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Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Cymru

 

 

 

Map Powys

Centred around Shropshire at Caer Meguaidd, and covering much of the modern Welsh border as far north as the River Dee (Deva), Powys derived its name from the descriptive Latin pagenses, '(land of the) country dwellers' or 'people of the pagi', the Roman equivalent of district council areas.

Powys was almost certainly Vortigern's native land. It also seems probable that although in Vortigern's time Powys may have extended to the North Welsh coast, this access may have been lost as the king of Dogfeilion & Pengwern in the seventh century seems to have had easy access between his two kingdoms. According to tradition, Vortigern's second son was handed Powys when Vortigern became high king of Britain.

In circa 570, Powys was apparently divided in two. The name was retained for the western half, while the eastern half may have become known as Pengwern, although this name change is far from certain. It is just as possible that the name Powys was still used to describe the whole, formerly united territory. In later years, as attacks by the Norman conquers of England compressed Wales' free borders, what was left of Powys came to be ruled by Gwynedd.

c.45 BC

Amalach / Afallach ap Lludd

Son of High King Lludd Llaw Ereint.

c.10 BC

Euddolen ap Afallach

Son. Brother of Owain ap Afallach, ancestor of Gwynedd's kings.

Eudos ap Euddolen

Eifydd ap Eudos

Eudeyrn ap Eifydd

Euddigan ap Eudeyrn

Rhodri ap Euddigan

Gloui / Gloyw Gwallthir (Long-Hair)

Sons were Bonus, Paul, Mauron & Guitolion.

c.310

Guitolion / Gwidolin ap Gloyw

Son. He and his brothers 'founded' Caer Gloui.

c.340

Guitaul / Gwidol ap Gwidolin

c.375

Guortheneu ap Gwidol

Pagenses

Later Powys derived its name from the descriptive Latin pagenses, '(land of the) country dwellers' or 'people of the pagi', the Roman equivalent of district council areas. The region appears to have covered much of the southern half of the former territory of the Cornovii, with possible extensions east and west.

Powys was almost certainly Vortigern's native land. It also seems probable that although in Vortigern's time Powys may have extended to the North Welsh coast, this access may have been lost as the king of Dogfeilion and Pengwern in the seventh century seems to have had easy access between his two kingdoms. According to tradition, Vortigern's second son was handed Powys when Vortigern became high king of Britain.

The name 'pagenses' may have been used throughout the fifth century to describe the kingdom's territory, which extended to encompass the West Midlands. It may only have been during the sixth century, as the Romano-British language changed rapidly in the face of the destabilisation of the former Roman administration, that the Welsh form of its name, Powys, emerged. Its early capital was probably Caer Guricon (Roman Viroconium, modern Wroxeter), but this perhaps did not remain in use in the sixth century. It declined during the course of the fifth century, with many buildings falling into disrepair. There is evidence to suggest the abandonment of Viroconium in around 520, perhaps in exchange for a more defendable location.

(Additional information by Hywel George and Edward Dawson, and from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe.)

c.410 - 425

The territory emerges as the land of the pagenses, which serves as a power base for Vortigern. Traditionally, he is married to a daughter of former High King Magnus Maximus, and therefore holds a good deal of prestige and influence. With Vortigern's brother-in-law Eugenius holding 'Mid-South Wales' and the descendants of another brother-in-law, Antonius, holding 'South Wales', Vortigern has the probable necessary backing to mount a bid to control Britain's post-Roman central administration.

c.418 - c.435

Vortigern / Wortigernos ap Guortheneu

FeatureHigh King of post-Roman Britain around 425.

c.425

As Vortigern has gained the rank of High King, he devolves authority in the land of the pagenses to his sons, handing each of them control of a portion in the form of Gwent, the Pagenses (early Powys), Builth and Guorthigirniaun. His second son, Cadeyrn Fendigaid , succeeds him in the Pagenses, ruling in his name.

Vortimer / Gwerthefyr Fendigaid

First son. King of Gwerthefyriwg (Gwent).

c.435 - 447

Cadeyrn Fendigaid (the Blessed)

Second son. King of Pagenses. Killed at Battle of Aylesford in 455.

Pascent / Pasgen ap Gwrtheyrn

Third son. King of Builth & Gwrtheyrnion.

c.441

MapDuring a time of large-scale unrest in Britain, the Saxon foederati based around the country rebel and pillage the country in the face of light British opposition. It seems that Cadeyrn joins in the fighting (as he would be expected to do as a son of Vortigern). According to the scanty evidence available, his son, Cadell Ddyrnllwg, governs the Pagenses in his stead at this time.

Given Vortigern's probable age by this time and a possible birth date for him of about AD 390, he could already be a grandfather to Cadell. However, Cadell would be very young at this time, possibly no more than fifteen years of age at best, so it is possible that his governance of the Pagenses is in name only and a regent handles the day-to-day administration. Although the dating shown here for Cadell is perhaps a little compressed, and Cadell could have been born later, his grandson is Brochfael Ysgythrog (of the Tusks), who appears to flourish around 530-540. These dates fit in entirely with any possible birth date for Brochfael and for his father too, given that Cadell is probably very young in 441. This sequence of dates seems much more likely than claims that place (an aged) Cadell as ruler around 520.

441

Cadell Ddyrnllwg (Gleaming Hilt)

Son of Cadeyrn. Ruled kingdom during Cadeyrn's battles.

c.441

During this time of great unrest in Britain, when the Saxon revolt is wreaking havoc on the country and Britons in the south and west are emigrating to Armorica in droves, Irish raids on the west become heavier. They are driven away from Gwynedd by the strong rule of Cunedda and his sons, so the Pagenses probably looks an even sweeter target right now. One powerful Irish band captures the capital and Cadell (and his presumed regent) is forced to go into hiding.

441? - 447

Banadl / Benlli

Usurper Irish king. Killed when capital city burnt down.

446

FeatureSt Germanus' second visit to Britain sees off the last of the Pelagians and confirms the subjects of Elafius (probably of Caer Gwinntguic) in the Catholic faith of the Roman Church. Germanus goes on to restore Cadell Ddyrnllwg to the throne of the Pagenses which still covers the West Midlands and eastern Wales.

447

Having occupied the capital for about six years, the pagan Banadl is killed during a revolt by his Christian Romano-British subjects. During the same period, the mid-400s, the minor kingdom of Maelienydd is formed, seemingly out of a cantref - a standard division of territory - that is detached from Powys. Guorthigirniaun borders it to the west and Powys surrounds it to the north, east (truncated by Offa's Dyke about three hundred years later), and south.

447 - c.460

Cadell Ddyrnllwg

Restored by St Germanus. Initiator of the 'Cadelling' line of kings.

c.440s

In some literature, Cadell Ddyrnllwg is claimed to be responsible for sending 'out a branch into Glywyssing' (Glywyssing being the later name for Cernyw), which would suggest that he places a family member on its throne. It seems an unlikely claim given the hereditary nature of the succession in Cernyw, but perhaps the line of succession there has been manipulated to show a direct descent from the greater figure of Eugenius.

Cadell is also known in some pedigrees as Cassanauth Wledig, Prince Cassanauth, perhaps as recognition of his rank in Post-Roman British society and its seeming grandeur when compared to later Welsh princes and kings who are increasingly hemmed in by encroaching foreigners.

455

FeatureBy now the newly arrived Jutish foederati have seen how weak are the British defences and begin a takeover of the kingdom of Ceint, aided by the many older foederati settlements in key areas of the land, especially along the Saxon Shore forts and at Canterbury. They are probably further encouraged by the chaos in Roman Gaul following the murder of the magister militum Aetius. Hengist's polyglot army fights Vortigern (although the Historia Brittonum would seem to place his death at the time of the visit of St Germanus in 446) at a place they name Ęgelesthrep or Ęgelsthrep (probably Aylesford or, less likely, Epsford, both in Kent). Horsa is killed, as is Cadeyrn Fendigaid, former king of the Pagenses.

As the east of the island is engulfed by the chaos of the foederati revolt, later tradition (mostly contained within the Historia Brittonum) states that High King Vortimer is poisoned while Vortigern flees to the province of Guorthegirnain, so called from his own name, where he conceals himself with his wives: but Germanus follows him with all the clergy of the British Church, and upon a rock prays for his sins during forty days and forty nights.

What Germanus is doing here almost a decade after his visit is unclear, so it is possible that events have become confused. Could Vortigern's death in fact have occurred after the Saxon revolt of c.441, which would place it much loser the the visit of Germanus? Either way, the death of Vortimer apparently allows Vortigern to reclaim the high kingship temporarily before he is faced by Ambrosius Aurelianus. Vortigern flees (again) to his ancestral lands, 'at the fortified camp of Genoreu, on the hill called Cloartius', in Ercing, by the River Wye. There he meets his end when Ambrosius sets fire to his fortress with him inside it.

c.490

St Cyngen Glodrydd (the Renowned)

Son. Sometimes identified with Aurelius Caninus (Caer Gloui).

c.490

St Cyngen is sometimes referred to as Cynan (all spelling is variable for this period, made worse by rapid language shifts from Brythonic to Welsh and Cornish and later translations into English). He is not only the ancestor of several generations of kings of Powys, but is also counted as being an ancestor of Nowy Hen, who in the mid eighth century inherits through marriage the kingdom of Brycheiniog.

c.490

Rhodri Ddyrnllwg?

Possible father, and regent until Cyngen reached maturity.

c.520

Pascent / Pasgen ap Cyngen

Son of Cyngen.

c.530

Brochfael Ysgythrog (of the Tusks)

Grandson of Cadell Ddyrnllwg.

Brochfael's name is an intriguing one. The second part of it is the familiar 'fael', which can also be shown as 'mael' in other variations and 'maglo' going further back in time. It means servant, slave, follower, etc. The first part is rather more puzzling. 'Broch' seems to derive from proto-Celtic 'broko', meaning 'anger', which also means 'badger' ('angry animal'). It still means both in modern Welsh, but its origins as a name are unknown. Was there some (local) deity who was a personification of anger? Or was there some family emblem from tribal days, a badger totem perhaps? This Brochfael may popularise the name to an extent as it is borne at least twice more, by kings of Meirionydd and Dunoding.

Vale of Meifod
Brochfael is presented as a warrior hero who was fond of hunting, one of his resorts being the Vale of Meifod near Welshpool (shown here), but he is also connected with Pengwern, the eastern region of Powys - 'Brochwel Yscithroc, consul of Chester, who dwelt in a town then called Pengwerne Powys, and now Shrewsbury (Salopia)' - modern Shropshire

A later form of the name is Brochwel. During his lifetime, Powys is frequently referred to as 'the land of Brochwel', and the poet Taliesin is his bard for a time. He is particularly known for an incident involving St Melangell, a stunningly beautiful young woman who has taken to the life of a hermit, living in a small cell in the Powys wilds. One day, Brochfael is out hunting a hare which hides in Melangell's skirts. The dogs refuse to attack, and the king becomes so enamoured of the lady's pious beauty that he asks her to marry him. She humbly declines, so Brochfael gives her land on whih to build a monastery instead. Instead, Brochfael marries Arddyn Benasgel, daughter of Pabo Post Prydain of the Pennines.

c.540

Morgan ap Pasgen

Son of Pasgen. Cadell's descendants rule a diminished Powys.

Powys

In circa 570, Powys was apparently divided in two. The name was retained for the western half, while the eastern half may have become known as Pengwern, although this name change is far from certain. It is just as possible that the name Powys was still used to describe the whole, formerly united territory.

The lament, Marwnad Cynddylan (The Lament for Cynddylan), mourns the death of Cynddylan in the mid-seventh century at the hands of the king of Dogfeilion, marking a resurgence for the Dogfeilion side of a feud that appears to begin following a disasterous Powysian defeat in battle in 613. It refers to Cynddylan and his side of the feud as 'the Cadelling', meaning that they are the descendants of Cadell Ddyrnllwg, king of the Pagenses of the mid-fifth century. In the poet's eyes they are the rightful kings of Powys, although there has to be a valid claim of descent for any claiment to the throne, meaning that the Dogfeilion kings have intermarried into the Powysian royal family in some way (see below). To distinguish between the two sides, Cadell's direct descendants are labelled 'Cadelling' in the list.

In later years, as attacks by the Norman conquers of England compressed Wales' free borders, what was left of Powys came to be ruled by Gwynedd.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from Marwnad Cynddylan (The Lament for Cynddylan).)

c.570

FeatureIt seems likely that Powys loses its eastern territory by this time. There is later a commander at Caer Legion in 613 called Brochfeal, who has not been linked to a kingdom, and may have been either Mawn or Iago ap Brochfael, the brothers of Cynan Garwyn. Passing the main kingdom of Powys to his son, Cynan, it would be standard practice for Brochfael to divide the territory and give the eastern half, Pengwern, to a second son. Although there is no available evidence to support this theory, Pengwern does seem to become a separate kingdom in its own right around this time, and seems to retain the original Powysian capital of Caer Guricon (Wroxter).

The River Dee
The River Dee probably formed the border between northern Powys and south-western Rheged during the sixth century

c.570 - c.610

Cynan Garwyn ap Brochfael

Son of Brochfael. 'White Shanks'. A Cadelling. Mentioned in 580.

c.610 - 613

Selyf Sarffgadau (Battle Serpent)

Son (Selim/Soloman). Killed at Caer Legion by Ęthelfrith.

c.612 - 613

This point marks the first appearance of the Dogfeilion of Gwynedd in Powys and Pengwern, although according to Edward Dawson, Pengwern remains part of Powys, and the courts of Pengwern and Caer Luit Coyt are Powysian courts.

Given Welsh emphasis on ancestry to qualify for a throne, it seems likely that a Dogfeilion leader (probably Cyndrwyn Glas) had married a daughter of the king of Powys, qualifying his descendants to rule Powys by the rules of descent of Gwynedd (which had been inherited from their ancestors, the Pictish Venicones). Romans and Romano-British use primogeniture, but the Pictish rules are that any descendant, regardless of the form of that descent, is qualified to inherit (meaning that even bastard sons of wayward daughters can show up and claim a piece of a territory or even kingship). The fact that the Dogfeilion are accepted as rulers of Powys (and the part of Powys that is known as Pengwern) is very telling. There has to be a valid claim of descent.

613?

In one of the bloodiest and hardest fought battles of its time, several British kings form a coalition to halt Ęthelfrith of Bernicia at the Battle of Caer Legion (Chester). Cearl of the Mercians could also be involved on the British side (according to scholarly theory). Iago of Gwynedd and Selyf of Powys are both killed, and the battle is a disastrous British defeat. Despite Ęthelfrith's victory, he does not occupy the territory around Chester. Just who does is unknown, and the entire history of this region from the post-Roman period to the tenth century is extremely sketchy. One possibility is that the line of the River Dee is successfully defended by the people living just to the west of it - the Dogfeilion - who are able to claim great prestige from being the victorious defenders of the western Britons. Another possibility is that groups of Angles not under Bernicia's control settle the region to the east of the Dee, and are later subsumed within Mercia.

Bledric ap Custennin, king of Dumnonia, dies at the Battle of Bangor-is-Coed, which follows very soon afterwards. A certain Brochfael is named as the commander of Caer Legion at this time, and may be one of the sons of Powys' Brochfael, potentially the first king of Pengwern. After this, the Dogfeilion kings appear to move in on Pengwern (perhaps due to their theoretical defence of the Dee). The monks of Bangor-is-Coed are present at the battle to pray for divine support, but they too are slaughtered (the act is seen as divine retribution for their refusal to help evangelise the English in 603).

613

Manwgan ap Selyfan

Infant Cadelling king. Usurped by Eiludd.

613

With Selyf Sarffgadau dead, and his heir an infant, the Dogfeilion kings clearly assert their right to rule Powys (a right earned most probably through marriage). This begins a long-running feud between the two Powysian royal houses that lasts for several generations. Eiludd Powys appears to control only North Powys, a division of the kingdom that will resurface many times over successive centuries.

613 - 642?

Elfan / Eiludd Powys

King of Dogfeilion.

fl 620s

Cyndrwyn the Stubborn

South Powys only. The same as Cyndrwyn Fawr of Pengwern?

Cyndrwyn the Stubborn probably gains his epithet from his refusal to allow the Dogfeilion king uncontested rule over Powys. Instead the king holds the north alone, the part of the kingdom that abutts his own territory.

642

Oswald of Bernicia is killed by Penda of Mercia on 5 August at the Battle of Maserfelth (Maes Cogwy to the Britons), but Eiludd Powys on the Brito-Welsh side is killed. The location of Maserfelth is still disputed but opinion favours Oswestry ('Oswald's tree') in Shropshire. Politically, Oswald's death splits Northumbria. His brother succeeds him in Bernicia but Deira breaks away under their cousin Oswine.

With Eiludd out of the way, it is probably Cyndrwyn who restores the 'rightful' king, Manwgan ap Selyfan (although in theory all of them have a justifiable claim to rule). How much of a restoration this really is seems to be open to question. Possibly it is in name only, and possibly even less than that. Instead, Cynddylan seems to rule the south while Beli ap Eiludd quickly appears in the north, leaving Powys still divided.

642? - ?

Manwgan ap Selyfan

Apparently restored, but ruling?

c.644 - c.660

Cynddylan

A Cadelling. South Powys only (until the death of Beli, perhaps?).

Cynddylan now appears in the south, presumably succeeding Cyndrwyn. The Powysian king in the north, Beli ap Eiludd, is said not to be related to Eiludd Powys, who is supposedly from a rival house. This would appear to be incorrect, however, as the feud continues with Beli fulfilling the role of a Dogfeilion king.

c.655

Beli ap Eiludd

Son of Eiludd of Dogfeilion? North Powys only.

656

Overrun by Oswiu of Northumbria, the royal family of Pengwern is destroyed and the kingdom terminated. Apparently this battle, at or near Caer Luit Coyt (Lichfield), is fought by Cynddylan as king of Powys (and potential overlord of Pengwern), although he and his retinue of seven hundred warriors is defeated. This loss further exposes the border of Gwent and fully exposes Powys for perhaps the first time. Saxons migrate into the territory from the south to form the minor kingdoms of the Wrocenset and Magonset. These in turn are absorbed by Mercia by the eighth century.

c.660

Marwnad Cynddylan (The Lament for Cynddylan) laments the death of Cynddylan at the hands of the king of Dogfeilion, marking a resurgence for the Dogfeilion side of the feud. It refers to Cynddylan and his side of the feud as 'the Cadelling', meaning that they are the descendants of Cadell Ddyrnllwg, king of the Pagenses of the mid-fifth century. Cynddylan is 'the battle leader', meaning (in the poet's eyes) the rightful king, and is given a full royal retinue of seven hundred chosen soldiers, the same number that had been beaten by Oswiu of Northumbria in his 656 defeat of Pengwern.

Whether Cynddylan really has that number of men himself is questionable given the fractured nature of Powysian politics at this time and the very recent catastrophic loss of Pengwern. It could be down to poetical largess instead, as a lament of this nature would clearly be written for the court of the dead king, a court that is still resisting the Dogfeilion opposition.

c.680

Gwylog ap Beli

Son of Beli. A Dogfeilion. North Powys only?

Gwallawg ap Lleenawg?

A Cadelling?

c.710 - 773

Elisedd ap Gwylog

Son of Gwylog. A Dogfeilion.

c.730

MapBy now Mercia has fully absorbed the Magonset, although their territory remains a highly disputed borderland area between Mercia and Powys until the period of Norman power in England. Also by now, the feud between the two main houses for control of Powys seems to have ended, with the descendants of the Dogfeilion kings apparently victorious.

c.740 - 773

Brochfael ap Elisedd

Son.

773 - 808

Cadell Powys ap Brochfael

Son.

808 - 854

Concenn / Cyngen ap Cadell

(Annales Cambriae 852). Last of Vortigern's direct descendants.

814

Gryfudd ap Cyngen

Killed by his brother, Elisweg (Annales Cambriae 814).

822 - 823

Powys is mainly overrun in a large-scale Saxon (Mercian) invasion that is led by Ceolwulf I. Cyngen ap Cadell fights successfully to regain Powysian independence, a task which is probably aided by the weakening power of the Mercian throne.

854

Elisedd / Elisweg ap Cyngen

Never gained the throne, as it passed through Cyngen's sister.

854 - 873

MapConcenn of Powys goes on a pilgrimage to Rome and in 854 drops dead along the way. His nephew, Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd, the son of Concenn's sister and Merfyn Vrach, takes Powys for himself to form part of a united Wales.

In 873 Rhodri institutes a form of devolved government in which three of his sons control parts of the country in his name. Anarawd is granted Deheubarth, Cadell governs Seisyllwg, and Merfyn commands in Powys.

873 - 900

Merfyn ap Rhodri

Ruled Powys as a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd.

878

Upon the death of Rhodri Mawr, and according to his wishes, Wales is officially divided between his sons. Anarawd succeeds him in Gwynedd and retains Deheubarth, Cadell is confirmed in Seisyllwg, and Merfyn in Powys.

900 - 1075

MapPowys and Seisyllwg merge back into Gwynedd under Anarawd ap Rhodri, and form part of a united Wales under his successor, Hywel Dda. The subsequent division of a united Wales sees Gwynedd dominate Powys. By 1063, Blethyn rules a mostly united Wales, and Powys is detached from Gwynedd & Deheubarth for, or by, his son.

1063 - 1075

Blethyn (ap Cynfyn?)

King of Powys, Gwynedd & Deheubarth.

1075 - 1132

Maredudd ap Blethyn

King of Powys.

1081

Attempting to emulate the achievements of his father and grandfather and become king of south Wales, Caradoc ap Gruffydd of Morgannwg drives Rhys ap Tewdwr Mawr of Deheubarth from his throne. He is immediately faced by the threat of that king returning in alliance with Gruffydd ap Cynan, who is pursuing his own claim for the throne of Gwynedd. Gruffydd also gains the cooperation of his nemesis in Gwynedd, Trahaern ap Caradog, and Meilir ap Rhiwallon of Powys. Caradoc is killed at the Battle of Mynydd Carn, as are Trahaern and Meilir, allowing Gruffydd to seize his birthright in Gwynedd and Rhys to regain Deheubarth.

1132 - 1160

Madog ap Maredudd

King of Powys & Prince of Wales.

1160

Powys breaks up into North and South kingdoms.

North Powys (Powys Fadog)

North Powys became known as Powys Fadog during the reign of Madog, at about the same time as South Powys was being renamed.

1160? - c.1163

Llywelyn ap Madog

(Hope of Powys.) 'Prince' Owain Glyndwr's direct ancestor.

c.1163 - 1191

Gruffydd Maelor ap Madog

1160 - 1187

Owain Fychan

Lord of Mechain.

1160 - 11xx?

Owain Brogyntyn

Lord of Penllyn & Edeirnon (former Gwynedd sub-kingdom).

1191 - 1236

Madog ap Gruffydd

1236

In the same year as Deheubarth falls, North Powys also loses its independence to the Norman English.

? - before 1370

Gruffydd Fychan II

Hereditary prince of Powys Fadog & Lord of Glyndyfrdwy.

c.1370 - 1416

Owain Glyndwr

Son. Prince of Wales (1400-1416).

Meredudd ab Owain Glyndwr

Son. Accepted English royal pardon in 1421.

South Powys (Powys Wenwynwyn)

The appellation Powys Wenwynwyn was used to describe South Powys only from the reign of Gwenwynwyn.

1160

Gruffydd ap Maredudd

Brother of Madog.

1160 - 1197

Owain Cyfeiliog ap Gruffydd

m Gwenllian, dau. of Owain Gwynedd.

1197 - 1208

Gwenwynwyn ap Owain

m Margaret, dau of Robert Corbet. Died Feb 1216.

1208

Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn

m Hawise, dau of John Lestrange. Ruled? Died 1286.

1208

South Powys is annexed by Llywelyn Fawr, Prince of Wales & Gwynedd.