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Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Cymru



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. For a time Meirionnydd became well known and fairly important, especially under Idris Gawr at the end of the sixth century, but after about three hundred years of semi-independence within Gwynedd's overall borders, the sub-kingdom was apparently drawn back under the direct control of its Gwyneddian overlord.

FeatureCunedda's eldest son was Tibion (Typipion, or Typaun to give it its later form). He had already died in Manau Gododdin, Cunedda's homeland, long before any territorial inheritance could be handed out. Instead his son, Marianus, Meichion, or Meirion, was granted this cantref in this south-western section of Gwynedd. The name Meirion was given the suffix of '-ydd' to form the territory's name, Meirionnydd (or Meirionydd in older works), meaning 'Meirion's land'.

Cunedda's origins lay - according to tradition - in the territory of the Venicones. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all bore Latinised names, showing a level of Romanisation in this border territory even though it was not directly part of the Roman empire. With Meirion also being ascribed the Latinised name of Marianus it is likely that 'Meirion' was either the local interpretation of this or was a later version of it. If the latter, then the territory may not even have been known as Meirionnydd during his lifetime. In fact, this strongly Welsh form suggests an origin at least a century later, during the period in which the Brythonic of western Britain rapidly mutated into early Welsh. Possibly it had no name of its own early on but was just a sub-set of Gwynedd that had its own governor in the form of Marianus, just like the other Gwyneddian sub-territories. A later name - Cantref Orddwy ('cantref of the Ordovices') - had its origins in the pre-Roman period and perhaps was also used by Marianus.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and from External Links: A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest, John Edward Lloyd (Longmans, Green and Co, 1912), and Sarah Woodbury, and Fabulous Pedigree.)

fl c.445

Marianus / Meirchion ap Typaun

Son of Tibion and grandson of Cunedda of Gwynedd.


According to later British tradition, Vortigern is removed from office by the council after trying to settle yet more foreign laeti in Britain, this time in the north-east, within the territory of the 'Kingdom of Northern Britain'. The high kingship is given to his eldest son, the able and popular Vortimer. The mercenary leader, Hengist, seeing that he no longer has a malleable ally, revolts and the territory or kingdom of Ceint is quickly overrun.

fl c.480

Cadwaladr ap Meirchion

Eldest son.

FeatureCadwaladr (also known by the earlier form of Catgualart) is sometimes put forward as a candidate for filling the boots of Arthur, dux Britanniarum and possibly even an emperor of Britain in the style of several Romans before him (see feature link). One of the main supporters of this theory, August Hunt, has since pursued his research in a different direction, making this particular theory less favourable these days.

King Arthur in film
The list of candidates that have been put forward as potentially historical 'King' Arthurs is extensive, although many are without substantial backing, including the claim for Cadwaladr ap Meirchion to take the honour

fl c.500

Gurguit / Gwrin Farfdrwch (Cut-Beard)

Son. m Marchell ferch Brychan of Brycheiniog.

Gurguit of the 'cut-beard' is presumably either clean-shaven or wears his beard trimmed. He would appear to be the historical version of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Gurguit Barbtruc of pre-Roman Britain. Geoffrey has him married to a Queen Marcia (in fact Marchell ferch Brychan, daughter of the king of Brycheiniog), and the couple have a son who succeeds the father, Guithelin (in history this is Gwyddno Long-Shanks). Gwrin is supposedly buried in Caer-Legion-upon-Uisc.

fl c.540

Gwyddno Garahnhir (Long-Shanks)

Son. Geoffrey's High King Guithelin?


MapKing Rhun Hir of Gwynedd 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. Are the Gwyneddian sub-kings called upon to bolster Rhun's forces against this outside threat?

c.580 - 632

Ider / Iudris / Idris Gawr (the Big)

Son. Killed by Oswald of Bernicia on the Severn.


FeatureIn 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, 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).

632 - c.645

Sualda / Swalda ap Idris


c.645 - 662

Brochfael ap Swalda


Possibly named after the better known Brochfael Ysgythrog of sixth century Powys, the 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? Its re-use in seventh century Meirionnydd and eighth century Dunoding suggests that it had been popularised to an extent by the earlier Powysian king.

Harlech Castle
Harlech lies on Meirionnydd's Irish sea coastline, although the imposing stone castle is a Norman creation of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries

fl c.675

Einudd Bach (the Short)


fl c.705

Ednyfed ap Einudd


fl c.735

Brochfael ap Ednyfed



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 a greater throne and pronounce himself King Caradog ap Meirchion of Gwynedd.

fl c.765

Cynan ap Brochfael

Son. Killed in battle?


Cynan is not to be confused with the better-known Cynan Garwyn ap Brochfael of Powys. The line of descent of Meirionnydd's princes apparently ends with Cynan, 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 other than through the known genealogy of Gwynedd.

MapLater Meirionnydd

By the middle of the twelfth century, a north-south division of Powys seems to have become apparent during the reign of Madog ap Maredudd of Powys - probably due to the (possibly non-permanent) division of territory following the death of his grandfather, Blethyn. Although Maredudd had apparently been over-king of Powys, his brothers Iorwerth and Cadwgan still governed their own regions, possibly on a semi-independent basis at the least. With the death of Madog in 1160, Powys became permanently divided, with Madog's son governing Powys Fadog (the renamed north) and South Powys falling under the control of Madog's brother.

By this time Powys Fadog covered territory that, in the pre-1974 county boundaries which were largely inherited from the late medieval period, covered eastern Meirionnydd, southern Denbighshire, and Flintshire. However, this version of Meirionnydd was much larger than the territory formed by the preceding kingdom as it also incorporating the greater part of Edeyrnion. A quick glance at the map of Wales (see map link, above) makes it clear that it was Edeyrnion which was incorporated into its immediate neighbour - Powys. Meirionnydd remained very much a part of Gwynedd.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth, from The Revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn, 1294-5, John Griffiths (Transactions of the Caernarfonshire Historical Society, Vol 16), and from External Links: A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest, John Edward Lloyd (Longmans, Green and Co, 1912), and Sarah Woodbury, and Fabulous Pedigree.)

fl 1170s - 1190s

Cynan ab Owain Gwynedd

Son of Owain Gwynedd, king of Gwynedd & Prince of Wales.

fl 1190s - 1200s

Llywelyn 'Fawr' ap Maredudd

Son. Vassal lord of Meirionnydd?

1208 - 1215

With Llywelyn Fawr of Gwynedd 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.

Dolgellau served as the county town of Meirionnydd until 1974, but the town was probably only founded in the eleventh century - or a little later - as a maerdref ('serf village)

? - 1255?

Maredudd ap Llywelyn ap Maredudd

Son. Vassal lord of Meirionnydd?

1255? - 1256

Llywelyn ap Maredudd

Son. Last lord of Meirionnydd. Died in a skirmish in 1263.

1256 - 1294

Llywelyn is deprived of his patrimony for his opposition to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Gwynedd at the at the Battle of Bryn Derwin. He lives the remainder of his life in exile in England, although he is reconciled with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1262.

In 1284, with the Statute of Rhuddlan having been drawn up to redistrubute Welsh lands, Meirionnydd is joined to adjoining cantrefi to form the county of Merionethshire. In 1294 Llywelyn's eldest son, Madog, leads a short-lived rebellion against the English rule of Wales. Ultimately, like all other Welsh rebellions, it is unsuccessful.