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Ancestors and Children of the Lord Rhys

                            CYNAN DINDAETHWY - FURTHER NOTES
                                            By Darrell Wolcott
          In a previous paper about Cynan Dindaethwy (written in 2004), we explored his ancestry, but concentrated on the connection of his ancestor, Cadfan ap Iago, to Einion Yrth ap Cunedda, and concluded his paternal line did not go through Maelgwyn Hir. [1]  More recently, we discussed his ancestor's marriages with ladies of Llydaw in Brittany, and ended that story with Rhodri Molwynog ap Idwal Ywrch, pointing out that what historians tell us about the subsequent kingship line for Gwynedd "has problems". [2]
          The current academic view can be expressed in the following summary:
           1.  Rhodri Molwynog, son of Idwal Ywrch and grandson of Cadwaladr, became king 720 and died in 754
           2.  His son, Cynan Dindaethwy, succeeded to the kingship following the death of Rhodri.
           3.  Cynan Dindaethwy engaged in warfare over possession of Anglesey in 813/814 with another claimant named Hywel, who some say was his brother.
           4.  Cynan Dindaethwy died in 816, and was succeeded as king by Merfyn Frych, the son of his daughter, or according to others, the husband of his daughter.
          It is when you place these events on a timeline that the problems become apparent. If we estimate the birth date of Rhodri Molwynog at 688 (when his father was about age 32) and the birth of Rhodri's son Cynan about 720 (when Rhodri was 32), we then have a king Cynan on the battlefield at age 93 and dying at age 96.
          We have used here 32 years [3], which is the average generational gap for noble Welshmen of the era, but that is for ALL noblemen, and includes more men who were NOT the eldest son than who were.  The kingly succession was predominately passed from father to his eldest son, so one would expect this average generational gap to be less than 32 years in the royal families.  Indeed, for the Gwynedd kings in Rhodri's ancestry, most eldest sons were born before their father reached age 30.  Adjusting our calculations to that number would result in Cynan Dindaethwy dying at age 100.
          In our first paper on this subject, we estimated the birth of Rhodri Molwynog as 690 and Cynan as 735 when their fathers were 34  and 45 respectively.  Even that deviation from the norm left us with a Cynan on the battlefield in his low 80's.  What we did not analyze, when making that estimate, was Cynan's age when he first became king.  Our work has shown repeatedly that there was a minimum age a man must attain before being elevated to Welsh kingship [4], and that age was "about 28" if not "definitely 28".  This means that Cynan could not have become king at his father's death in 754 if he was born later than 726.
          There are multiple scenerios which would resolve this age problem and they all require 3 generations of men in this family after Idwal Ywrch, to reach Cynan Dindaethwy..  Either there was also a Rhodri Molwynog ap Rhodri ap Idwal or there was a Cynan Dindaethwy ap Cynan ap Rhodri Molwynog, thus:

                       656  Idwal Ywrch                            656  Idwal Ywrch
                                     l                                                       l
                       685  Rhodri, obit  754                685  Rhodri Molwynog  obit 754
                                     l                                                       l
                   715  Rhodri Molwynog  obit ?                    715  Cynan  obit ?
                                     l                                                       l
                 745  Cynan Dindaethwy  ob 816        745  Cynan Dindaethwy  ob 816

          Even choosing one of these alternatives requires a "guess" as to the obit date of the man assigned a 715 birthdate.  If that man actually died before 773, his son would not have been old enough to immediately become the king, and this would require an interim king be appointed.  And there is some evidence that this actually occurred.

The Brut entry for 798 tells us "Saxons slew Caradog, king of Gwynedd".  This Caradog is identified [5] as Caradog ap Meirion, father of Hywel of the Rhos family descended from Cynglas ap Owain Ddantgwyn.  That Cynglas was a brother of King Einion, from whom the line of Gwynedd kings descended. [6]  
          The view of academia is that "king of Gwynedd" denoted a lesser ruler than "king of the Britons", as Rhodri Molwynog was styled in his 754 obit.  But they also assert that Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon was the last Briton to hold the latter title, and the Saxons gained it.  Our own view differs only in that we believe the king of Gwynedd had also been regarded as the overking of all Britain, and the latter title passed to the Saxons of Wessex with the death of Rhodri Molwynog.  Any subsequent "king of Gwynedd" was holding the same Welsh office that Cadwaladr and Rhodri had held.
          We shall adopt the "2 Cynans" alternative as the most likely, and posit that a Cynan ap Rhodri Molwynog, born about 715, became Gwynedd's king in 754. He had a son, also named Cynan and called Dindaethwy, in 745.  We would further posit that the elder Cynan died in 770 when his son was but age 25.

The leading men of Gwynedd then selected an interim king from their "cousin" line, Caradog ap Meirion, who was Lord of Rhos.  A man from that same line had been made an interim king in 634 when Cadwallon ap Cadfan was killed. [7]

                                                     385  Cunedda
                                                   415  Einion Yrth
                                             447  Owain Ddantgwyn
                                    l                                                       l
                        475  Einion (a)                                 480  Cynglas
                                   l                                                        l
                         510  Beli                                            515  Meig 
                                  l                                                        l
                        540  Iago                                         545  Cyngen
                                  l                                                        l
                      569  Cadfan                             575  Cadwallon Crisban (b)
                                  l                                                        l
                    598  Cadwallon                                    610  Idgwyn
                                  l                                                        l
                   627  Cadwaladr (c)                               640  Einion
                                 l                                                         l
                    656  Idwal Ywrch                                  675  Rhufon
                                 l                                                         l
                 685  Rhodri Molwynog                          705  Meirion
                                 l                                                         l
                     715  Cynan                                      740  Caradog
                                  l                                                         l
              745  Cynan Dindaethwy                            780  Hywel
                             Bold Type = Kings of Gwynedd

      (a)  He was killed in battle c. 525 when his son was yet a teen.  His cousin, Maelgwn Hir ap Cadwallon ap Einion Yrth was made interim king, but declined to step aside when Beli ap Einion attained age 28.  Maelgwn's son Rhun, and his grandson, Beli ap Rhun, continued to rule until 599, when rule was restored to the "royal" line with Cadfan ap Iago.
     (b)  His brother, Cynfeddw, had a son Cadafael, who was made interim king when Cadwallon ap Cadfan was killed in 634, when that king's son was yet a child.  Cadafael stepped aside when Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon turned age 28.
     (c) His son was but age 26 when Cadwaladr died in 682.  The brother of his wife, Ifor ap Alan of Llydaw, served as interim king until his death c. 713.

           Interim king Caradog ap Meirion was engaged in frequent diplomacy with the Saxon kings  to forestall invasion threats, and refused to stand aside when the rightful heir, Cynan Dindaethwy, attained sufficient age to become king.  Kings Caradog of Gwynedd and Cadell ap Brochwel of Powys were able to gain minor territorial concessions when King Offa of Mercia decided to mark the boundary between his lands and those of the Welsh, by erecting an earthen barrier along the border.  It was never a manned military fortification, but Offa's Dyke did make it difficult for mounted troops to cross into Mercia from the Welsh side.
          Shortly after King Offa died, his successor was less diplomatic toward the Welsh and made war on Gwynedd, killing Caradog in 798.  Cynan Dindaethwy finally became king when he was in his 50's.  About 808, Hywel ap Caradog presented a kingship claim on the grounds that HIS was now the royal line of the family.  It was his position that Caradog had not been merely an interim king, because he had served until death.  In his view, Cynan was the interim king, installed only because Hywel had been a teenager when his father was killed. There was also the fact that Cynan was an old man now, and had no son of his own to succeed himself.
          Cynan rejected the argument, so Hywel set out to sell his theory to Gwynedd's leading men, hoping to gather enough support to dislodge Cynan.  The matter went unresolved until 813, when Hywel and his retinue landed in Anglesey ready to do battle.  Cynan was dispossessed of the royal court, but their hostilities simmered into 814, when Hywel drove Cynan into exile.
          Back in 773, Cynan had an only child, a daughter named Esyllt. She married a chieftan from the Isle of Man, Gwriad ap Elidyr, and they had a son, Merfyn Frych, about 788.  Merfyn, and his father, gave Cynan shelter on the Isle of Man.  Cynan died there in 816 at age 71. Now age 28, Merfyn took an army to Anglesey [8] and quickly subdued Hywel's troops, and Hywel [9] fled back to Rhos from whence he had come.  When the elders of Gwynedd, who had never elected Hywel as their king, received a claim from Merfyn, they accepted it and installed him as the new king.  Whether they approved him because he was the son of former king Cynan's daughter, or because they believed he was capable of taking it by force, is a matter for academia to debate.
          Merfyn Frych was paternally descended from Coel Hen, so his election as king of Gwynedd ended the Cunedda dynasty, and began the Merfynian dynasty.  Some would call it the Rhodri Mawr dynasty from his better-known son.  That dynasty continued (interrupted only by the Powys strongmen of the 11th century) until all of Wales was conquered by England in 1283.

[1]  See our earlier paper on Cynan Dindaethwy at the link below:
[2] See our paper "The Interim Kings of Gwynedd's First Dynasty" at the link below"
[3]  The actual generational gap from father to son, we have found, was actually 3 male generations equals 95 years, a fraction less than 32 years per generation
[4]  See our paper "Minimum Age for Welsh Kingship in the 11th Century" at the link below:
[5] J.E. Lloyd, "History of Wales", 1912, 2nd edition, pp 133 & 237
[6]  Harleian Ms 3859, 3
[7] He was Cadafael ap Cynfeddw, who we identify as "ap Cyngen ap Meig" in our paper in Note 2 above
[8]  This story is told in our paper "Governance of Gwynedd - 754-825" at the link below:
[9]  See our comments to Harleian Ms 3859, 3 at the link below:"