Brochwel Ysgithrog

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Brochwel son of Cyngen (Welsh: Brochwel ap Cyngen, died c. 560), better known as Brochwel Ysgrithrog, was a king of Powys in Eastern Wales. The unusual epithet Ysgithrog has been translated as ‘of the canine teeth’, ‘the fanged’ or ‘of the tusk’ (perhaps because of big teeth, horns on a helmet or, most likely, his aggressive manner).

Family[edit]

Brochwel was the son of King Cyngen Glodrydd and his wife St. Tudlwystl, a daughter of Brychan ap Gwyngwen ap Tewdr. As far as is known Brochwel married Arddyn Benasgel, sometimes written Arddun Penasgell (Wing Headed), daughter of King Pabo Post Prydain. They were the parents of King Cynan Garwyn and Saint Tysilio, the founder of the old church at Meifod.

Poetry and tradition[edit]

Powys has been frequently called "the land of Brochwel", but little is recorded of the events of this monarch's reign. Some details are available from Old Welsh poetry, but this is difficult to interpret, and none of the extant poems about this period seem to pre-date the 9th century. Some are from as late as the 11th century. Brochwel is presented as a warrior hero and ruler of wide lands. These sources suggest that he was passionately fond of hunting, and one of his chief resorts was the Vale of Meifod which he made his "May-Abode" or summer residence. On his summer visits to Mathrafal, he often visited the shrine of St. Gwyddfarch. Upon his saintly son, St Tysilio, he bestowed the Bishopric of that part of his kingdom. St Tysilio and Brochwel are linked with the foundation of the Church at Meifod, but none of the stones of the current Church of St. Mary date from this period.

The traditional arms of Brochwel Ysgithrog.

The arms later assigned by the College of Arms to Brochwel, and that can be used by his male heirs, are ‘Sable, three nags' heads, erased argent’ which may represent three beheaded Saxon white horses. Many later tribes and family lines in the area claim descent from Brochwel and include his arms within theirs. Most of the genealogies of these families were first documented by the heralds in the 16th century when the view taken of Brochwel can be illustrated by the following quotation:

Brochwel Yscithroc, Consul of Chester, who dwelt in a town then called Pengwerne Powys, and now Shrewsbury (Salopia), whose dwelling house was in the verie same place where the college of St Chad's now standeth.

—Dr Powel, Historie of Cambrie (1584 ed.)

Pengwern was certainly a Welsh kingdom or Royal residence which appears to have been located somewhere in Shropshire. It is unclear whether it was ruled by Brochwel. However there does seem to have been a tradition that he was buried in St. Chad’s College in Shrewsbury which he is said to have founded. Alternatively, some believe that Brochwel was buried at Pentrefoelas in Gwynedd where the grave has been uncovered of a six foot man, with a covering slab bearing the name ‘Brohomagli’.

False Brochwel[edit]

According to Bede (Bk II, Ch 2), a 'Brochmail' was also one of the defending force when the monks of Bangor-on-Dee were slain by Æthelfrith of Northumbria at the Battle of Chester in circa 613. The account of the battle in the Welsh Chronicles is consistent with Bede, but since it was written after his work the author was probably aware of it. However, this man is clearly not Brochwel as his grandson, Selyf ap Cynan, was King of Powys at this time and described as dying in the battle. References to the subject as 'Brochfael' are probably due to a mistaken identification with the person referred to by Bede.

References[edit]

  • Kari Maund (2000) The Welsh Kings: The Medieval Rulers of Wales (Tempus)
  • John Edward Lloyd (1911) A history of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest (Longmans, Green & Co.)
  • W.A. Griffiths (1915) Tales from Welsh History and Romance (J & J Bennett Ltd, The Century Press)
Preceded by
Morgan ap Pasgen
King of Powys
c. 540–c. 560
Succeeded by
Cynan Garwyn