Bleddyn ap Cynfyn

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Bleddyn ap Cynfyn (died AD 1075) was an 11th-century king of Powys and Gwynedd in medieval Wales, installed by Harold and Tostig Godwinson during their 1063 destruction of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's kingdom. His descendants continued to rule Powys as the House of Mathrafal.

Background[edit]

Bleddyn was born to an obscure Powysian nobleman named Cynfyn, whose father's name—Gwerstan or Gwerystan—implies he may have been a Saxon named Werestan. (Other accounts of the family make him a distant cousin to Edwin Tegeingl.[1]) Cynfyn's wife, Llywelyn ap Seisyll's widow Angharad, was the daughter of King Maredudd of Dyfed, whose realm had been lost to the Irish pretender Rhain before its conquest by Llywelyn.

Gruffydd, Angharad's son by her first husband and Bleddyn's half-brother, was initially dispossessed upon his father's early death. Slowly, however, he rebuilt his father's realm, annexing its successor states. Although bards and annalists had called many hegemons "King of the Britons", Gruffydd became the first to actually rule all the free Welsh after he conquered Morgannwg in response to its invasion of Dyfed.

As this was going on, Bleddyn seems to have been resident in Powys, where he married Haer, daughter of the lord of Gest Cillyn y Blaidd Rudd.

Reign[edit]

Gruffydd's consolidation of power and alliance with Ælfgar of Mercia made him a threat to Harold Godwinson, earl of Hereford. Upon Ælfgar's death in 1062, Harold and his brother Tostig quickly invaded; the following year, they invaded again and were left in mastery of Wales after traitors among his men killed Gruffydd during a retreat. The south was restored to the Houses of Dinefwr and Morgan, but Powys and Gwynedd were given to Gruffydd's half-brothers Bleddyn and Rhiwallon. These two submitted to Harold and swore themselves vassals and allies of Edward the Confessor.[2]

Closely allied with Harold, the brothers joined the Saxon resistance to William the Conqueror following his conquest of England. In 1067, they joined the Mercian Eadric the Wild in his attack on Norman Hereford, ravaging the lands as far as the River Lugg. In 1068, they joined Earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria in their attacks as well.

Gruffydd's sons finally challenged Bleddyn and Rhiwallon in 1070. The Battle of Mechain killed Rhiwallon and Idwal and Maredudd died of exposure soon after: Bleddyn was left sole king over Gwynedd and Powys.

In 1073, Robert of Rhuddlan stealthily established his forces on the banks of the River Clwyd and attempted to ambush and capture Bleddyn. They narrowly failed but managed to seize valuable booty in raids further south.

Bleddyn was killed in 1075 by King Rhys ab Owain of Dyfed, having been betrayed by the lords of Ystrad Tywi. When Rhys was later defeated at the 1078 Battle of Goodwick by Bleddyn's cousin and successor Trahaearn ap Caradog and when he was killed by Caradog ap Gruffydd of Gwent shortly afterwards, this was hailed as "vengeance for the blood of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn".[citation needed] After his death, Gwynedd was seized by Trahaearn ap Caradog and later recovered for the House of Aberffraw by Gruffydd ap Cynan; but, in Powys, Bleddyn was the founder of a dynasty which lasted until the end of the 13th century.

Legacy[edit]

Bleddyn's legacy in the Chronicle of the Princes was that of a benevolent ruler:

The most lovable and the most merciful of all kings… he was civil to his relatives, generous to the poor, merciful to pilgrims and orphans and widows and a defender of the weak… the mildest and most clement of kings… [he] did injury to none, save when insulted… openhanded to all, terrible in war, but in peace beloved.

Bleddyn was also responsible for a revision of the Welsh law which continued in force in his dynasty's domain of Powys.

Children[edit]

His children included Iorwerth ap Bleddyn (d. 1111), Cadwgan ap Bleddyn (1051–1111) and Maredudd ap Bleddyn (1132).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wolcott, Darrell. Ancient Wales Studies. "Sorting out the Gwaitfoeds". Accessed 10 Feb 2013.
  2. ^ K. L. Maund is of the opinion that Bleddyn ruled Gwynedd and Rhiwallon Powys.

References[edit]

  • R. R. Davies (1991). The age of conquest: Wales 1063-1415. O.U.P. ISBN 0-19-820198-2. 
  • Thomas Jones (ed) (1952) Brut y Tywysogyon: Peniarth MS. 20 version (University of Wales Press)

Further reading[edit]

Bleddyn ap Cynfyn
Mathrafal Dynasty
Born: Unknown Died: 1075
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn
King of Gwynedd and Powys
1063–1075
Succeeded by
Trahaearn ap Caradog (Gwynedd)
Iorwerth ap Bleddyn (Powys)