THE BRIEF LIFE OF GRUFFUDD AP MAREDUDD
By Darrell Wolcott
Maredudd ap Bleddyn
was probably the youngest son of the former king of Powys, having grown up in the shadow of his older brothers Cadwgan
and Iorwerth. Even after the those men were slain in 1111, Maredudd was not chosen to rule his father's lands.
A nephew, Owain ap Cadwgan, was a man in his late 20's while Maredudd was then approaching 50 years of age.
But when Owain was killed in 1116, it left no other grandsons of Bleddyn yet old enough for kingship and Maredudd finally assumed
the reins of power.
Back in his younger days,
Maredudd had taken to wife Hunydd, daughter of Eunydd ap Morien of Dyffryn Clwyd; the latter was a second cousin of Maredudd
and had been an officer in his father's warband. By that lady, Maredudd had sired three sons: Gruffudd, Madog and Hywel
. By the time Maredudd finally became king of Powys, those sons had reached the early stages of manhood.
Although we have no certain way of knowing which was the elder son, Gruffudd was the first to come to the attention of the authors
of the Brut. Immediately after the death of Owain ap Cadwgan, we are told that Einion ap Cadwgan and Gruffudd ap Maredudd
joined together to oust Uchdryd ap Edwin from his lands.
We doubt such an adventure would
have been undertaken by these young cousins (men yet in their low 20's) without at least the tacit approval of Maredudd
and perhaps even at his direction. The action has all the elements of a future king-to-be demonstrating his military
prowess as well as his chrisma in attracting other young noblemen to his banner. His brother, Madog, is nowhere mentioned
in this expedition and may have been yet a teen whose role in the campaign was subordinate to his elder relatives. Gruffudd
and Einion met with total success, burning Uchdryd's castle at Cymer in Meirionydd. While some of the defenders fled,
others switched allegiance and joined up with the victors. The young men went on to seize all of Uchdryd's lands: Meirionydd,
Cyfeiliog and Penllyn. Gruffudd's share was Cyfeiliog while Einion took Meirionydd, each sharing half of Penllyn.
In 1121, King Henry
I invaded Powys and, we are told, was so impressed by the daring and skill of Maredudd's warband (perhaps led by Gruffudd) that
he called a truce and suggested a peace treaty, which Maredudd readily accepted, as did the sons of his late brother
Cadwgan. But in 1124, a new threat arose in Powys. Ithel ap Rhiryd ap Bleddyn, a hot-tempered nephew who had both
warred against Owain ap Cadwgan and been an ally of Uchdryd ap Edwin, was released from the prison where King Henry had held
him for a number of years. He demanded a share of Powys and the other lands now controlled by Maredudd. At first,
he was denied any land at all. But a year later, it appears Maredudd sent for him to work out an acceptable resolution
to his claims.
Instead, the Brut reports tersely
that "Gruffudd ap Maredudd slew Ithel ap Rhiryd in the presence of his [Gruffudd's] father". Again, there is no mention
of Gruffudd's brothers, Madog and Hywel, although those men were now past 20 years old. We take this as further
indication that Gruffudd was the elder son and was being groomed by his father to be his successor. But three short
years later, we are told Gruffudd died. There is no report of any accident or illness, but neither was he reported as
"slain". He was, most likely, less than 35 years old and missed the opportunity to become king by only four years; his
father Maredudd died in 1132 and his eldest remaining legitimate son, Madog, succeeded him.
Gruffudd left two young sons,
Owain (to later be called Owain Cyfeiliog, probably to distingish him from another contemporary Owain ap Gruffudd who was
called Owain Gwynedd) and Meurig. They were but half-brothers, each having a different mother, and we can't be
sure which was the oldest. The mother of Meurig, according to the extant pedigrees, was Iwera ferch Iago ap Gruffudd
ap Cynan while Owain's mother is cited as Gwerfyl ferch Gwrgeneu ap Hywel (or Hoedliw) ap Ieauf ap Cadwgan ap Elystan. Such
a Gwerfyl would occur about 1110 and fit nicely as a consort of Gruffudd ap Maredudd only if she were descended from
the c. 955 Elystan of Powys. We hesitate to call her his wife for two reasons: the pedigree only makes her the mother
of his son Owain while other pedigrees also make her the mother of Cadfan ap Cadwaladr ap Gruffudd ap Cynan. That man was
given his father's lands in Ceredigion in 1149 (during the life of his father) and there is no known precedent for such a
grant to a teenage son. Thus, we would place Cadfan's birth in or before 1128 and reject the assumption that Cadwaladr
took a widowed Gwerfyl as a wife or mistress after Gruffudd ap Maredudd died in 1128. And if Cadfan had been born to
Gwerfyl prior to the time she bore Owain, would a king-in-waiting actually marry a lady who had already borne a child with
another man? Perhaps so if he deemed the alliance with the bride's family of great importance. After all, Gruffudd
seems to have already fathered a child himself by a mistress. But it is equally as likely that Gwerfyl numbered among
those well-born ladies of that age whose choice was to bear sons for important men rather than take a husband.
This brings us to the second chrolonogical problem.
The mistress, Iwera, is cited as a daughter of Iago ap Gruffudd ap Cynan. And a very old pedigree tells us that
among the children of Gruffudd ap Cynan were "Iago and his sister Yslani who married Hwfa ap Ithel Felyn". Taken as
it stands, this would date Iago to c. 1100/1110 (about the time the better known sons of Gruffudd ap Cynan were born) because
Hwfa ap Ithel Felyn was born near 1095 and requires a wife born c. 1105/1110. But a Iago born that late could not have
fathered Iwera early enough for her to bear a child before 1128; indeed a daughter of such a Iago could barely have been born
herself by that date. We should date the Iago who was father to Iwera nearer to 1075/1080, permitting Iwera to be born
c. 1105/1110 and bear the child Meurig between 1119 and 1128. Accordingly, we would identify Iago as the son of Gruffudd
ap Cynan, nephew of Iago, one of the victors at Mynydd Cairn in 1081 who disappeared from history immediately thereafter.
Probably born in Ireland where that Gruffudd ap Cynan had been born to Cynan ap Idwal, this Iago may have come to Wales in
1099 with his father's namesake Gruffudd ap Cynan ap Iago. We further suspect the birthname of his daughter was not
Iwera, this merely being a nickname to denote she was a lady from Ireland. And if Iago was born c. 1080 and Yslani,
wife of Hwfa, was born c. 1110, they could not have been siblings. Perhaps the original pedigree had read "Yslani his
daughter" which the medieval genealogists emended to "his sister" on the grounds both must date from the same generation as
Owain Gwynedd and the other sons of the only Gruffudd ap Cynan they believed existed. The relationships in the following
charts show a reasonable timeline in which Meurig and Owain could have been sired by Gruffudd ap Maredudd before
his death in 1128:
975 Idwal ap Elisedd
1035 Cynan 1041
Gruffudd Bleddyn 1025
1075 Iago Maredudd 1065
1110 Iwera==/==Gruffudd 1095
1045 Hoedliw/Hywel Bleddyn 1025
1080 Gwrgeneu Maredudd 1065
1128 Cadfan Owain
*This is Cadwgan ap Elystan
of Powys, not Cadwgan ap Elystan Glodrydd of Buellt.
In 1149, Madog
ap Maredudd, then king of Powys, gave the commote of Cyfeiliog to his nephews Owain and Meurig. The first thing we find
significant about such a gift is it would have reduced the amount of lands which his own sons stood to inherit. Providing
for the children of one's deceased brother was most unusual and we suspect it fulfilled a deathbed request of his father.
Madog may have been made the heir to Maredudd's kingship only if he promised to raise his brother's young sons
at court and give them land of their own when they reached adulthood. And secondly, the year 1149 may have been when
this was attained.
It might be significant
that both children of Gwerfyl were given their own lands in the same year, 1149. If one grant occurred early that
year and the other near its close, both men may have turned 21 in 1149 and been born within 10/11 months of each other.
In fact, we are told that Madog ap Maredudd gave Cyfeiliog to his nephews "towards the end of the year". But we don't
know in which month Cadfan received his father Cadwaladr's portion of Ceredigion. Nor is there any assurance that
age 21 meant anything in terms of "adulthood" in the 12th century. We have previously noted that royal sons appear to
have been required to be around 28 years old before elevation to kingship; the age of eligibility to own their own lands
may have been much less, even as early as age 14 when legal childhood ended. But both Cadfan and Owain were over 14
and under 28 in the year 1149.
Since it was Owain
ap Gruffudd ap Maredudd (now called Owain Cyfeiliog to distinguish him from Owain ap Gruffudd ap Cynan who was called Owain
Gwynedd) who alone ruled Cyfeiliog in the second half of the twelfth century, what became of his brother Meurig? The
Brut last mentions him in 1156, saying he "escaped from his prison". We are not told whether his unknown offense was
against England or his brother, nor what he did after gaining his freedom. He simply vanished from history. Certain
medieval pedigrees claim Owain and Meurig had a third brother, Rhiryd Foel. But the wife and daughter assigned to
him date his birth to c. 1160 and so he was more likely the son of Meurig. Certainly he was not included among the named nephews
of Madog who were given Cyfeiliog in 1149.
Although we don't claim
Gruffudd ap Maredudd to have been a significant figure of twelfth-century Powys, this brief biography provides a
place to examine in some detail the ladies by whom he had sons, both of whom also occur in a study of the sons of Gruffudd