of Senghenydd
Ancestors and Children of the Lord Rhys

                                    THE INTERIM KINGS OF GWYNEDD'S 1st DYNASTY
                                                By Darrell Wolcott
          For the purposes of this study, an "interim" king is defined as one appointed to serve until the legitimate heir reaches the required age to become king.  The man appointed must be a brother, cousin or nephew of the late king, by either blood or marriage, and was intended to serve only until the real heir turned age 28, and in no event were his own heirs meant to succeed him.
          If there were no males at all, of any age in the royal family, who remained alive when the king died, that would signal the end of the dynasty.  The new king, however selected, would be the beginning of an entire new dynasty.  This occurred only once in Gwynedd, when the old Cunedda dynasty "daughtered-out" with Cynan Dindaethwy in 816.  It was replaced by the Merfynian dynasty headed by Merfyn Frych, a descendant of Coel Hen.  Most know this Merfyn primarily as the father of Rhodri Mawr.
          Prior to the relocation of Cunedda from Gododdin, in the north of Britian, to north Wales about the year 440, these Welsh lands were ruled by two royal families who descended from Llyr Lleidiath, a Menapiian Celt of uncertain ancestry.  Following the withdrawal of the Roman legions in the opening years of the 5th century, swarms of men from Ireland settled in north Wales, creating their own war lord fiefdoms to replace the kingdoms of the Menapiian families.  It was specifically these Irish settlers whom Cunedda meant to remove, and in doing so, also replaced the former Welsh ruling families and their territorial kingships. [1]  Thereafter, history begins to refer to this new kingdom by the name Gwynedd.
          Various sons of Cunedda initially shared these lands, but it was Einion Yrth whose dynasty survived as "Gwynedd", with all the others, save Ceredeg [2], becoming mere lords of appanages of a single kingship.  Einion Yrth, about 447, married a part-Roman lady who was a great-grand-daughter of Maxen Wledig, by whom he had an eldest son, Owain Ddantgwyn. [3]  He also took as mistresses two sisters, daughters of a former Irish war lord in the neighboring kingdom of Powys.  By one of those ladies, he had a base son named Einion, of whom nothing more is recorded.  By the other sister, he had a base son, Cadwallon Lawhir, [4] whose primary claim to fame was the final extermination of the Irish who'd settled on Anglesey. [5] Cadwallon was also the father of Maelgwn, [6] who would later become our first interim king of Gwynedd.
          During his father's lifetime, Owain Ddantgwyn led the Gwynedd war band which often was called upon by Britian's "overking" to battle both Saxon and Pict raids against the native Celt population of Britain.  He became the Gwynedd king following the death of his father about the year 473.  About 474, Owain married a young widowed daughter of Amlawdd Wledig, a military commander descended from Eudaf Hen.  Their first son, born c. 475, was named Einion. [7]  Following in his father's footsteps, Einion would later lead the Gwynedd war band in various battles against the encroaching Saxons.  King Owain died about 509 and was succeeded by Einion.  He established his younger brother, Cynglas, at his father's old court in Rhos and set up a new royal court in the lands now called the cantref of Llyn. [8]
          King Einion married Gwenhwyfar, a daughter of "the Intuitive" [9], another man with Roman roots born in the 6th generation after Anwn Dynod (son of Elen ferch Eudaf Hen by a Roman called Maxen) and they had an eldest son, Beli, born c. 510. [10] Beli was still a teenager when King Einion was killed in battle about 525.

          In 525, the leading men of the realm gathered to choose a new king, finally deciding on the late king's first-cousin, Maelgwn ap Cadwallon Lawhir.  Maelgwn ruled by persuasion backed by brute force and really didn't care if his subjects respected him or simply feared him, so long as they obeyed. He is reported as having killed his first wife so he could wed another, younger, lady, whose husband he had also killed. Rather than accept the interim status of his appointment, he refused to step aside when Beli ap Einion reached the age of eligibility for kingship. The record is not fully revealing of events in this era, but he may have had Beli killed to prevent a kingship challenge.
          Maelgwn continued to rule Gwynedd until his death in 547 [11] and there is no reason to believe that Beli was still alive to contest Maelgwn's son, Rhun, [12] for kingship.  If alive, Beli would have only been a man in his upper 30's.  Rhun was installed as king and, like his father, paid no heed to the heir in the kingly line of the family, Iago ap Beli.  He married a lady of northern Britain. [13] When Rhun died about 570, he was succeeded by his own son, also named Beli.  There is no evidence that Iago asserted his own rights to the kingship, and he died an old man in 613. [14]

          When Beli ap Rhun died about 599, his only child, Edern, chose the life of a cleric. [15]  The "interim" period of the kingship then ended, with the installation of Cadfan ap Iago [16] as king of Gwynedd.  He was the great-grandson of former king Einion ap Owain Ddantgwyn.

                           mistress==/==Einion Yrth ap Cunedda===wife
                                            l            415                          l
                        450  Cadwallon Lawhir        447  Owain Ddantgwyn
                                            l                                           l
                              480  Maelgwn                        475  Einion
                                            l                                           l
                                 505  Rhun                              510  Beli
                                            l                                           l
                                  540  Beli                               540  Iago
                                                                            569  Cadfan
                                                   kings shown in bold type

          King Cadfan married the daughter of Powys king, Cynan Garwin, and had a son, Cadwallon c. 598. [17] Cadfan also had an unnamed sister. [18] The king died about 626 and his son was installed as the new king.  King Cadwallon married a sister of Penda, king of Mercia,[19] and campaigned with him against Northumbria in northern Britain.  He had a son, Cadwaladr, born c. 627. [20] Cadwallon was killed by King Oswald of Northumbria in 634, [21] when his son was yet a young lad.
          Cadfan's sister had married a man named Cynfeddw of unknown ancestry (but likely a distant cousin also descended from Einion Yrth). [22]  As a first-cousin of Cadwallon, Cadafael ap Cynfeddw was appointed interim king to serve during the minority of Cadwaladr. [23] He relinquished the crown to Cadwaladr c. 655 when the latter attained the age of 28, having served as a somewhat reluctant interim king. [24]  With the ascension of Cadwaladr, the second interim kingship of Gwynedd ended.

                                                540  Iago
                                                l                  l                   
                                  569  Cadfan       daughter====Cynfeddw  565
                                                l                  580               l 
                                598  Cadwallon  ob. 634            Cadafael 595
                                627  Cadwaladr                      (ruled 634-655)
                                   (ruled 655-682)
                                               kings shown in bold type

          Cadwaladr served as best he could, but his heart was never in being a king.  He would have been much happier running a monastery and actually bore the nickname "Blessed" usually given to a saint.  In 664, both famine and pestilence swept over Britain, so King Cadwaladr took refuge in Brittany with his father-in-law, Alan II of Llydaw.  He had earlier married Alan's young daughter, who later gave birth to their son, Idwal [25]:
           569  Cadfan               {     Selyf II  575
                      l                     {      
        598  Cadwallon            { unnamed brother  580
                      l                                l
                      l                           Alan II  615
                      l                           __l_____________
                      l                           l                           l
       627  Cadwaladr=====daughter  641           Ifor  650
                      656  Idwal Ywrch
                  685  Rhodri Molwynog
                                   Gwynedd kings shown in bold type
          After waiting out the plague for several years, Cadwaladr determined to return home. Alan II, the Emyr of Llydaw, felt his son-in-law would require assistance to recover his long-vacant lands, so provided Cadwaladr an army led by his son, Ifor ap Alan, and a nephew named Ynyr.  It was about 675 when this group departed Llydaw.  The mission proved successful and other Gwynedd families began returning from their places of refuge. Unfortunately, the pestilence returned in 682 and this time Cadwaladr died from it. [26]   Historians, who claim that he actually went to Rome and died there, have confused him with Wessex King Caedwalla, who DID die in Rome. [27]
          Since his son was a young man yet in his mid-20's, Ifor ap Alan was named interim king as his "nearest eligible male heir". [28] The widow and son of Cadwaladr returned to live with her people in Llydaw, where Idwal ap Cadwaladr soon married a niece of his mother. [29]  When Ifor ap Alan died about 721, Rhodri ap Idwal returned to Gwynedd to reclaim the kingship for the royal family, and the interim kingship ended.  We suggest Idwal Ywrch never served as king of Gwynedd and lived most of his life in Llydaw.

          Rhodri, called "Molwynog" (probably 'Moelgwyntog' or bald and long-winded), served honorably as king [30] until his death in 754 about age 68.  His son, Cynan Dindaethwy, is said to have become the next king, but this presents a problem.
         Cynan would have to be born no later than 726 (when his father was age 41), else another interim king would be required.  But Cynan was still king when he died in 816, having been challenged on the battlefield as late as 814.  We can barely accept a Cynan ruling into his early 80's, but hardly beyond that.  No source provides a solution, but we think one of two things must be true:

            1.  The King Cynan who died in 816 was NOT the same man as the Cynan ap Rhodri Molwynog found in the old pedigrees, or
            2. The Rhodri, king of the Britains, who died in 754 was NOT the same man as Rhodri Molwynog.
          This problem will be further examined in a later paper since it may, or may not, have required another interim kingship. [31]

[1]  The old kingdoms in north Wales were called Cernyw (west of the Conwy) and Llydaw (east of the Conwy)
[2]  His lands of Ceredigion, which then only extended south as far as the Aeron River, were later included in the kingdom of Deheubarth, but had never been a part of Gwynedd
[3]  Harl 3859, 3
[4]  JC Ms 20, 23
[5]  Bonedd yr Arwyr, 29
[6]  Harl 3859, 1
[7]  ByS 9
[8]  ibid
[9]  The man's nickname was "Greddfol".  His ancestry is cited in Dwnn ii, 98 which does not mention his daughter
[10] All early citations conflate Beli ap Einion with Beli ap Rhun ap Maelgwn
[11] A/C entry for 547
[12] Harleian 3859, 1
[13] Bonedd yr Arwyr, 28(c) calls the lady Perwar
[14] A/C entry for 613 which says he died "dormitatio", or 'inactive' suggesting he had retired into a monastery to live out his remaining days 
[15] ByS 10
[16] Harleian 3859, 1
[17] Bonydd yr Arwyr 28(b)
[18] We posit she married Cynfeddw, he mentioned in Triad #68 as father of a Gwynedd king not of the royal line, but no citations confirm this marriage
[19] Bonydd yr Arwyr 28(a)
[20] ibid
[21] A/C entry for 631. John Lloyd's "History of Wales" 2nd edition, page 188 and Note 108 gives the basis for dating the event to 634
[22] We suggest he was Cynfeddw ap Cyngen ap Meig ap Cynglas, the latter being a younger brother of former king Einion ap Owain Ddantgwyn, but no sources cite such a man
[23] Rachel Bromwich's "Trioedd Ynys Prydein" 1961, page 179 in Triad #68
[24] Nennius, "Historia Brittonum", #65 says Cadafael, just before a critical battle with Oswy of Northumbria, "was the only one to escape with his army, by rising up in the night" and apparently going home to Gwynedd.  Nennius adds "so he was called Cadafael the Battle Dodger". This occurred c. 655 soon after his Mercian ally, Penda, was killed.  We suggest that he went home before the battle because he knew Cadwaladr had just turned age 28, and he was anxious to be relieved of his interim kingship. He may even have believed that his reign had ended automatically, together with his authority to lead the Gwynedd army.
[25] For our sources, see our paper on "The Family of Emyr Llydaw" at the link below:
[26] ByT says Cadwaladr died in 682 and says nothing about him retiring to Rome
[27] Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History of the Kings of Britain" claims Cadwaladr left Gwynedd for Rome in 683, and 5 years later died in Rome.   Most scholars believe Geoffrey confused him with Saxon king Caedwalla who did die in Rome in 688.
[28] Brenhinedd y Saesson, entry for 682 says Ifor came to Gwynedd in 683 but no entry is shown between 682 and 684.  We think Ifor was in Gwynedd when Cadwaladr died, having come from Llydaw several years earlier
[29] Pen 131, 161 says Idwal ap Cadwaladr married Agatha ferch Alan of Llydaw, that Alan being a brother of Idwal's mother.
[30] Ever since the reign of Einion ap Owain Ddantgwyn, the king of Gwynedd had also been regarded as the overking of all Britain. This supposedly ended with Cadwaladr; thereafter the Gwynedd king was merely an equal with all other kings on the island of Britain. 
[31] See our paper "Cynan Dindaethwy - Further Notes" at the link below: