HYWEL AP GRONWY OF DEHEUBARTH
By Darrell Wolcott
Virtually all we know
of this man comes from entries in the Brut Y Tywysogyon which we shall discuss presently. A single extant pedigree
identifies him as "Hywel ap Gronwy ap Cadwgan ap Elystan ap Cuhelyn" and further calls the mother of Gronwy "Angharad ferch
Llawr"; the mother of Angharad is cited as "Lleuci ferch Maredudd ap Owain ap Hywel Ddu". When we chart those relationships,
we begin to harbor doubts of this identification:
820 Rhodri Mawr
880 Hywel Dda
960 Llawr*=============Lleuci 975
995 Angharad============Cadwgan 1020
*This identification of Lleuci's
husband is ours, but any other Llawr who might have married the lady would date from c. 965/970 and certainty as to his descent
is not important to our chart
pedigrees cite two wives for Cadwgan ap Elystan who were born c. 1035 and the families which descended from his better
known sons point to a birthdate for him near 1020. Not only does the Angharad in our chart appear almost a generation
older than him, she would also be too old to be the mother of any son of his. In our attempts to date Hywel
ap Gronwy wholly independent of this lone pedigree, we turn to his appearances in the Brut.
He first occurs in 1096 as active
on the battlefields in the company of Uchdryd ap Edwin and the warband of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn. We would tentatively think
such a man was contemporary with Uchdryd, perhaps born c. 1055/60 but certainly before 1080. Next, in the year 1102,
King Henry I granted a Hywel ap Gronwy the lordship over Ystrad Tywy, Cydweli and Gower...all parts of what is now
known as Carmarthenshire. This again argues for a man born much earlier that 1080. We encounter Hywel again in 1105
when he was expelled from those lands, apparently by force and at the hand of Richard fitz Baldwin. In his final Brut
mention, he was betrayed to the French by a trusted friend called Gwgan ap Meurig and slain in 1106. While not otherwise
identified, we are told Hywel trusted Gwgan because the latter had nurtured his son.
Thus, Hywel had an unnamed son
who had been fostered out to Gwgan but was no longer under his care in 1106. If we should assume that son was at
least 14 years old at Hywel's death (the time when he legally stopped being a child), we have a birthdate no later than about
1090 for the son, again pointing to c. 1060 or earlier for Hywel's birth.
When we collate this finding
with the pedigree chart above, we realize the Gronwy cited as his father must have been born near 1020/30 and while he could
have been a son of Angharad, he could not have been a son of Cadwgan ap Elystan ap Cuhelyn. Elsewhere, the Brut reports
the death of Gronwy ap Cadwgan in 1101, a man we believe was born near 1055/60. Apparently, based on the knowledge that
Cadwgan ap Elystan ap Cuhelyn did have a son named Gronwy, J.E. Lloyd was the first historian to "identify" Hywel ap
Gronwy as his son...finding confirmation in the lone pedigree cited herein. Earlier historians had mentioned Hywel,
but none had tried to guess his ancestry.
An ode to Hywel ap Gronwy which
appears in extant manuscripts claims to have been written during his lifetime;
it ends by expressing hopes for a long life and successful reign filled with grace, fortune and progeny. Its author
and actual date of composure are unknown, but it cites him as "goriur edwin" which, although archaic orthography, appears
to mean "grandson of Edwin". The 1106 Brut entry detailing his betrayal indicates that his trusted friend, Gwgan ap
Meurig, lived near the castle at Rhyd-y-gors in Carmarthen and invited Hywel to his home to spend the night. One would
suppose that Hywel himself lived not far away and had been the recognized lord of that cantref before fitz-Baldwin appeared
on the scene. Perhaps he was being secreted by friends from one safe house to another to elude fitz-Baldwin's men.
Neither the location nor the chronology favors identifying Hywel as a grandson of Cadwgan of Fferlys; indeed both support
our view that he was a member of the former Deheubarth ruling family, and specifically a son of Gronwy ap Edwin ap Einion
ap Owain ap Hywel Dda.
Such a man would date
from c. 1055 as follows:
910 Owain ap Hywel Dda (as our first chart)
1085 unnamed son
We are not suggesting
this man founded an illustrious family or should be well-known to any student of Welsh history. Rather we present him
as simply one example of a name cited in the Brut which has been consistently misidentified as a wholly different man with
the same patronymic name. The error likely began when the author of the cited manuscipt, finding an earlier record of
the maternal (but not paternal) descent of Gronwy, made the assumption his father was Cadwgan ap Elystan ap Cuhelyn.
UPDATE July 2020: See the Appendix following the Notes