WHO WAS MAREDUDD AP CYNAN?
By Darrell Wolcott
Most scholars agree a man of
this name was a son of Cynan ap Owain Gwynedd, born c. 1165, and expelled from Meirionydd in 1202 by his nephew Hywel.
A year earlier, Maredudd had been expelled from Lleyn and Eifionydd by another nephew, Llewelyn ap Iorwerth. Both Brut
entries say he was driven from his territories because of his treachery. But this man lived over 100 years too late
to be identified with the Maredudd ap Cynan which some sources call "a brother of Gruffudd ap Cynan".
A 1633 manuscript containing
pedigrees of leading families of Powys mentions a Maredudd ap Cynan who married Alison ferch Llewelyn Fychan ap Llewelyn Aurdorchog.
Their son, called Y Llyr Craff (probably "Llawer Craff" or "very sagacious") is cited as having married a daughter of Einion
ap Seisyllt. The known floruit of those ladies would seem to date this Maredudd ap Cynan to the mid-eleventh century.
Furthermore, the pedigree material places the family at Meifod in Mechain and Llanfair in Caereinion; both are in central
Powys, not Gwynedd. As with all medieval pedigrees, there are problems with the family chronology and with the
assignments of some marriage matches with the wrong of two same-named men. But a careful analysis of the several separate
citations yields six separate branches of the family in the 16th century, all traced to a patriarch who must
have occurred circa 1055.
Meifod was the site of an historic
church, one of the most important in Powys. It is also where Sulien the Wise resided until he was elected Bishop
of St David's in 1073. Sulien died in 1091 at age 80 so his appointment at Meifod would have been in the years between
c. 1050/1073. Apparently the early men in the pedigree of the eleventh century Maredudd ap Cynan were clerics and indeed
Caradog ap Collwyn ap Y Llyr Craff is probably the Caradog who served as Archdeacon of Meifod. Not only did this
Caradog name his son Sulien, but that may have also been the actual name of Y Llyr Craff.
The early part of the
pedigree, with estimated birthdates, looks like this:
1055 Maredudd====Alison 1070
1090 Y Llyr Craff====Alis
1120 Collwyn====Elen 1130
1155 Caradog====Efa 1170
Gruffudd ap Gwyn
All of the families
said to descend from this Ednyfed are chronologically consistent with his having been born c. 1220. He occurs in
the fifth generation after Maredudd who thus could not be the Maredudd ap Cynan ap Owain Gwynedd born c. 1165.
In his "History
of the Parish of Llanerfyl", the Rev. G. Edwards describes the ancient mansion of Nueadd Wen as the "residence of Meredydd
ap Cynan, brother of Gruffydd ap Cynan, prince of North Wales". He further asserts without any source evidence that
this Maredudd "served the Princes of Powys". The three lordships credited to him are Rhiwhiraeth, Coed Talog and Neuadd
Wen; all were mere residences clustered about where the later town of Llanfair is now located. Rev. Edwards also refers
to a nearby brook as "Nant Gwgan" and thinks Nueadd Wen was formerly named "Llys Wgan". He believes these suggest the
area was once home to Cadwgan ap Bleddyn and thereby subtly links Cadwgan with Maredudd ap Cynan.
We dismiss the claims of those who would make this Maredudd a brother of the Gruffudd ap Cynan who ruled Gwynedd until his
death in 1137; as we argue elsewhere we believe that man was born near 1070. It is possible, however, he was a younger
brother of "Gruffudd nephew of Iago" and born in Ireland about 1055. While his older brother was mostly concerned with
reclaiming the kingship of Gwynedd for his family, Maredudd may have been trained as a cleric. At age 14, Maredudd
might have been sent to Meifod to study under Sulien. Cloistered there, his early family would have been immune to the
battles waged by his brother and by his younger cousin over such worldy matters as kingships. He may have named his
son after his mentor but he was called by a descriptive nickname, possibly to prevent confusion with the late
Bishop Sulien of St David's.
It is altogether possible
Maredudd was a close friend of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, especially if his first assignment outside the church at Meifod was
as household priest (Offeiriad) to the king of Powys. Virtually the same age as Cadwgan, the latter's advancement to
kingship likely occurred c. 1083/1088. That Maredudd was regarded highly in Powys can be seen from the important families
from which he and his progeny took wives. Llewelyn Aurdorchog had grown up in the households of Llewelyn ap Seisyll
and Cynfyn ap Gwerystan and his son, Llewelyn Fychan, was an older first cousin of Cadwgan. The marriage of Alison
ferch Llewelyn Fychan to Maredudd probably occurred c. 1088. Their son, called "the very wise one" was also sent for
training at Meifod; when it was time for him to take a wife, about 1120, he was given a young lady maternally related to Owain
Gwynedd. And in the following generation, Collwyn married a lady descended from Meilyr Gryg who represented
a junior branch of the tribe of Brochwel Ysgithrog; the senior line of that family had ruled Powys until 1063 when the new
dynasty founded by the sons of Cynfyn replaced it.
ap Cynan inheirited no lands in Wales (his father, we believe, had fled to Ireland in 1039) and was never a seeker of kingdoms
on earth, the little group of houses around Llanfair was probably a grant for his sustenance...either by the church at Meifod
or by Cadwgan ap Bleddyn for his service to his household.
Those who deny his
eleventh century existence by identifying him with a later Maredudd ap Cynan do so, we think, to debunk the claim that he
was a brother of Gruffudd ap Cynan. No such brother was mentioned in "Historia Gruffudd ap Cynan" and none was cited
in the Welsh annals or the Brut. We would point out that those sources were concerned with kings and bishops, not ordinary
priests or teachers. And the man we identity as his brother was not the Gruffudd ap Cynan ap Iago who ruled
Gwynedd until his death in 1137, but Gruffudd ap Cynan ap Idwal whose attempts to become king of Gwynedd in 1075 and 1081
did not succeed. And we suggest Maredudd was already at Meifod studying under Sulien the Wise long before his brother's
efforts were noted in the annals as "Gruffudd nephew of Iago".