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Who Was Sir Robert Pounderling?
Sir Aaron ap Rhys
Eidio Wyllt - What Was His Birthname?
Ifor Bach, Lord of Senghenydd
Ancestors and Children of the Lord Rhys
                                        By Darrell Wolcott
         The earliest "biography" of a Welsh king is contained in a manuscript called "Historia hen Gruffudd vab Kenan vab Yago" but most often referred to as simply "The History of Gruffudd ap Cynan". Hereafter, we shall refer to it as Historia.  Although John E. Lloyd accepted it as literal history when writing his classic work "A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest" in 1911, modern scholars are less certain.[1]
         The oldest extant manuscript is Peniarth Ms 17 which dates to the middle of the thirteenth century[2].  In his 1910 edit and translation of the work, Arthur Jones supposes it to be a Welsh translation of an original Latin text written before the death of Owain Gwynedd in 1170.[3]  But the analysis of Kari Maund expresses well-reasoned doubts.[4]
          The work appears to have been written as both a panegyric to the man and an apologia concerning his right to rule.  Its extensive genealogies seek to show a Welsh king could be fully entitled by birth to rule even if his father had not been the king.  As Maund points out, no such arguments would be needed during the lifetime of Owain Gwynedd; his father HAD been the king.  While she opts for an authorship date during the life of Llewelyn ap Iorwerth (thus c. 1200/10) whose father had never been king, we think it equally likely it was written during the life of Llewelyn ap Gruffudd...another man whose father had not preceeded him as king.  And should we date the work to c. 1250, perhaps the extant Peniarth Ms 17 is, in fact, the original; it was written for and addressed to an audience called "most beloved brethren of Wales".  Mr Jones' reasons for thinking it was first composed in Latin are as unconvincing as his reasons for dating the work. While clerics of the 13th century were fluent in Latin, the broader audience...to the extent they could read at all...read only Welsh.
         If originally composed near 1250, the author must have relied on such existing manuscripts as Brut y Tywysogyon, Annales Cambriae, bardic pedigree lists and oral traditions.  Anyone with first-hand information about Gruffudd ap Cynan was long dead.  We suspect the author simply took the terse recitation of events found in the chronicles and annals and expanded them into a narrative which best portrayed Gruffudd as a brave, heroic and admired king whose military prowess was unequaled.  At the same time he portrayed those men not of his family, but who had ruled over Gwynedd, as reviled usurpers. 
          We shall not dwell on the doubts others have expressed about the worth of this manuscript as literal history, but will raise an issue no earlier scholars seem to have considered.  Was the subject of the work a single man named Gruffudd, or two entirely different men of that name?  In order to accomodate all the recounted events into the life of a single man, the author of Historia makes him die at age 82 and thus born in either 1054 or 1055 (his obit is recorded in 1137).  One must wonder if this unusually long life[5] assigned him by the author was done so in recognition that his first attempt to rule over Gwynedd was in 1075.  But to assume that a man of 20 or 21 could or would stake a kingship claim in eleventh century Wales is to ignore contradictory evidence.[6]  Our own timeline for this family points to a birthdate nearer to 1041 for the Gruffudd who attacked, besieged or possessed Anglesey[7] in 1075. 
         The Latin texts of the Annales Cambriae identify him as "Grifud nepos Iacob"[8] but the Latin "nepos" can mean either "nephew" or "grandson".  Some Welsh translations rendered it "nei" or nephew[9] while others opted for "wyr" or grandson[10].  Since a number of early pedigrees identify a "Gruffudd ap Cynan ap Iago", modern scholars all ignore the "nephew" possibility and posit that his name was not rendered in the patronymic form because his father was virtually unknown, while his grandfather had been king of Gwynedd until 1039[11]. We think it equally likely this Gruffudd ap Cynan was called "Gruffudd nephew of Iago" to distinguish him from a later Gruffudd ap Cynan.  The Gruffudd who assisted Rhys ap Tewdwr at the Battle of Mynydd Cairn in 1081 is identified in the same manner and, we think, is clearly the same man mentioned in 1075.  But not necessarily the man who first occurs in 1098 and died in 1137.
          There is general agreement today that the pedigrees contained in Historia are flawed; the paternal line omits Idwal Foel ap Anarawd and Rhodri Molwynog ap Idwal as glaring deficiencies.  To find omitted generations in old pedigrees is not unusual; far rarer are cases where an extra generation has been inserted.  The sources available to the author of Historia included Elisedd ap Meurig as the grandfather of Iago ap Idwal. We have seen no persuasive arguments why this generation should be deleted.  Meurig ap Idwal Foel is known to have had sons named Ionafal[12] and Idwal[13].  The former was slain in 985, yet Brut entries for 993 and 994 mention the "sons of Meurig" in Gwynedd.  Clearly Idwal had a brother still alive in those years.  It appears those genealogists which "ememded" the c. 1250 pedigree to eliminate Elisedd were influenced by the claimed birthdate of Gruffudd ap Cynan ap Iago as 1055.  The early fifteenth-century manuscript Achau Brenhinoedd a Thywysogion Cymru rendered the pedigree as:
                                  820  Rhodri Mawr  ob 878
                                  850    Anarawd  ob 916
                                  880  Idwal Foel  ob 942
                                    913  Meurig  ob 974
                                     945  Idwal  ob 996
                                      980  Iago  ob 1039
                                   1020  Cynan
                                  1055  Gruffudd  ob 1137
         While all birthdates except the last one are simply used to show standard generational gaps, it can be seen that to leave Elisedd in the chart would not reasonably allow Gruffudd to occur as early as 1055.  But if we recast the pedigree to make the Gruffudd who occurs in 1075 the nephew of Iago, then omitting Elisedd is not only unnecessary but by doing so we obscure the fact there may have been a second and later Gruffudd ap Cynan:
                                       913  Meurig  ob 974
                 l                                    l                           l
      944 Ionafal  ob 985        945  Elisedd            943  Idwal  ob 996
                                          975  Idwal
                               l                                              l
                    1005  Iago  ob 1039               1014  Cynan
                               l                                              l
                   1035  Cynan                          1041  Gruffudd
                 1070  Gruffudd  ob 1137
          With this chart, we posit a nephew of former king Iago contending for Anglesey in 1075 as a man past 30, not a lad barely out of his teens as given by Historia.  And we suggest the man cited in 1098 as an ally of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn was the grandson of Iago, both men not contending for rule until they had reached the requisite age to become king.[14]  Since the patronymic name of both was Gruffudd ap Cynan, the author of Historia thought they were a single man.  But we should expect the man who married Angharad ferch Owain ap Edwin (she born c. 1085) and fathered Owain Gwynedd near 1100 would himself date from c. 1070, not 1055.  However, the man whose mother was Rhanillt daughter of Olaf of Ireland should occur near 1040.  (See APPENDIX following the Notes for citations which were aware of two men called Gruffudd ap Cynan)
        A review of events affecting the kingship of Gwynedd in the eleventh century might be helpful at this point.  The last two decades of the tenth century saw many sons and grandsons of Idwal Foel alternately contend for rule, virtually killing off all but one son of Meurig.  The last of the others, Cynan ap Hywel ap Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel, was killed in 1003; we aren't told who succeeded him but the next man called king of Gwynedd in the Brut was Llewelyn ap Seisyllt in 1022.  It is possible Idwal ap Elisedd ap Meurig was responsible for the death of Cynan ap Hywel since he likely attained the requisite age for kingship in 1003.  But Idwal must not have survived long and his son Iago was still a youngster when Llewelyn ap Seisyllt of Powys was installed as king of Gwynedd...sometime between 1003 and 1022.
         When Llewelyn was killed in 1023, his only son Gruffudd was still a child.  The men of Powys appear to have selected Cynfyn ap Gwerystan as interim king; not only was he a maternal grandson of former king Cadell ap Brochwel ap Aeddan but he married the widow of Llewelyn and became the step-father of young Gruffudd.  No claimant of the Gwynedd royal family came forward in 1023, but we learn that Iago ap Idwal assumed rule there in 1033.  In our proposed timeline, that was the first year Iago attained the requisite age for kingship.  We don't know if Cynfyn willingly stepped aside for Iago in Gwynedd or if Iago came to power by killing Cynfyn.  If the latter, he may have also taken rule in Powys where Gruffudd was still in his early 20's.  We do know that when the latter finally did come of "kingship" age in 1039, his first act was to kill Iago and seize Gwynedd.
         Historians suppose it was Cynan ap Iago who had to flee for safety to Ireland when Iago was killed, but under our timeline, that Cynan was but a toddler and not a threat to Gruffudd ap Llewelyn.  However, we have posited a Cynan brother of Iago who would have been perhaps 25 years old in 1039, a definate threat to Gruffudd. We believe it was this Cynan who fled to Ireland where he married the Irish princess and fathered "Gruffudd nephew of Iago" c. 1041. 
         Irish sources[15] say "Channan mac Iacco" was responsible for the death of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn in 1063. While this is by no means an accepted fact, it does appear that Cynan ap Iago would have attained the requisite age to contend for kingship about that same year.  This would have been virtually the only opportunity for Cynan to qualify for the description "King Cynan" given him in the Historia pedigrees.  Since Bleddyn ap Cynfyn was installed by King Edward of England as ruler of Gwynedd in 1063, any reign of Cynan was brief indeed.  We believe he had never left Gwynedd when his same-named uncle fled to Ireland, and was not earlier a problem to Gruffudd ap Llewelyn since he was under the requisite age for claiming a kingship.  Thus, his son Gruffudd probably had always lived in Gwynedd and had just attained sufficient years to claim kingship when we first encounter him in 1098.  In the years which followed 1063, Bleddyn was killed in 1075 and replaced in Gwynedd by the cousins Trahaearn ap Caradog ap Gwyn and Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon ap Gwyn[16].  The latter was killed within months, while Trahaearn continued to rule[17] until his death at Mynydd Cairn in 1081 at the hands of Rhys ap Tewdwr and Gruffudd nephew of Iago.  The latter is not heard from again; Robert of Rhuddlan, the Norman relative of Earl of Chester Hugh Avranches, ruled over Gwynedd until he was killed in 1093.[18] 
          We aren't told who immediately succeeded him, but when the Normans sought to maintain their control over Gwynedd after the death of Robert, it was Cadwgan ap Bleddyn who defended it and drove the Normans to flight in 1094.  There is no mention of Gruffudd ap Cynan at that battle, but by 1098 he and Cadwgan were driven from Anglesey by a renewed Norman attack.  The man we posit as born c. 1070 would not have been of sufficient age in 1094 to claim the kingship, but would have been in 1098.  Perhaps it was his elevation to the crown that prompted the Normans to invade with sufficient forces to prevail[19].  After forced to take shelter in Ireland for a short period, we learn that Gruffudd and Cadwgan returned in 1099 after making peace with the Normans.  Gruffudd was permitted to rule in Anglesey while the remainder of Gwynedd was settled upon Owain ap Edwin of Tegeingl.  We suspect the terms of this accord included a requirement that Gruffudd marry a daughter of Owain; such a liason between the two men sharing rule in Gwynedd might mitigate any thoughts either man might have had of taking the whole for himself.  His ally, Cadwgan, was given rule in Ceredigion and a Norman wife...the daughter of Picot de Say.
          The author of Historia, seeking a plausable explanation for the absence of Gruffudd in the chronicles between 1081 and 1098, claims he was taken prisoner by Robert of Rhuddlan in 1081 and remained in captivity for 12 years or 16 years...he seems unaware that he made contradictory claims of the duration.  We believe it unnecessary to take a position on the matter; if it occurred at all[20], it happened to the Gruffudd nephew of Iago and not the Gruffudd of 1098. 
          It was not until some years after 1099 that Gruffudd ap Cynan held more than the lordship of Anglesey.  He was probably not recognized as king of all Gwynedd until the sons of Owain ap Edwin were slain in 1125; in 1114 he appears to have shared rule with Goronwy ap Owain and in 1121 he is described only as "holding the island of Anglesey".  His obituary in 1137 indicates he was past the age of 65 since he had retired into a monastary, but gives no reason to believe he had done so as early as 1120 (when a man born in 1055 would have turned 65).  Indeed, he is cited as still ruling as late as 1124.
         In another paper on this site, we have argued that not only was the attainment of "full age" required for an heir of the royal family to claim kingship (somewhere between 26 and 30; we have used age 28 in our examples), but that such an heir whose father was not the existing king was actually required to make his claim at that time or stand aside for the next in line.  While our birthdates are merely guesses, the following chart depicts some interesting events which occurred when the men of Gwynedd's royal family probably attained "full age":
      Name            Est year attained       Event
                              "full age" 
 Idwal ap Elisedd          1003         King Cynan ap Hywel killed; was
                                                Idwal making his claim?
 Iago ap Idwal             1033         Iago became king, but 10 years
                                                after death of previous king
 Cynan ap Idwal          1042         Gruffudd ap Llewelyn kidnapped
                                               by Irishmen; was Cynan involved?
 Cynan ap Iago           1063         Gruffudd ap Llewelyn killed; was
                                               Cynan making his claim?
 Gruffudd nephew
    of Iago                  1069         Early hopes quashed by his allies
                                               defeat at Mechain, but immediately
                                               on death of Bleddyn in 1075 he
                                               invaded Anglesey
 Gruffudd ap Cynan
   ap Iago                   1098         Driven from Anglesey by Normans;
                                                not mentioned in 1094 accounts
[1] K L Maund ed, Gruffudd ap Cynan, a Collaborative Biography, 1996
[2] J G Evans, Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language, 1898-1910
[3] Arthur Jones, The History of Gruffydd ap Cynan, 1910
[4] K L Maund, Ireland, Wales and England in the Eleventh Century, 1991, pp 171-182
[5] A typical man's lifespan in this era was 60/65 years with few ever attaining 70
[6] Refer to our paper "Minimum age for Welsh Kingship in the 11th Century" at the link below:
[7] The Latin texts of Brut y Tywysogyon and Annales Cambriae differ as to exactly what Gruffudd did in Anglesey in 1075, but make clear that Gwynedd was ruled by Trahaearn ap Caradog and Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon after Bleddyn ap Cynfyn's death
[8] A comparison of the various texts is shown in Thomas Jones' "Brut y Tywysogyon-Peniarth Ms 20 version",1952, pp 153
[9] Brenhinedd y Saesson, British Museum Cotton Ms Cleopatra B v
[10] Brut y Tywysogyon-Red Book of Hergest version
[11] The Brut notes that "Iago ap Idwal" held Gwynedd in 1033 and was slain in 1039
[12] Under date of 985, the Brut reports the slaying of Ionafal ap Meurig
[13] The Brut notes the slaying of Idwal ap Meirig in 996
[14] ibid note 6; we think he expected to become king in 1069 after the sons of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn expelled the usurping sons of Cynfyn from Powys, but their defeat delayed his plans until Bleddyn was killed in 1075
[15] Annals of Loch Ce; Annals of Ulster; British Library MS Add. 30512
[16] This Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon is often misidentified as either a grandson of Dyngad ap Tudor Trevor or a son of Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn. The former, even if still alive in 1075, would have been past 70 years old; there is no evidence Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn had any sons but if he did, would be too young in 1075 to be given rule in Gwynedd.  We believe the Cynwrig of 1075 had a younger brother, Meilyr, who died at Mynydd Cairn in 1081
[17] It is quite possible that after the death of Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon, his brother Meilyr shared rule in Gwynedd with Trahaearn his cousin. The two were slain together at Mynydd Cairn.
[18] The exact date of his death is uncertain and historians seek to fix it by reference to other events which themselves may be unhistoric.  See a discussion of the matter by David Moore's contribution to the work cited in note 1 above, pp 36-39
[19] The Brut reports this was the Norman's third attempt to take Anglesey and this time Earl of Shrewsbury Hugh de Montgomery joined with Hugh, Earl of Chester
[20] The story recited by Historia as to how Gruffudd escaped from confinement bears no resemblance to reality...he was supposedly left alone in the streets of Chester, shackled but not otherwise confined to one spot, while his captors went for dinner.  His rescuer simply carried him away on his back in broad daylight. A contemporary writer, Orderic Vitalis, says in his "Historia Ecclesiastica" that Robert of Rhuddlan had "kept for years in fetters" certain Welshmen which included a Gruffudd.  Vitalis died in 1142 but is known to have been cloistered at St Evroul in Normandy after age 11 and was not a first-hand observer of events in Wales.  Whether or not Gruffudd ap Cynan was ever held a prisoner of the Normans remains an open question  

        The following early citations show an awareness that there was more than a single Gruffudd ap Cynan within the family of Owain Gwynedd:
        1.  Achau Brenhinoedd a Thywysogion Cymru, 2(p), a part of now lost Hengwrt Ms 33 c. 1230, copied before it was lost by at least 10 writers between 1450 and 1640:
            "Rhiryd ap Owain, a man of Cloghran, the manor given to Hen Gruffudd ap Cynan.  This is between Dublin and Swords"
            This appears within the section "Plant Owain Gwynedd", so the identification of Rhiryd makes him a grandson of the c. 1070 Gruffudd ap Cynan.  But he resided on lands in Ireland which had once been held by "the elder" Gruffudd ap Cynan.
       2.  Peniarth Ms 138, 573 thought to be written by Gruffudd Hiraethog c. 1561:
           "Rhiryd ap Owain, a man of Elocharn now called Cloghran in Ireland, which had been given to the first Gruffudd ap Cynan"
           We cannot explain why it was necessary to call the original ancestor of Rhiryd "the first Gruffudd ap Cynan" other than to acknowledge there was also a "second" Gruffudd ap Cynan.