TRAHAEARN AP CARADOG OF ARWYSTLI
By Darrell Wolcott
Most of what we
are told about Trahaearn is little more than the conjecture of early historians. His earliest appearance was in the
year 1075 where the Brut records "And after him (Bleddyn ap Cynfyn) came Trahaearn ap Caradog, his first-cousin, to
hold Gwynedd...and then Gruffudd nephew of Iago was beseiging Anglesey...and "the men of Gwynedd slew
Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon" In that same year "was the battle of Bron-yr-erw between Gruffudd and Trahaearn".
The earliest work
in which these brief reports were expanded to include conjecture and assumptions was the anonymous 13th century manuscript
"Historia hen Gruffudd vab Kenan vab Yago" which purports to be a nearly contemporary biography of that king. We argue
elsewhere that this work was both far from contemporary and little more than a panegyric to the man. Its author portrayed
Trahaearn as a reviled usurper of a kingdom rightly the patrimony of Gruffudd, identified Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon as a "petty
king of Powys" who shared rule with Trahaearn, and claims that an army of men loyal to Gruffudd were sent to Llyn where they
confronted and killed Cynwrig. Finally, this manuscript claims Gruffudd defeated Trahaearn in a battle prior to Bron-yr-erw and was acclaimed king of Gwynedd. That it was only when the men of Gwynedd
betrayed him, and the men of Powys came to the aid of a defeated Trahaearn, that Gruffudd was defeated and returned to
is what a "petty king of Powys" was doing in Llyn, the Gwynedd peninsula far from any lands ever claimed by Powys. And
if a new king of Gwynedd resulted from a battle with Trahaearn, why did the Brut chronicler fail to mention it.
An unbiased reader might assume the first clash between Gruffudd and Trahaearn was at Bron-yw-erw and since a 1078 Brut
entry still calls the latter King of Gwynedd, Gruffudd's attempt to take Anglesey was wholly unsuccessful.
future historians relied on the unsupported conjecture of a writer whose purpose was clearly to glorify his hero, we
think an unbiased look at the events of 1075 might be helpful. Exactly who was Trahaearn and why should he have
been chosen to rule after Bleddyn ap Cynfyn? And who was Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon?
In the eleventh
century, the commote of Arwystli had its own Dynastic Family, a branch of the Powys family whose descendants also held Buillt,
Fferlys and much of present-day Montgomeryshire. If related at all to the Powys Royal Family who held the lands comprising
the northeast quadrant of Wales, this would be a junior cadet which had branched off in the days of Cadell Ddrynllwg.
This chart will show the family we think was chosen to succeed Bleddyn ap Cynfyn as interim kings, since the sons of Bleddyn
were not as yet "of full age" when he was killed in 1075:
Cadell ap Brochwel
King of Powys
Collwyn 955 Gwerystan===Nest 970
975 Gwyn=====daughter* 990 Cynfyn 985
1005 Rhiwallon Bleddyn 1025
1035 Cynwrig Cadwgan 1055
such marriage appears in extant pedigree material. While Peter Bartrum infers it was Caradog who married a sister of Cynfyn,
the chronology supports our view and also explains why the cousins Trahaearn and Cynwrig shared rule...not Trahaearn alone.
It was their fathers who were first-cousins of Bleddyn
Some would claim Trahaearn ap Caradog was made
Bleddyn's successor by virtue of his marriage to a daughter of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn. While that may have been a small
factor, we believe his own descent was the key reason he became interim king in Gwynedd. Like Cynfyn in 1023, the sons
of Gwyn ap Collwyn were maternally descended from the Powys king Cadell ap Brochwel. Both Caradog and Rhiwallon ap Gwyn
were dead by 1075, but each had an elder son near 40 years of age. We suspect Trahaearn was the elder of these
cousins by a year or so and was given interim rule in Powys, while Cynwrig was named interim king of Gwynedd.
And when Cynwrig was slain, Trahaearn ruled both Powys and Gwynedd, probably making Meilyr ap Rhiwallon his penteulu.
The eldest son of Bleddyn, whether Cadwgan or Rhiryd or Madog, was probably designated the edling of Powys, the heir-apparent
who was yet too young to rule.