See also

Gruffydd (1055-1137)

1. Gruffydd ap Cynan, son of Cynan of Gwynedd (c. 1014- ) and Rhanult O'Olaf (c. 1031- ), was born in 1055. He married Angharad Ferch Owain circa 1082. He died in 1137.


The power of Gwynedd was shattered in 1063 when the Saxon earl Harold (later king Harold I), drove his army into north Wales and defeated Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, the last high king of Wales, a defeat which resulted in Llywelyn's death. Gryffydd ap Cynan was still a boy living with his mother in Ireland, and it's likely his father Cynan was also a casualty of the 1063 war. In the chaos that followed the death of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, the Normans made deep advances into north Wales from their base at Chester, building a impressive new motte-and-bailey castle on (or near) the traditional Welsh stronghold at Rhuddlan.

In the later 11th century Gruffydd ap Cynan returned from Ireland but had little initial success in asserting his claims to Gwynedd. He was, in fact, imprisoned for a short time. By the early 12th century, however, he had patiently regained much of the territory of ancient Gwynedd, claiming it for the house of Aberffraw, and he was later able to claim additional land below the Conwy. By the time of his death in 1137 he also controlled the western territory of Ceredigion.

He was the only Welsh ruler to have part of his reign recorded by a contemporary, yet there is debate about the true extent of his power, therefore his importance in Welsh history. Walker (1990) states that 'Gruffydd ap Cynan achieved much by patient and steady progress rather than by heroic measures and major advances, but he was a man of wide influence'. His deeds were certainly overshadowed by his more famous son, Owain Gwynedd, yet during Gruffydd's reign the Normans saw a drastic reversal of fortunes in north Wales, aided by a (rare) smooth transfer of power from Gruffydd to his son Owain.

The first two decades of Gruffydd's reign were a period of relative peace, during which the literary arts were allowed to flourish after decades of warfare between Norman and Welsh. A similar pattern emerged in south Wales under the leadership of Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth. Free from the constant warfare that had crippled Wales for so many years, the reigns of Gruffydd ap Cynan and his son Owain Gwynedd, were and are viewed by many as a kind of "Golden Age" for north Wales, lasting until the death of Owain Gwynwdd in 1170, and in south Wales until the death of Rhys ap Gruffydd (the Lord Rhys) in 1197.


Angharad Ferch Owain was born circa 1065. She died in 1162. She and Gruffydd ap Cynan had the following children:



Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd (c. 1100-1169)


Susanna ( - )


Gwenllian, Princess of Deheubarth ( - )

Second Generation

2. Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd, son of Gruffydd ap Cynan and Angharad Ferch Owain, was born circa 1100. He died on 23 December 1169.


The death of Henry I in 1135 was the signal for more vigorous and more hostile policies by the Welsh, though firm action by Stephen (the king who succeeded Henry) and the marcher lords held the promise of successful defence. Henry II succeeded Stephen in December 1154, determined to restore authority to the kingdom and to repair the damage caused by civil strife and the lack of a strong central administration. By 1157 he was ready to turn his attention to Wales.

Two princes carried Wales through these difficult years, Owain Gwynedd in the north and Rhys ap Gruffydd in south Wales. Both were aware of the complex problems to be faced: to deal with rival Welsh dynasties, to deal with marcher lords, and to live in the shadow of a rich and powerful neighbor. Owain gauged the political realities of the day quickly and, however often he had to yield, he did not lose the initiative.

Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd 1137-70, was born circa 1109. In 1137 he succeeded his father Gruffydd ap Cynan (1081-1137) to the kingdom of Gwynedd, which covered most of north Wales. While England was engaged in civil war, Owain used his skill as statesman and soldier to extend his frontiers. In 1157 Henry II led his first campaign against Owain, but it ended in a truce. He was required to do homage to Henry but it was not long before Owain was acting with complete independence. When Madog ap Maredudd died in 1160, he attacked Powys and extended his influence to the east. Six years later, the Council of Woodstock attempted to reduce the Welsh princes from client status to that of dependent vassalage, and the subsequent uprising was led by Owain and Rhys ap Gruffydd of south Wales. Henry's second attempt at subduing Wales failed ignominiously and left Owain free to capture Basingwerk and Rhuddlan castles (1166-67). In 1168 he set foot on negotiations with Louis VII of France to build an alliance between Gwynedd and France against their common enemy. It was a course which required great finesse and firm judgement. In one direction it pointed to a policy which would be used to good effect by later rulers of Gwynedd, the search for recognition and an alliance in Europe. Having openly defied Henry in 1168 by offering to help Louis, Owain maintained his independent position until his death. He left behind him a reputation of wisdom and magnanimity.

The reign of Owain Gwynedd marks the most peaceful period of Welsh independence, when the native princes absorbed many of the current European reforming ideas and adapted the more effective structures of both church and state to their own society. Monastic foundations were encouraged, diocesan boundaries defined, and many stone churches built. Motte-and-bailey earthwork castles identical to those built earlier by the Norman invaders were now erected by the princes as the centers of many of their personal estates. Two of Owain's sons are credited with building the first stone castles in Gwynedd towards the end of the 12th century. The tragedy, recurrent in Welsh history, was that Owain was not followed immediately by a strong ruler. Upon his death in 1170, open warfare broke out between his sons: Dafydd and Rhodri killed their elder half-brother, Hywel, and for the next 20 years Gwynedd was divided between them and their kinsmen. Gwynedd and Wales would not see another strong leader until Llywelyn the Great extended his control over most of Wales in the later part of the century.


Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd had the following children:



Iorwerth DRWYNDWN (1145-c. 1174)


3. Susanna was the daughter of Gruffydd ap Cynan and Angharad Ferch Owain.


4. Gwenllian, Princess of Deheubarth was the daughter of Gruffydd ap Cynan and Angharad Ferch Owain.


Gwenllian - princess of Deheubarth, was the mother of Rhys ap Gruffydd, Yr Arglwydd Rhys. She was killed in 1136 by Maurice de Londres after being defeated by him near Cydweli. Her two youngest sons, possibly still babes in arms, were with her: Morgan was killed and Maelgwn was captured and suffered an unknown fate. Andrew Breeze has recently argued that she was the author of the Mabinogi.

Princess Gwenllian

Our prince is far distant, the foeman is near,
And though we shall face him without any fear
A leader we lack, for our chieftain's not here.

The door of the bower is opened, there stands
To lead the proud Cymry to fight for their lands
The Lady Gwenllian, a sword in her hands.

It's away with the distaff, the needle, the loom,
And the song of the harp in the tapestried room,
We must ride out and fight, though we ride to our doom.

The Norman advances through Gwendraeth's green meads,
His dream is of plunder and bloodthirsty deeds,
To arms, then, my warriors, your princess now leads.

To the field they advance, a stout-hearted throng,
The heart of a tyrant is hard as a stone,
No quarter she askes for, no quarter is shown.

To foul execution our Princess is led,
The sword of the tyrant has struck off her head,
But the voice of Gwenllian still calls from the dead.

Third Generation

5. Iorwerth DRWYNDWN, son of Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd, was born in 1145 in Aberffraw Castle, Inys Mon. He married Margred Ferch Madog circa 1163. He died circa 1174.


Margred Ferch Madog, daughter of Madog ap Maredydd ( - ) and Susanna Ferch Gruffydd ( - ), was born circa 1129. She and Iorwerth DRWYNDWN had the following children:



Llywelyn "Mawr" ap Iorwerth PRINCE OF NORTH WALES (1173-1240). Llywelyn was born in 1173. He had the title 'Prince of North Wales'. He died in 1240.