History Files
 

 

Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Cymru

 

 

 

MapRhos / Lleyn

FeatureThis was a region in what would be Wales, but which was at the very start of that process. Apparently originally a Roman district which later became a Welsh cantref, it was granted to, or was acquired by, Gwynedd during the creation of this kingdom by Cunedda. It was handed down to one of Cunedda's grandsons, probably in the mid or late fifth century, an event which saw it converted into a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd. After a short period of personal expansion of territory by the kings of Rhos within Gwynedd's overall borders, the sub-kingdom was later apparently drawn back under the direct control of its Gwyneddian overlord.

FeatureThe origin of the name is obscure. It may have its basis in the name of the former Roman district, but perhaps more likely is the fact that the word 'rhos' means 'moor, heath' in Welsh. The third choice is that it was a personal name (Ross in Scotland is the northern equivalent), although against this is the lack of a Ross who is connected with the kingdom. It was ruled from a capital at Din Arth, in the north-western coastal corner of the territory, overlooking Liverpool Bay. The name Din Arth means 'tower of the bear', literally 'Bear Tower', something which has been used to link one or other of Rhos' first two kings to Arthur Pendragon. 'Din' is a variant of 'dun', applied only to towers after the original meaning of dun was reassigned to the Latin castra in the mangled word caer (see Caer Gloui, for example). The sub-kingdoms of Gwynedd are explored in more detail in the accompanying feature (see link, right).

The territory is sometimes also known as the kingdom or territory of Penllyn, probably only for one reason - a curiosity which seems to date to a point shortly before the Gwyneddian takeover of the region. A certain Cunoricus (Cynyr Ceinfarfog in later Welsh sources) is claimed as governing cantref Pebidiog within the kingdom of Dyfed in the late fifth century. Caer-Gynyr (later known as Caer Cai) near Bala in Penllyn is also claimed as being his - which raises the possibility of an interesting scenario. It seems unlikely that the first Gwyneddian ruler of Rhos was in place before AD 480, which raises the prospect of Cunoricus being a Romano-British warlord or official who was replaced or succeeded by the newcomers who now ruled Gwynedd. Such an outcome would certainly have been a sign of the times on Britain's western coastline.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from Ancestry of the Kings and Princes of Wales (genealogical document in Old Welsh), from The Lives of the British Saints: the Saints of Wales and Cornwall and such Irish Saints as have dedications in Britain, Volume II, S Baring-Gould (1907), from De Excidio Brittaniae, Gildas (see feature link at AD 517), and from External Link: Mysterious Britain & Ireland.)

c.480 - 517

Owain Ddantgwyn (White-Tooth)

Youngest son of Einion Yrth of Gwynedd. Murdered by Maglocunus.

517

FeatureOwain is murdered by Maglocunus (Maelgwyn Gwynedd) almost as soon as the latter acquires the throne of Gwynedd. As Owain rules during the last decades of the fifth century, he is sometimes equated with Arthur Pendragon. He is also sometimes claimed as a king of Gwynedd itself (and therefore over-king of Gwynedd's many sub-kingdoms of this time which include Rhos). The thin source material shows his brother, Cadwallon Lawhir, as over-king of Gwynedd in the very same period.

517 - c.540

Cynlas Goch (the Red) (ap Owain)

Son. Cinglas (Cuneglasus). Mentioned by Gildas.

517

The sense of humour sometimes exhibited by the Welsh (even today) in naming their offspring is evident in Cynlas Goch. Perhaps better known as Cuneglasus or Cinglas in his own time, he is mentioned in records as being ruddy (a redhead), but his name literally means 'blue dog' ('cuno-' meaning dog and 'glasus' meaning blue).

Lleyn Peninsula
The expansion of Rhos to take in the Lleyn Peninsula under the command of St Einion Frenin may have threatened the over-king of Gwynedd as a potential rival, a possible reason for it being merged back into Gwynedd proper by Rhun Hir in the mid-sixth century

FeatureDenounced by the monk, Gildas in the mid-fifth century as one of the 'five tyrants', Cynlas may be responsible for moving the capital to Dinerth. This is a hill fort on Bryn Euryn in Llandrillo-yn-Rhos. Even today the road which runs below the hill's western side is called Dinerth Road, while Dinarth Hall is close by. Archaeological excavations here have revealed a massive stone wall of the correct period which may have been three metres (ten feet) high.

fl c.540

St Einion Frenin (the King) / Enniaun

Brother. Allowed to absorb Afflogion into Rhos. King of Lleyn.

fl c.540

St Seiriol

Brother. Born c.494.

fl c.540

St Meirion

Brother.

c.540

FeatureAt some point in his lifetime, Einion inherits the minor territory of Afflogion on the Lleyn Peninsula after the death of its last appointed ruler, which may be Afloyg ap Cunedda (see the main list for Gwynedd), but is more likely to be an unknown son or grandson. Allowed to merge this territory with Rhos, Einion now holds both eastern Gwynedd and the whole of the Lleyn Peninsula.

St Einion is credited with granting land at Penmon on Anglesey to his brother, Seiriol, for the founding of a monastery, and also land for Seiriol's hermitage on Puffin Island (Ynys Seiriol). He is also claimed as the founder of the first church building at Llanengan in Lleyn, although this is replaced by a new building around the late fifteenth century. The name may originally be Llan-einion, which goes through various shifts which include Llan-eigneion, before it reaches its modern form. Hywel Rheinallt writes a poem in the fifteenth century which refers to Einion as a 'golden-handed prince of Lleyn'.

c.560

With his apparently pious life, St Einion fails to produce an heir. However, his brother Cynlas has a son, Maig, who can succeed him. Despite this, it seems that Rhos loses any autonomy it may possess as over-king Rhun Hir of Gwynedd draws the kingdom under his direct control. Maig and his family appear to remain important lords in eastern Gwynedd after they cease to be kings, but are shown here in grey to highlight their loss of power.

fl c.570s

Maig ap Cynlas

Son of Cynlas. Lord in eastern Gwynedd (Lord of Rhos?).

fl c.590s

Cyngen ap Maig

Son. Lord in eastern Gwynedd (Lord of Rhos?).

fl c.600s

Cadwal Cryshalog

Son. Lord in eastern Gwynedd (Lord of Rhos?).

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 ap Beli of Gwynedd and Selyf of Powys are both killed, and the battle is a disastrous British defeat. As lords of Gwynedd, Isaag ap Einion of Dunoding and Cadwal Cryshalog of Rhos would also be expected to involve themselves with their own bands of warriors.

fl c.620s

Idgwyn ap Cadwal

Son. Lord in eastern Gwynedd (Lord of Rhos?).

fl c.670s

Einion ap Ifgwyn

Son. Lord in eastern Gwynedd (Lord of Rhos?).

fl c.690s

Rhufon ap Einion

Son. Lord in eastern Gwynedd (Lord of Rhos?).

fl c.720s

Hywel ap Rhufon

Son. Lord in eastern Gwynedd (Lord of Rhos?).

fl c.740s

Meirchion ap Hywel

Son. Lord in eastern Gwynedd (Lord of Rhos?).

754

Caradog ap Meirchion is a ninth generation descendant of Cynlas Goch. Now with the death of Rhodri Molwynog, he is able to seize the throne and pronounce himself King Caradog ap Meirchion of Gwynedd.

754 - 798

Caradog ap Meirchion

Son. King of Rhos and Gwynedd. Killed in battle.

798

Caradog is killed in battle by 'Saxons' in Snowdonia. These are presumably the half-Welsh, half-Angles of Mercia who are being led by Coenwulf. Caradog's son, Hywel ap Caradog, appears to continue to govern in Rhos.

Gwynedd
The mountains of North Wales provided a powerful refuge for the rulers of Gwynedd in times of trouble but they still had to fight for victories to maintain that refuge, and Caradog ap Meirchion paid for this with his life

798 - 825

Hywel ap Caradog

Son. King of Rhos. Sometimes incorrectly attributed to Manau.

813/816

Hywel fights Cynan Tyndaethwy for control of Mon (Anglesey). The battle may be part of an attempt to regain or hold onto his ancestral lands there, and he apparently wins, as he holds Mon for about three years. The Rhos pedigree from Harleian Ms 3859 terminates with Hywel, leaving his successors a matter of some guesswork, but one theory places the fifth century Caradog Freich Fras of Gwent here as Hywel's son. At the time of the Anglo-Norman conquest of Wales in 1283, Rhos is organised into the lordship of Denbigh.