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Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Cymru

 

Venedotia / 'Kingdom of North Wales' (Romano-Britons) (Wales)

FeatureWith the expulsion of Roman officials in AD 409 (see feature link), Britain again became independent of Rome and was not re-occupied. The fragmentation which had begun to emerge towards the end of the fourth century now appears to have accelerated, with minor princes, newly declared kings, and Roman-style magistrates all vying for power and influence while also facing the threat of extinction at the hands of the various barbarian tribes which were encroaching from all sides.

FeatureIn the west, largely in what would become modern Wales, this process seems to have started earlier and taken place more quickly. Even by the start of the fifth century it is apparent that several territories had emerged here. The process seems to have been triggered by the reorganisations of Magnus Maximus in the late fourth century (see feature link), with what later tradition would claim as the creation of the 'kingdoms' of 'North Wales', 'South Wales', and 'Mid-South Wales'. Constantine, son of Maximus, is claimed as the first 'king' of North Wales.

Largely located across north-western Wales, in the former British territories of the Deceangli and Ordovices, that later tradition asserts that a group of Votadini were transferred here to succeed Constantine. The authority behind this move is stated to be Maximus, but perhaps it was instead the person who seems to have succeeded him as dux in late Roman Britain, Coel Hen, given the rough dating being applied here (although a rank for Maximus has to be guessed at). These Votadini were nominally Britons, and perhaps little more than a large warband and its associated family unit (but perhaps not - see timeline, below). They came from the Pictish border area, part of former Venicones tribal territory.

They were led by Cunedda Wledig with a mission to secure western Britain from Irish raiders who had proved to be such a problem since the late fourth century AD. However, some historians dispute the traditional view of Cunedda being moved by a central British authority and instead claim that he sailed down the Irish Sea and invaded North Wales of his own volition, forming a kingdom at a time at which there was no one left to stop him. This seems unlikely, as general controls do appear to have existed until perhaps the AD 410-425 period.

What's more, the fact that Cunedda's father had clearly been a Romanised Celt who had held a position of authority is too important a factor to miss. Also, note the red robe of his grandfather - Paternus Pasrut 'of the Red Robe' - something which was so notable and such a family high point that it became a nickname. Cunedda was clearly the son of an important figure in Roman Fife, even if he could also trace his lineage back to Beli Mawr of pre-Roman Prydein.

Once in western Britain, he is claimed as governing much of the north (hence his title in later tradition, 'King of North Wales', a country name which did not exist in his time). His name, Cunedda, should perhaps more realistically be shown as Cunetha. In later Welsh it may have been Cunedag. It is a fairly typical Brythonic play on words, taken from 'cuno' meaning 'dog' (ie. 'servant') and 'dda' meaning the god Da or Dagda, making him the 'servant of Dagda'. The title 'wledig' is later Welsh for 'prince' to replace the Latin 'princeps'. His son, Typaun, remained behind to assume whatever role it was that Cunedda relinquished.

FeatureFollowing the same tradition, upon Cunedda's death the western British territory which had been under his control was divided between his sons, although the eldest remained in overall control as a kind of over-king (see feature link). Most of the smaller sub-kingdoms were absorbed back into the main Gywneddian kingdom within a generation or two. Ceredigion, along the upper west coast of Wales, remained independent for much longer.

As for the North Wales principality they created from what were probably foederati territories to start with, the name was spelled 'Venedotia'. The first three letters, 'ven-', are probably the proto-Celtic word for 'white'. The proto-Celtic (or common Celtic) root was 'windo'. The proto-Celtic 'd' apparently mutates into a 't', a voiced 'th', a hard 'k', an 's', or a soft 'ch' and also, of course, it can be dropped entirely. This 'Venet' would seem to be the original form of 'Venicones', with the Romans mistaking the 't' for a 'c'.

FeatureProto-Celtic 'v' became an 'f' in Old Irish Gaelic, producing the Gaelic word 'fin' for white. In Britain it shifted in the other direction and became a 'w', then a 'gw' and, in at least one location ('Votodini', which became Guotodin), the 'w' was dropped so that what began as a 'v' became a 'g'. In other words (and see feature link for more on this), The name 'Venicones' can be processed through the intensive language shifts of fifth to seventh century Britain to adapt itself into both Venedotia (Latinised), the 'Guendota' of Nennius, and Gwynedd (Welsh).

The name Cunedda does not provide an alternative basis for Venedotia, despite seemingly being easy to transform into 'Weneda' and then 'Gwynedd'. This coincidence tends to help the argument that Cunedda may be largely invented. Instead 'Cunedda' is an acceptable name as it conforms to Brythonic naming conventions, but the original form of 'Venicones' provides the basis for the name 'Venedotia'.

Roman Canterbury

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information by Hywel George and Brian Gibb, from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe, from The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton, from Wales and the Britons, 350-1064, T M Charles-Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2013), from History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth, from A History of the English Church and People, The Venerable Bede (Leo Sherley-Price translation - revised by R E Latham), from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, from Scotland Before History, Stuart Piggott, from Scotland's Hidden History, Ian Armit, from Atlas of British History, G S P Freeman-Grenville (Rex Collins, London, 1979), from Etymological Glossary of Old Welsh, Alexander Falileyev, from The Borders: A History of the Borders from Earliest Times, Alistair Moffat, and from External Link: DNA Cymru, and The Scottish Place-Name Society Brittonic Language in the Old North database, and Caledonians, Picts, and Romans (Education Scotland - dead link).)

fl c.380s

Constantine / Custennin Fawr 'Great'

'King of North Wales'. Son of Britain's Magnus Maximus.

383

FeatureMagnus Maximus revolts against ineffectual governance from Rome and plans to invade Gaul with a large army (see feature link). In preparation, he sets up defences in the west of Roman Britain to protect the west coast from Irish raiders. This includes the creation of a territory in mid-south Wales under the command of his son, Eugenius (incorporating Cernyw and Ewyas).

Sequential Maps of Roman Britain AD 43-425
Magnus Maximus revolted in 383 and invaded Gaul with a large army but, in preparation, he is credited with setting up client kingdoms in what is now Wales to protect the west coast from Irish raiders, as shown in this series of sequential maps (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Another son is set up as a 'King of South Wales', while another, Constantine, is similarly set up as 'King of North Wales' (both titles coming from later tradition as 'Wales' as a country does not yet exist). Some forts are abandoned at this time, probably as part of a general reorganisation of the available defensive units.

From this point on, all of Britain's 'high kings' originate from within the country, and Maximus selects Coel Hen as his replacement to command most of the militarised zone of 'Northern Britain'. Once the invasion of Gaul commences, Armorica is probably one of the first areas captured, and Maximus is credited by Geoffrey of Monmouth with setting up Conan Meriadoc as high king there.

388?

Another dux appears in Roman Britain (the previous known incumbent of this military office being the unfortunate Fullofaudes who had been put out of action during the 'Barbarian Conspiracy' of 367). Coel Hen, as he is known in later British oral and written material, appears to exercise a good deal more power in the northern half of Britain than previous holders of the office.

FeatureAccording to tradition, he is assigned to the post by Magnus Maximus and, if this and other traditions about him are correct, then he may represent a transition between Roman military official and a ruler in an increasingly independent Britain (see feature link).

Multangular Tower
The third century Multangular Tower in York (Ebrauc) lies at the western corner of the legionary fortress, which was probably the military HQ of fifth century 'Northern Britain'. The tower's remains are now part of York's Museum Gardens

c.390

The Deceangli and Ordovices tribes do not have a chance to re-emerge at a time in which Roman central authority in the west of Roman Britain is fading earlier and faster than elsewhere.

Under threat by waves of Irish raiders, much of the land of these two tribes is incorporated into a new territory when Cunedda Wledig and his branch of Romanised Venicones are transferred from the Manau dependency of the Guotodin to secure North Wales from the raiders. They are extremely successful in their initial role as foederati, and in time a principality is formed by them.

Some historians dispute the traditional view of Cunedda being moved by a central British authority and instead claim that he sails down the Irish Sea and invades northern Wales of his own volition, forming a principality at a time at which there is no one left to stop him. However, various facts mitigate against such a view (see introduction, above).

Cunedda's campaigns to clear the Irish raiders from western Britain may extend far outside the territory which he claims as his domain (according to tradition). The existence of 'Allt Cunedda' in territory which falls under the command of the principality of Demetia in South Wales seems to be a link to him.

Gwynedd
The mountains of North Wales provided a powerful refuge for the rulers of Gwynedd in times of trouble and a wonderfully scenic backdrop to Cunedda's victories over the Irish raiders who were plaguing the region in the late fourth century

In 2014, the ScotlandsDNA project discovers the ancestral Y chromosome marker of the Venicones, R1b-S530. At that point, a new project known as CymruDNAWales is also being prepared. A marker which is very Welsh-specific and which accounts for about 0.8% of all Welshmen is found to have close links with the 'Pictish' (ie. far-north British) marker of the Venicones.

In fact, it is found to occur downstream of R1b-S530 in the descendants of men who have carried it - men who have also come to Wales. When this news is announced in 2016, it is theorised by the project's scientists that this notable genetic link is a relic of the coming of Cunedda's forces and perhaps a substantial number of associated migrants (more than a simple warband then - see introduction, above).

Cunedda Wledig's name is a fairly typical Brythonic play on words, taken from 'cuno' meaning dog (ie. servant) and 'dda' meaning the god Da or Dagda, making him the 'servant of Dagda'. The title 'wledig' is later Welsh for 'prince'.

Male Romano-British dress
Costume illustration of a Romanised British man (left) and a Romanised British aristocrat, with each wearing leather Gladiator sandals, one pair with a thong fitting and the aristocrat with sandals with many straps (from Hope's Costume of the Ancients).

His son, Typaun, is presumed to follow him on his move southwards, but apparently receives no subsequent mention, suggesting his death (probably in battle) before the kingdom can be fully established.

fl c.390 - 445

Cunetha / Cunedda Wledig / Cunedag

'King of North Wales'. Venicones Pict. m Gwawl ferch Coel.

c.420

Immediately prior to Vortigern's apparent rise to power as the main source of central authority in Britain, the country is subjected to raids along its coastline. In the west, Irish raiders sail up the Severn during a successful raid on the 'Kingdom of Mid-South Wales'.

Later chroniclers record that it is around this time that Cunedda and his sons drive out the Irish from large areas of the territory which has been made their responsibility, while also recovering the greater part of the 'Kingdom of South Wales' and the whole of North Wales except Anglesey and parts of central North Wales (modern Denbighshire).

fl c.424

Ceretic / Corotic / Ceredig

Son. Ruler of Ceredigion.

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.

The River Dee
The River Dee probably formed the border between northern Powys and south-western Rheged during the sixth century AD, and until the fall of the latter in the early seventh century

Those raids, though, are driven away from Venedotia by the strong rule of Cunedda and his sons, so the western-central British territory of the Paganes probably looks an even sweeter target right now. One powerful Irish band captures the capital and the ruler is forced to go into hiding, one Cadell Ddyrnllwg.

c.445

Following the death of Cunedda his seventh son, Einion Yrth, succeeds as princeps or magistrate of Venedotia. Venedotia remains politically whole under his governance, but the territory within it is divided between Cunedda's surviving sons, who then operate as sub-kings to Einion Yrth from Afflogion, Dogfeilion, Dunoding, Edeyrnion, Meirionnydd, Osmaeliog, and Rhufoniog.

FeatureMost of these 'sub-kingdoms' are located to the south or east of Venedotia's heartland, to serve as buffer states without having any practical say in Gwynedd's external policies (see the feature and map on the sub-kingdoms of Gwynedd for further information).

Ceredig, brother of Einion, already rules in the independent district or principality of Ceredigion. Cunedda's eldest son, Typaun (or Typipion), has already died in Manau Gododdin, Cunedda's homeland, so Typaun's son Meirion (Meirchion ap Typaun) is now granted the cantref of Meirion. A further sub-kingdom, Rhos, is added around 480.

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

fl c.445 - c.470

Einion Yrth 'the Impetuous'

Brother. Leaves Rhos to youngest son, Owain Ddantgwyn.

fl c.445

Afloyg ap Cunedag

Ruler of Afflogion.

fl c.445

Dynod ap Cunedag

Ruler of Dunoding.

fl c.445

Edeyrn ap Cunedag

Ruler of Edeyrnion.

fl c.445

Rhwfon ap Cunedag

Ruler of Rhufoniog.

fl c.445

Osfael ap Cunedag

Ruler of Osmaeliog.

fl c.445

Dogfael ap Cunedag

Ruler of Dogfeilion.

fl c.445

Meirchion ap Typaun ap Cunedag

Ruler of Meirionnydd.

fl c.470 - 517

Cadwallon Lawhir 'Long Hand'

Son of Einion Yrth. 'King of North Wales'.

As well as being the Arthurian King Cradelmant of Northgalis (North Wales), Cadwallon is also the Cadwallo, 'King of North Wales', who appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain at the magnificent Whitsun ceremony at Caerleon-upon-Usk in south-eastern Wales (within the territory of Gwent).

Magnus Maximus coin
Two sides of a coin issued in Britain under the command of Magnus Maximus, which would have remained in circulation until at least the second decade of the fifth century

Nothing at the site of this former Roman legionary fortress of Isca Silurum suggests post-Roman British occupation, so Geoffrey doubtless picks the place because it is close to his home town and at one time had plainly been a centre of population grand enough to suit Arthur. Soon after handing it out, Venedotia would seem to reclaim the territories of Edeyrnion and Osmaeliog.

c.480 - 517

Owain Ddantgwyn 'White-Tooth'

Brother. Ruler of Rhos. Murdered by Maglocunus.

517 - 549

Maglocunus / Maelgwyn Gwynedd Hir

High King of Britain. Died of widespread mid-century plague.

517

FeatureOwain Ddantgwyn of Rhos is murdered by Maelgwyn Gwynedd at the very start of the latter's kingship (see feature link). Maelgwyn is perhaps better known during his own lifetime as Maglocunus.

A proto-Celtic root word, 'magus' (meaning young, a servant, a boy), from the Indo-European *maghu (a young person), seems to acquire an 'l' somewhere along the way to produce 'maglo', from which derives the Gaelic 'mael' (the 'mal' in Malcolm), and the Venedotic 'mael' (as in 'dogmael' which becomes 'dogfael' - early Welsh 'm' becomes modern Welsh 'v' in the middle of words). Amusingly, this would mean that Maglocunus translates as 'dogboy'.

Map of Gwynedd
Despite, or because of, the very fringe involvement with Rome of the Votadini British, Venedotia looked very heavily to Roman influences until well into the sixth century, with it being here that one of the last signs of the concept of Roman citizenship could be found, on a gravestone where a 'cousin' of Maelgwn Gwynedd proudly proclaimed himself a 'Venedotis Cives', a citizen of Venedotia

549

The death of Maelgwyn Gwynedd can be said to be the end point for any remaining notion of 'Roman-ness' which may have remained in the office of a ruler of any territory in the west and north of Britain (and that of magistrate in the south and east). A kingdom or principality of Gwynedd can said to be birthed by this time.

Gwynedd (Wales)

The death of Maelgwyn Gwynedd can be said to be the end point for any remaining notion of 'Roman-ness' which may have remained in the office of king in the west and north (and that of magistrate in the south and east).

British women enjoyed a high status that is rare in any society before the modern age. They were the equals of men not only in the home, but also in government and war. Some Britons were regularly ruled by queens, and the matrilineal descent of kings was a very strong feature of Pictish rule of the far north of Britain, where each king was chosen through his relationship with his mother, not his father. The Manau Gododdin who moved to north Wales also practised this form of inheritance until the ninth century, reflecting their northern heritage. It was probably Gwriad ap Elidyr, the heir of South Rheged who ended this practice thanks to his very different heritage.

Rhuddlan Castle in Wales

(Additional information by Hywel George, Edward Dawson, and Brian Gibb, from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe, from The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton, from A Political Chronology of Wales 1066 to 1282, P M Remfry (2003), from History of Wales, John Davies (Penguin Books, 1990), from The Age of Arthur, John Morris (1973), from Early Territorial Organization in Gwynedd and Elmet, G R J Jones (1975), and from External Link: DNA Cymru.)

549 - 586

Rhun Hir (the Tall)

Son. Fought two great battles against Alt Clut.

c.550

MapRhun has to fight off an attempted invasive takeover by his brother-in-law, Prince Elidyr of Alt Clut. Elidyr thinks his claim is stronger because Rhun is illegitimate, but he fails to recognise Gwyneddian law which gives equal accession rights to both legitimate and illegitimate offspring. Elidyr is killed in battle on the Cadnant Brook in Gwynedd.

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

c.560

Presumably upon the death of St Einion the king, Rhos loses any autonomy it may possess as Rhun Hir draws the kingdom under his direct control. Einion's heir, his nephew Maig, and his descendants appear to remain important lords in eastern Gwynedd after they cease to be kings. In terms of Rhun Hir's own immediate family, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Rhun has a brother named Ennianus, and it is he who is the father of Rhun's successor Beli, and not Rhun.

586 - 599

Beli ap Rhun

Son (although Geoffrey of Monmouth says he is the son of Ennianus).

599 - 613

Iago ap Beli

Son. Killed by Aethelfrith of Bernicia at Caer Legion.

613?

FeatureIn one of the bloodiest and hardest fought battles of its time, several British kings form a coalition to halt Æthelfrith 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, Idris Gawr of Meirionnydd, and Cadwal Cryshalog of Rhos would also be expected to involve themselves with their own bands of warriors (see one of Geoffrey of Monmouth's more accurate entries about this campaign via the feature link).

However, Æthelfrith 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.

613 - 625

Catamanus / Cadvan / Cadfan ap Iago

Son. High King.

617

Cadwallon (and probably his father too) already holds a claim on the crown of Deira as part of his domains. He now apparently includes Elmet in this claim, following the kingdom's conquest by Edwin of Deira.

625 - 634

Cadwallon ap Cadfan / Cadwallo

Son. High King. Allied to Penda of Mercia.

632/3 - 634

King Edwin of Bernicia and Deira is killed at Hatfield Chase (just outside the western borders of Lindsey) by Penda of Mercia while the latter is allied to Cadwallon. Cadwallon repays many years of defeats, deaths, rapes and pillaging at Northumbrian hands by conducting a year-long campaign of revenge throughout the two kingdoms. However, the campaign ends in his death at the hands of Oswald at the Battle of Heavenfield near Hexham. For the British in general, Cadwallon's death is a disaster. It virtually ends any realistic, historical claim to any level of high kingship, and also robs the Britons of the only native king to overthrow an English dynasty. The Britons never find an equal leader.

634 - 664

St Cadwaladr Fendigaid (the Blessed)

High King.

664

FeatureCadwaladr is probably killed by the great plague that hits the country. Swithelm of the East Saxons is also a victim. A case has been argued for identifying Cadwaladr with Arthur, the fifth century battle leader of the Britons who, for convenience, has been placed in the list of high kings of post-Roman Britain. The link is not particularly convincing and the original theory has since been discarded by its author.

664 - 684?

Ifwr ap Cadwaladr

681 - 685

MapCadwaladr is defeated by the West Seaxe and Dumnonian Somerset is fully occupied as a direct result of this defeat.

684? - 712

Idwal (Idwallon) Iwrch (the Roebuck)

m Afadda ferch Alain II, King of Brittany.

712 - 754

Rhodri Molwynog (the Bald & Grey)

754

Caradog ap Meirchion is a ninth generation descendant of Cynlas Goch, king of Rhos. 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

Nine generations removed from Cynlas Goch, king of Rhos.

c.785

The line of descent of Meirionnydd's princes apparently ends with Cynan ap Brochfael, so the territory is fully merged back into Gwynedd. Meirionnydd later re-emerges as a cantref which is governed by lords who are vassals to Gwynedd. Their relationship to Meirionnydd's previous princes (if any) is unknown.

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. His son, Hywel ap Caradog, appears to continue to govern in Rhos.

798 - 816

Cynan Tyndaethwy (ap Rhodri)

No heir. His daughter married Gwriad, nominal king of Ynys Manau.

816 - 825

Gwriad ap Elidyr

Heir to South Rheged. King of Manau. m Essylt ferch Cynan.

825 - 844

Merfyn Vrych / Frych (the Freckled)

Son. Moved from Manau (or North Britain). Descendent of Coel Hen.

830 - 880

MapWales, self-isolated after High King Cadwallon ap Cadfan's death in 634, now begins a long period of growth as it renews contacts with the Continent, and makes new ties with Wessex. Merfyn marries the sister of Concenn of Powys, and adds that territory to Gwynedd upon the king's death. His successor, Rhodri Mawr, marries Angharad, the sister of Gwgon, the drowned king of Seisyllwg. Rhodri's sons continue this policy of intermarriage.

844

During the reign of Merfyn Vrych those Britons residing in England are obliged to renounce their British ancestry or leave the country and their homes within three months. Perhaps it is this insult that prompts the king to engage in battle against Beorhtwulf of Mercia (whom the Welsh annals name Berthwryd). The battle at Cyveiliawc (otherwise called Ketill or Cetyll), is apparently very severe and the king is killed. In the same year another battle is fought at Fferyllwg, 'between the Wye and the Severn', although it is unknown who commands the Welsh forces. It is they who carry the day this time (a further battle is fought on the same site about two years later, which ends in stalemate).

844 - 878

Rhodri Mawr (the Great) ap Merfyn

Son. King of Gwynedd, Powys & Seisyllwg. United all of Wales.

849

The Chronicle of the Princes reports that 'Saxons' (probably from Mercia) invade Anglesey. Meurig ap Hywel of Gwent is said to join Rhodri the Great, king of Wales (Gwynedd and Deheubarth), in defeating them but falls during the battle. The Annales Cambriae also record the death of Meurig at the hands of Saxons.

854 - 855

Concenn of Powys goes on a pilgrimage to Rome and in 854 drops dead along the way. His nephew, Rhodri Mawr, the son of Concenn's sister and Merfyn Vrach, takes Powys for himself to form part of a united Wales. To highlight his credentials to be a new breed of great king in Wales, in 856 Rhodri deals with the threat posed by Viking raids from Dublin by killing Orme, the leader of a raiding party. He keeps the Vikings at bay thanks to this victory.

Rhodri Mawr
There never was a king of Wales (a Germanic title, while the Welsh used the Latin princeps) but Rhodri Mawr perhaps came closest to achieving the reality of either, uniting all of the Welsh principalities under his control but then undoing the process by ensuring that they were divided amongst his sons upon his death

872 - 873

The death of Gwgan ap Meurig of Seisyllwg allows his brother-in-law, Rhodri Mawr, to swiftly marry into the family and gain the kingdom for himself. Rhodri is now king of much of north and central Wales. In 873 he 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.

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, ruling from the Gwyneddian palace of Aberffraw on Mona, Cadell is confirmed in Seisyllwg, and Merfyn in Powys.

878 - 916

Anarawd ap Rhodri / Anaraut

Son. King of Deheubarth (passed to Hywel Dda).

878

Cadell ap Rhodri

Brother. Ruled Seisyllwg as a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd.

878

Merfyn ap Rhodri

Brother. Ruled Powys as a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd.

881

One 'Edryd Long-Hair' leads a Mercian army into Gwynedd, but is defeated by the sons of Rhodri Mawr at the Battle of the Conwy. The Welsh annals refer to this as 'revenge by God for Rhodri'. Welsh historian Thomas Charles-Edwards equates 'Edryd Long-Hair' with Æthelred, his intention being to re-impose Mercian overlordship in the Welsh principalities, but this setback ends that hope as far as he is concerned. He does however continue to exercise overlordship over Glywyssing and Gwent in the south-east.

916 - 942

Idwal Foel (the Bald) ap Awarawd

Son of Anarawd. King of Gwynedd.

c.925

The line of descent from Dynod to Cuhelm, ruler of the Gwyneddian sub-kingdom of Dunoding, apparently ends with the latter's death around this time. The territory is fully merged back into Gwynedd and at the same time it is divided into the cantrefi of Eifionydd and Ardudwy (later part of the counties of Caernarfonshire and Meirionnydd respectively, and today part of a revived county of Gwynedd).

934 - 937

MapThe grand alliance including the Scots, Northumbrian Danes at York, Dublin Danes, and the Welsh of Gwynedd and Cumbria, mass their forces north of the Humber in a bold attempt to destroy Æthelstan of Wessex. The plan fails, however, when the West Saxons and Mercians of the south destroy the alliance at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937. Following this defeat there may be some northern British migration from Cumbria and Strathclyde into Gwynedd, based upon a somewhat confused Welsh tradition.

942

Hywel Dda of Deheubarth gains Gwynedd upon the death of Idwal Foel and grabs Powys, making him sole ruler of all Wales. He has already acknowledged the late Athelstan of Wessex as his overlord and has associated himself closely with the English king, witnessing Athelstan's grants of lands and charters (the British Museum possesses a charter which records a grant of land by Athelstan at Luton in 931, and which bears the testimony: 'Ego Howael subregulus consensi et subscripsi' (Sub-King Hywel hereby consents and agrees')).

It is clear that Wales is now sharply divided between a strong anti-English party, based chiefly in the north and led by the sons of Rhodri Mawr in Gwynedd, and a South Welsh party which favours union with England. Hywel is the leader of the latter, and his epithet 'dda' is given to no other Welsh king. It is probably first given to him by the South Wales 'unionists'; the epithet 'mawr' that had been applied to Rhodri Mawr had probably arisen as an expression of the traditionally more exclusive nationalist policy of the North Welsh. These conflicting views dominate Welsh politics for the next couple of centuries.

942 - 950

Hywel Dda (the Good) ap Cadell

King of Deheubarth since 916 (Seisyllwg reunited).

949

Cadwgan, son of Owain and grandson of Hywel Dda, is killed by the Saxons of England. In the same year a battle takes place at Carno between the sons of Idwal Foel of Gwynedd and the sons of Owain ap Hywel Dda. The men of Gwynedd manage to devastate areas of Dyfed in Deheubarth, presaging a great deal of future conflict between the two greatest states of Wales.

Hywel Dda of Deheubarth and Wales
Unusually for the dominant rulers in later medieval Wales, Hywel Dda was a man of the south, having been the driving force behind the creation of Deheubarth out of several smaller states and territories (1909 oil imagining the prince's appearance)

950

The death of Hywel Dda of Deheubarth, king of all Wales, leaves the country divided. While Hywel's sons, Owain, Rhun, Rhodri and Edwyn, take possession of his estates in South Wales, Iago and Ieuaf, the sons of Idwal Foel, seize North Wales as their birthright (Gwynedd and Powys). The two sides disagree strongly over the break-up of a united Wales, but the joint kings of Gwynedd cannot be removed, despite a raid into Dyfed which sees many of their men cut down by a force from Ceredigion. Morgannwg continues to retain its independence under its own line of kings.

950 - 979

Iago ap Idwal Foel

Son of Idwal Foel. King of Gwynedd & Powys. Died without an heir.

950 - 969

Ieuaf ap Idwal Foel / Ievav

Brother and co-ruler.

952 - 953

As part of the ongoing conflict between Deheubarth and Gwynedd, Owain, prince of Ceredigion (Seisyllwg), leads an army into the North Wales kingdom and engages its men at the Battle of Aberconwy. The fighting is so fierce that both sides are forced to withdraw, having sustained heavy losses. The following year, Gwynedd repays the compliment, invading and devastating Ceredigion and being driven out by more fierce fighting.

979 - 985

Hywel Foel (the Bald) ap Ieuaf

Son. King of Gwynedd & Powys.

985 - 986

Cadwallon ap Ieuaf

Brother. King of Gwynedd & Powys. Defeated and replaced.

986

Following the death of Owain ap Hywel of Deheubarth it is his son, Maredudd ap Owain, who rules both Deheubarth and Gwynedd, having conquered the latter during his father's reign (towards its very end). The two kingdoms are reunited for several generations, usually along with Powys.

986 - 999

Maredudd ap Owain (of Deheubarth)

King of Gwynedd, Deheubarth, & Powys.

999 - 1005

Cynan ap Hywel

King of Gwynedd, Deheubarth, & Powys.

1005 - 1023

Llywelyn ap Seisyll

King of Gwynedd, Deheubarth, & Powys. Son-in-law to Maredudd.

1023

King Llywelyn ap Seisyll of Gwynedd and all Wales dies unexpectedly and Rhydderch ap lestyn seizes the throne of Deheubarth by force, albeit holding onto it briefly. However, the interruption allows Gwynedd's native princes to regain ascendancy over those of Deheubarth.

1023 - 1039

Iago ap Idwal ap Meurig ap Idwal Foel

King of Gwynedd, Deheubarth, & Powys. Cadwallon's 2nd cousin.

1039 - 1063

Gruffydd ap Llywelyn

King of Gwynedd & Deheubarth, Gwent, Morgannwg, and Powys.

1045

Gruffydd ap Rhydderch of Morgannwg is able to seize Deheubarth and hold onto it for a decade until the tables are turned by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. However, Gwynedd would seem to have lost its dominance over South Wales.

1055

Gruffydd invades and conquers the mid-south Welsh kingdoms of Morgannwg and Gwent, subjugating them and drawing them directly under his control along with Deheubarth as part of a united Wales.

1063

After uniting all of Wales and becoming the first recognised Prince of Wales, Gruffydd is killed by disaffected Welshmen. His head is sent to Harold Godwinson and King Edward the Confessor of England as the price of peace following attacks on England by Gruffydd. With Gruffydd's half-brother Blethyn of Deheubarth gaining Gwynedd in his place (closely allied to his brother, Rhiwallon who may share control), he rules a still-mostly united Wales. Powys is detached for, or by, his son. This division may happen in 1063 as an informal devolvement of power by Blethyn himself to avoid later dynastic squabbles, but it is certainly conformed upon his death in 1075.

Rhuddlan Castle
Rhuddlan Castle was the seat of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn at the time of his death in 1063 at the hands of his own people, with his head being sent to King Edward the Confessor of England

1063 - 1075

Bleddyn ap Cynfyn

King of Powys, Gwynedd & Deheubarth. Killed in battle.

1066 - 1068

The last native British earl of Corniu (Cornwall) is deposed by William in 1066 as he tightens his grip on the newly-conquered kingdom of England. At first, only the south-east can be considered as being securely held. Princes Blethyn and Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn of Gwynedd, Deheubarth, and Powys resist the invaders as part of their supporting role for Harold Godwinson. They join Eadric the Wild of Mercia in an attack on Norman forces at Hereford in 1067, and Earl Edwin of Mercia with Earl Morcar of Northumbria in a further attack in 1068.

1075 - 1081

Trahaern ap Caradog

King of Gwynedd & Deheubarth (de facto ruler).

1075

Although Trahaern holds power in Gwynedd, during this time he is subjected to continuous raids by the rightful ruler, Gruffydd ap Cynan.

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.

1081 - 1137

Gruffydd ap Cynan ap Iago

King of Gwynedd (b.1055).

1137 - 1169

Owain Gwynedd

Son. Prince of Wales (1160). Died Dec.

c.1163

The death of Llywelyn ap Madog effectively ends Powysian hopes of fully restoring the kingdom in the face of aggression from the marcher lords. Powys Fadog quickly becomes little more that a satellite state of the powerful Owain Gwynedd. South Powys frequently takes a different tack, opposing Gwynedd and maintaining an independent stance.

1170

Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd

Son. Died soon after accession.

1170 - 1194

Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd

Brother. Ruled from Jan. Exiled to England.

1194 - 1195

Rhodri ab Owain Gwynedd

Brother. Gained throne with help from the king of Manau.

Madog ab Owain Gwynedd

FeatureBrother. Emigrated with his followers to the Americas.

fl 1170s - 1190s

Cynan ab Owain Gwynedd

Brother. Lord of Meirionnydd.

Gruffudd ab Cynan ab Owain

Grandson. Died 1200.

1195 - 1240

Llywelyn Fawr ab Iorworth ap Owain

Prince of North Wales. Remains of South Powys annexed in 1208.

1208 - 1215

With Llywelyn Fawr having married Joan of England, daughter of King John in 1204, the antagonism exhibited by South Powys towards Gwynedd has left it politically isolated. Now King John arrests Gwenwynwyn ap Owain of South Powys and Llywelyn takes the opportunity to annexe his territory. Gwenwynwyn is restored in 1210 but is forced to found a new capital at Welshpool.

1240 - 1246

Dafydd ap Llywelyn Fawr

Prince of Wales Died 25 Feb.

1241

Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn is not able to return to claim his late father's lands in Powys Wenwynwyn until this year, shortly after Llywelyn's death. At that point Dafydd ap Llywelyn Fawr is forced to reach peaceful terms with Henry III of England and Gruffydd is restored as king of his reduced territory in mid-Wales.

1246 - 1282

Llywelyn ap Gruffydd ap Llywelyn

Prince of Wales. Killed.

1274 - 1276

Although Powysians generally acknowledge Llywelyn ap Gruffydd as Prince of Wales, those of the southern region of Powys Wenwynwyn have always been less impressed with Gwynedd than their northern counterparts. Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn illustrates this by changing sides again, and he is exiled to England for his refusal to acquiesce. He returns two years later, restored during a fresh English campaign against Llywelyn.

1282

Dominant in Wales for so long, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd is ambushed and killed by forces led by his troublesome vassal, Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn of Powys Wenwynwyn, along with Roger Lestrange of Ellesmere and Roger Mortimer (grandfather of the first earl of March of the same name, lover of the wife of Edward II). The loss is a disaster for Wales, although Llywelyn's brother steps forward to continue the fight.

1282 - 1283

Dafydd ap Gruffydd ap Llywelyn

Brother. Last native Prince of Wales. Killed.

1282 - 1283

With the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in 1282 and his brother Dafydd the following year, four hundred years of dominance by the house of Gwynedd comes to an end. Gwynedd had survived intense rivalries from its neighbours, as well as outside threats from Irish, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Norman raiders and would-be-conquerors. It had done so through a combination of might and well-placed diplomacy that nevertheless failed to withstand the final, determined assault from the English in the person of Edward I.

Llywelyn is beheaded and the grisly trophy taken by Roger Mortimer of Chirk to Rhuddlan. This he presents to a thankful King Edward who dispatches it at once to be displayed on the Tower of London to the great mirth of the townsfolk. Llywelyn's infant daughter, Gwenllian, now an orphan (her mother had died giving birth to her), is snatched from her cradle and taken to a monastery in England to spend her entire life locked away, 'safe' from producing any heirs to the Gwyneddian throne. She dies at the age of fifty-four in 1337.

Gwenllian is not the last representative of the House of Gwynedd, however. The English have to put down several rebellions despite their control of Wales, and the first of these is led by a distant cousin of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.

 
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