UCHDRYD AP EDWIN - THE YOUNGER SON
By Darrell Wolcott
History has shed little light
on this son of Edwin of Tegeingl since his older brother, Owain, continued the family's rule in north Wales and then
over all Gwynedd following the death of the Norman Robert of Rhuddlan near 1093. Personal appearances of Uchdryd in
the Brut are but few and include:
1096 - "Uchdryd ap Edwin and Hywel
ap Gronwy and many other leaders and the war-band of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn went to the castle of Pembroke and despoiled it
completely, and ravaged the land; and they returned home with vast spoil".
1109 - A long entry can be summarized as
follows: When Owain ap Cadwgan kidnapped Nest ferch Rhys ap Tewdwr from the castle of her husband Gerald of Windsor,
the agent of King Henry I at Shrewsbury decided to avenge the injury done to Gerald. He sent for the brothers Madog and Ithel,
sons of Rhiryd ap Bleddyn, and told them they'd earn great favor from the king if they would seize Owain, or failing that,
drive him and his father from their lands. This agent, Richard, bishop of London, told the young men he would give them
the aid of Llywarch ap Trahaearn and Uchdryd ap Edwin whom he described as "the truest and most faithful companions".
In fact, Uchdryd was loyal to Cadwgan and his son Owain. When the brothers gathered a warband and headed for Owain's
lands, Uchdryd advised the residents of those lands to flee to his manor for protection and they escaped unharmed during
the subsequent ravaging of their lands. Cadwgan and Owain slipped away to Ireland by sea. Uchdryd
had managed to stall the advance of Madog and Ithel by convincing them not to travel by night, but wait until morning so their
army would meet Owain in broad daylight as befitting a man of his noble status and not seek to ambush him at night.
When the army arrived and found Owain's lands deserted, they accused Uchdryd of deliberately allowing the inhabitants to escape
and realized they'd been "had" by Richard the bishop.
1116 - After Owain ap Cadwgan
had been slain by the Flemings, Einion ap Cadwgan and his cousin, Gruffudd ap Maredudd ap Bleddyn, attacked the castle which
Uchdryd had built at Cymer in Meirionydd. Nothing in the Brut account says Uchdryd was still alive at this time, but
those two men seized all the lands in Meirionydd and Cyfeiliog and Penllyn which Cadwgan ap Bleddyn had bestowed on Uchdryd.
They claimed Uchdryd had promised Cadwgan he would be a true and loyal friend to Cadwgan and his sons, but after the
death of Owain he had "thought nothing of Cadwgan's other sons".
With nothing more to guide
our inquiry into the life of Uchdryd than these events recorded in the Brut and the old pedigree manuscripts which cite his
ancestry and marraiges, we must begin with those customs of the era which we would assume guided his early life. Born
somewhere between 1050 and 1055, Uchdryd would have entered the service of his "lord" at age 14. We suspect this was
after 1063 and it was at the court of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn that he first began his training. His mother, Iwerydd, was either
the full or half-sister of Bleddyn so the sons of Bleddyn were his first-cousins. Those nearest his own age were
Madog, Cadwgan and Rhiryd; Iorwerth and Maredudd were yet toddlers. When Bleddyn was slain in 1075, none of his sons
were yet old enough to become king so that role was divided between sons of his first cousins Caradog and Rhiwallon ap Gwyn in
When Cadwgan ap Bleddyn came
of "full age" about the year 1083, he and his brothers Madog and Rhiryd began to make a name for themselves as warriors entitled
to rule lands of their own. Their first recorded action was in 1088 against Rhys ap Tewdwr in Deheubarth, forcing
that king to flee to Ireland. But he returned with an army of mercenaries and battled the brothers at Llech-y-crau where
Madog and Rhiryd were slain. Cadwgan escaped back to north Wales where he now assumed individual "kingship"
of his father's old realm of Powys. In establishing his court, we think he selected Uchdryd as his penteulu or leader
of his warband. About 1080, Uchdryd had taken as his wife Nest ferch Llewelyn Fychan ap Llewelyn Aurdorchog
of Ial. Both her grandfather and an uncle had served kings as their penteulu. Then, when Robert of
Rhuddlan the Norman ruler of all north Wales died, Cadwgan set up shop in Anglesey and began to nurture a young man bearing
the blood of the Gwynedd royal dynasty named Gruffudd ap Cynan ap Iago...a youngster about 18 in 1088.
Over the next few years, the Normans sent
armies to dislodge Cadwgan but his warband repelled them. Owain ap Edwin in Tegeingl stayed out of the conflict as his
brother led Cadwgan's men in the battles with Earl Hugh's army from Chester. It appears that after a failed attack
in 1094, the Normans quit trying to take Anglesey. That Cadwgan felt secure at home can be seen by him sending his warband
to Dyfed in 1096 to attack Pembroke Castle. But in 1098, young Gruffudd ap Cynan claimed his birthright and Cadwgan
allowed him to be invested as "king". This brought a quick response from England; an army was dispatched by the Earl
of Shrewsbury to join that of the Earl of Chester and the large force marched to Anglesey. Rightfully suspecting
the leading men of Anglesey would elect to appease the powerful Normans rather than side with Gruffudd and Cadwgan in battle,
those two men fled for safety to Ireland.
We suspect it was Cadwgan's
man, Uchdryd ap Edwin, who then entered into negotiations with the Normans. While he had twice led men to oppose their
entry into Anglesey, it had been as a professional soldier; he made no pretensions of being a potential "king" himself.
His brother was a trusted ally of the Normans who, with their retaking of Anglesey, immediately installed Owain as their sub-king
for Gwynedd. Owain likely introduced Uchdryd to Earl Hugh to negotiate on behalf of Cadwgan and Gruffudd. Accepting
the showing that both Cadwgan and Gruffudd were proud men of noble birth who were willing to accept Norman oversight if permitted
to enjoy lordships of their own, Earl Hugh proposed a peace agreement for Uchdryd to carry back to his superiors in Ireland.
The deal was accepted, and the two fugitives returned to Wales the following year. Gruffudd ap Cynan was allowed to
govern Anglesey, while Cadwgan was given lordships in Ceredigion, Meirionydd, Cyfeiliog and Penllyn to oversee.
At some point before his death in
1111, Cadwgan rewarded Uchdryd for his loyal services by giving him rule over his lands in three of those cantrefs...lands
he would not have held except for the deal which Uchdryd had brokered for him. And Uchdryd had himself given his fealty
to the crown of England and was accepted as an honorable man and their friend, so he lived out the remainder of his life at
peace both in Wales and with his powerful neighbors to the east.
The incident which followed
Owain ap Cadwgan's raid on the castle of Gerald of Windsor requires some conjecture. We don't think Owain's main purpose
was to take Nest as his lover, but the attack was most likely the opening stages of a compaign to expel the Normans from south
Wales. He may have simply taken Gerald's family as "prisioners of war" since Gerald himself had slipped safely from
his grasp. Knowing the reputation of Nest, one might even posit that it was she that later offered sex to Owain to ensure
the safety and comfort of herself and her children. So how did this sit with King Henry I? Obviously, the king
had to show outrage at Owain for violating the honor of his man Gerald, but perhaps he knew the mission had been primarily
military in nature and also personally knew what a temptress Nest could be...she had once been his mistress and had borne
him a son. Did Henry then order his man in Shrewsbury to make a pretense at attacking Owain but to make sure it didn't
succeed? We do know that some years later, he showed great admiration for Owain and conferred knighthood on him.
By giving his blessings for
an attack on Owain's lands, the king showed Gerald that swift action would be taken to avenge the dishonor he had suffered.
And by giving the attackers Uchdryd ap Edwin as their "faithful companion" in the enterprise, the king took steps to protect
Owain and his men. Why Madog and Ithel ap Rhiryd ap Bleddyn accepted the assurance that Uchdryd would be a faithful
ally is puzzling. He owed his lordships to their uncle Cadwgan, and while that man had not condoned his son's actions
in sleeping with Nest, neither had he turned against him. It is likely the raid on Gerald's castle had even been ordered
by Cadwgan. In any event, when they entered Owain's lands and found them uninhabited, they immediately realized it had
been Uchdryd who gave the warning and sheltered many inhabitants as he stalled their march toward Owain's manor with his talk
of "doing the honorable thing by facing Owain in broad daylight for battle" and not coming like a thief in the night.
We also suspect that Uchdryd
had either died by 1116 or retired back to his paternal lands in Tegeingl when the grandsons of Bleddyn destroyed his
castle in Meirionydd and seized all of the lands he had received from Cadwgan. He would have still owned half of his
father's estate in Tegeingl to pass on to his sons. These were named Owain, Iorwerth, Idnerth and perhaps 3 others
we shall meet in future papers on this site The pedigrees also give him a second wife, Angharad ferch Rhys Sais
ap Ednyfed. This lady of Whittington would be near his own age and we suspect both were widowed, middle-aged and
the marriage was for companionship only.
Many of the medieval pedigree manuscripts
cite a Uchdryd ap Edwin as the father of Maredudd whose son, Ithel Gam, founded the family seated at Mostyn until an heiress
carried those lands to Hywel ap Ieuan Fychan of the clan of Tudor Trevor. But the Uchdryd in those citations was
born c. 1085 and must have been a grandson of Edwin.
Yet another man often called
a son of Uchdryd ap Edwin was Philip ap Uchdryd. The earliest man of that name was born c. 1120 and while his descendants
are found in Cyfeiliog, the Uchdryd at the top of his pedigree occurred a full generation too late to be identified as the
son of Edwin. Philip may well have been a brother of the Maredudd ap Uchdryd mentioned in the preceeding paragraph.
See our paper on these two men at the link below:
In considering the timeline
for the floruit of Uchdryd, some might be misled by the notice found under the year 1118 in the Brut. In preparing for
a battle against Hywel ap Ithel of Rhos, the sons of Owain ap Edwin are reported as "And they gathered together their men,
along with Uchdryd their uncle...". Even if still living in 1118, Uchdryd would have been a man in his late 60's and
well past his active warrior days. We think the Welsh phrase "y gwyr y gyt ac Uchdryd" should be read as the assembling
of "their men along with the men of Uchdryd".