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                                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".[1]
           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[2] 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[3] came to the aid of a defeated Trahaearn, that Gruffudd was defeated and returned to Ireland.
            Unexplained 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.
            Since all 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
                  945  Collwyn             950  Gwerystan===Nest  965
                             l                      _____________l_____
                             l                      l                               l
                   975 Gwyn=====daughter*  990            Cynfyn  985
               ______________l_____________                   l
               l                                                l                   l
1005  Caradog                         1005  Rhiwallon          Bleddyn 1025
              l                                                l                    l
1035 Trahaearn                         1035  Cynwrig         Cadwgan 1055
          *No 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[4], 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[5], was probably designated the edling of Powys, the heir-apparent who was yet too young to rule.
           The final Brut mention of Trahaearn was in 1081, when he was killed at Mynydd Cairn.  Falling with him was Caradog ap Gruffudd of Caerleon in lower Gwent and Meilyr ap Rhiwallon "of Powys".  Although the Brut account does not identify Meilyr as a man of Powys, the author of Historia says he had come with "his men of Powys".  This caused most later historians to identify him as Meilyr ap Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn.  Not only is no such son found in any pedigree material, that Rhiwallon was born c. 1024 and no son of his would have been "of full age" in 1075[5]  While he may well have been an influential man following the death of his brother, Cynwrig, we would identify him as a man of Arwystli....Meilyr ap Rhiwallon ap Gwyn.  There were plenty of men of Powys of fighting age in 1081, including Eunydd son of Gwenllian of Dyffryn Clwyd, Madog ap Cadwgan[6] who was married to a daughter of Meilyr's brother Cynwrig, Gwrgeneu ap Seisyllt, and at least three sons of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn; none of these men are reported to have been at Mynydd Cairn, our conclusion being that "the men of Powys" were not involved in this battle.  Refer to Appendix I for a further look at the identity of Cynwrig and Meilyr ap Rhiwallon.
       The sons of Trahaearn were not yet teenagers when their father was killed.  With no living uncles, the 4 boys likely served their required apprenticeship at the court of Idnerth ap Cadwgan in neighboring Maelienydd.  Idnerth and Trahaearn were distant cousins, both 8th from Idnerth ap Iorwerth Hirflawdd. When they came of full age, Owain had the Lordship of Arwystli as his patrimony while Llywarch appears to have received a manor in Cedewain by marrying a daughter of Iorwerth ap Cadwgan [7].  Where the other two sons, Griffri and Meurig, settled is not known, but they were both killed in 1106 by Owain ap Cadwgan ap Bleddyn of Powys.  But none of the men who descended from Trahaearn ever laid any claims to kingship in Powys or Gwynedd which we believe confirms he was merely an interim king, appointed because the sons of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn were underage in 1075.
[1] Brenhinedd y Saesson version
[2] See "History of Gruffudd ap Cynan - A New Perspective" at the link below:
[3] The author of "Historia" makes Gwrgeneu ap Seisyllt the king of Powys who joined Trahaearn in this battle.  That man's father was a first-cousin of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, but there is no record he was ever king of anything.  It seems likely the idea that "the men of Powys" joined in the battle was advanced to show that there was no way Trahaearn could have defeated the author's hero without help
[4] Both Bleddyn and Trahaearn were Powys men who considered it their patrimony; Gwynedd was simply a dependancy ruled by Powys since 1039
[5] See "Minimum Age for Welsh Kingship in the Eleventh Century" at the link below:
[6] Madog was a Rhos man born c. 1045 and the ancestor of the c. 1110 Cadwgan of Nannnau.  See the paper on Cadwgan of Nannau at the link below:
[7] Dwnn ii, 24 cites the marriage of Llywarch ap Trahaearn to Dyddgu ferch Iorwerth ap Cadwgan ap Elystan Glodrydd

APPENDIX I - Cynwrig and Meilyr ap Rhiwallon
          As men of "full age" in 1075 and 1081, respectively, but yet young enough to take the battlefield, neither could be sons of Rhiwallon ap Bleddyn ap Cynfyn as some say.  That Rhiwallon is not known to have had any sons, but any sons of his would not have been born earlier than c. 1053/1054.  The Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon slain in 1075 had been installed as an interim king that same year and must have been born before 1047.  Others assert Cynwrig was a son of Rhiwallon ap Dyngad ap Tudor Trevor of Maelor.  That Cynwrig was born c. 995 and would have died of old age before 1075, but even if alive, would have been far too old to have been installed as a king.
         Others would identify Cynwrig as a son of Rhiwallon ap Gwyn ap Bleddyn, including Lewis Morris in his book "Celtic Remains" (pp 78) written before 1757 but not published until 1878.  And T.O. Morgan, in a paper published in the 1853 volume of Archaeolgia Cambrensis (pp 7) also calls Meilyr a son of Rhiwallon ap Gwyn ap Bleddyn, saying he was cousin-german of Trahaearn ap Caradog.  No doubt both men discovered a "Rhiwallon ap Gwyn ap Bleddyn" in the extant pedigree material but paid no attention to chronology.  The man of that name cited in HLG 7c was born c. 1100, seven generations after Marchudd ap Cynan.  (By comparison, Ednyfed Fychan was nine generations after Marchudd and born c. 1165)
         The earliest extant identification of Meilyr ap Rhiwallon was by Dr David Powell in his 1584 work "History of Wales" which is claimed to be an English translation of a Brut written by Caradog of Llancarvan in the early 12th century.  He calls Meilyr the son of Rhiwallon ap Gwyn, the cousin-german of Trahaearn ap Caradog.  The 13th century History of Gruffudd ap Cynan calls Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon a "kinsman" of Trahaearn but does not elaborate.  A version of the Brut supposedly copied from "Llyfr George Williams" and published in the Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales (pp 698) calls the man who fell at Mynydd Cairn "Meilyr ap Rhiwallon ap Gwyn ap Collwyn".
        In the works by the antiquarian J.W.Y. Lloyd, Cynwrig is called the "consanguinii sui" of Trahaearn in "Ancient Lords of Arwystli and Cydywain" published in Montgomeryshire Collections, vol 10, pp 142. In his "Lords of Bromfield, Yale and Chirkland" published in Archaeologia Cambrensis in 1872, on page 294 Meilyr is called the son of Rhiwallon ap Gwyn ap Collwyn.
         It is our belief these last identifications are correct and that Meilyr was a younger brother of Cynwrig...both first-cousins of Trahaearn.