Gruffydd ap Llywelyn

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This article is about the 11th-century king in Wales from the line of Seisyll. For the 13th-century Welsh prince from the line of Anarawd, see Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr.
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn
King of Gwynedd and Powys
Reign 1039–1063
Predecessor Iago ab Idwal ap Meurig
Successor Bleddyn ap Cynfyn
King of Deheubarth
Reign 1055–1063
Predecessor Gruffydd ap Rhydderch
Successor Maredudd ab Owain ab Edwin
King of Morgannwg
Reign 1058–1063
Predecessor Gruffydd ap Rhydderch
Successor Cadwgan ap Meurig
Spouse Ealdgyth of Mercia
Issue Maredudd ap Gruffydd
Idwal ap Gruffydd
Nesta ferch Gruffydd
Father Llywelyn ap Seisyll
Mother Angharad ferch Maredudd
Born c.1007
Died 5 August 1063
Snowdonia, Wales
Map of the extent of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's Conquest
  Gwynedd, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's kingdom

Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (c. 1007–1063 or 1064) was the ruler of all Wales from 1055 until his death. He was the usurped son of King Llywelyn ap Seisyll and should not be confused with the dispossessed son of the later Prince Llywelyn the Great. Although the true lineage of his grandfather Seisyll is obscure, he claimed to be a the great-great-grandson of Hywel Dda.[1]

Genealogy and early life[edit]

Gruffydd was the elder of two sons of Llywelyn ap Seisyll, who had been able to rule both Gwynedd and Powys. On Llywelyn's death in 1023, a member of the Aberffraw dynasty, Iago ab Idwal ap Meurig, became ruler of Gwynedd. According to an early story Gruffydd had been a lazy youth, but one New Year's Eve, he was driven out of the house by his exasperated sister. Leaning against the wall of another house, he heard a cook who was boiling pieces of beef in a cauldron complain that there was one piece of meat which kept coming to the top of the cauldron, however often it was thrust down. Gruffydd took the comment to apply to himself, and began his rise to power in Powys.

King of Gwynedd and Powys (1039–1055)[edit]

In 1039, King Iago of Gwynedd was killed (supposedly by his own men) and his son Cynan, who may have been as young as four, was forced into exile in Dublin. Gruffydd, who had already recovered Powys, expanded into the vacuum. Soon after gaining power, he surprised a Mercian army at Rhyd y Groes near Welshpool and totally defeated it, killing Edwin, brother of the Mercian earl. He then attacked Dyfed, which his father had ruled but was now under Hywel ab Edwin. Gruffydd defeated Hywel in the Battle of Pencader (1041) and carried off Hywel's wife. Gruffydd seems to have been able to drive Hywel out of the south, for in 1044 Hywel is recorded returning to the mouth of the River Tywi with a Danish fleet to try to reclaim his kingdom. Gruffydd, however, defeated and killed him in a closely fought engagement.[dubious ]

Gruffydd ap Rhydderch of Gwent was able to expel Gruffydd ap Llywelyn from Deheubarth in 1047 and became king of Deheubarth himself after the nobles of Ystrad Tywi had attacked and killed 140 of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's household guard. He was able to resist several attacks by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn in the following years. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn was active on the Welsh border in 1052, when he attacked Herefordshire and defeated a mixed force of Normans and English in the Battle of Leominster.

King of Wales 1055–1063[edit]

In 1055 Gruffydd ap Llywelyn killed his rival Gruffydd ap Rhydderch in battle and recaptured Deheubarth. Gruffydd now allied himself with Ælfgār, son of Earl Leofric of Mercia, who had been deprived of his earldom of East Anglia by Harold Godwinson and his brothers. They marched on Hereford and were opposed by a force led by the Earl of Hereford, Ralph the Timid. This force was mounted and armed in the Norman fashion, but on October 24 Gruffydd defeated it. He then sacked the city and destroyed its castle. Earl Harold was given the task of counter-attacking, and seems to have built a fortification at Longtown in Herefordshire before refortifying Hereford. Shortly afterwards Ælfgār was restored to his earldom and a peace treaty concluded.

Around this time Gruffydd was also able to seize Morgannwg and Gwent, along with extensive territories along the border with England. In 1056, he won another victory over an English army near Glasbury. Now a true King of Wales, he claimed sovereignty over the whole of Wales – a claim which was recognised by the English.[citation needed] Historian John Davies states that Gruffydd was "the only Welsh king ever to rule over the entire territory of Wales... Thus, from about 1057 until his death in 1063, the whole of Wales recognised the kingship of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn. For about seven brief years, Wales was one, under one ruler, a feat with neither precedent nor successor."[2]

Death and aftermath[edit]

Gruffydd reached an agreement with Edward the Confessor, but the death of his ally Ælfgār in 1062 left him more vulnerable. In late 1062 Harold Godwinson obtained the king's approval for a surprise attack on Gruffydd's court at Rhuddlan. Gruffydd was nearly captured, but was warned in time to escape out to sea in one of his ships, though his other ships were destroyed. In the spring of 1063 Harold's brother Tostig led an army into north Wales while Harold led the fleet first to south Wales and then north to meet with his brother's army. Gruffydd was forced to take refuge in Snowdonia, but at this stage his own men killed him, on 5 August according to Brut y Tywysogion. The Ulster Chronicle states that he was killed by Cynan ap Iago in 1064, whose father Iago ab Idwal had been put to death by Gruffydd in 1039.[3] Gruffydd had probably made enemies in the course of uniting Wales under his rule. According to Walter Map, Gruffydd said of this:

Speak not of killing; I but blunt the horns of the offspring of Wales lest they should injure their dam.

Gruffydd's head and the figurehead of his ship were sent to Harold.

Following Gruffydd's death, Harold married his widow Ealdgyth, though she was to be widowed again three years later. Gruffydd's realm was divided again into the traditional kingdoms. Bleddyn ap Cynfyn and his brother Rhiwallon came to an agreement with Harold and were given the rule of Gwynedd and Powys. Thus when Harold was defeated and killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Normans reaching the borders of Wales were confronted by the traditional kingdoms rather than a single king. Gruffydd left two sons who in 1069 challenged Bleddyn and Rhiwallon at the battle of Mechain in an attempt to win back part of their father's kingdom. However they were defeated, one being killed and the other dying of exposure after the battle.

Marriage and issue[edit]

Gruffydd married Ealdgyth, daughter of Earl Ælfgār, they had the following children:

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Iago ab Idwal ap Meurig
King of Gwynedd
Succeeded by
Bleddyn ap Cynfyn
King of Powys
Preceded by
New Claimant
Pretender King of Deheubarth
Succeeded by
Title given up in favour of Gruffydd ap Rhydderch
Preceded by
Meurig ap Hywel
King of Gwent
Succeeded by
Cadwgan ap Meurig
Preceded by
Gruffydd ap Rhydderch
King of Morgannwg
King of Deheubarth
Succeeded by
Maredudd ab Owain ab Edwin


  1. ^ John Edward Lloyd (1911) A history of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest (Longmans, Green & Co.)
  2. ^ Davies, John (1993). A History of Wales. London: Penguin. p. 100. ISBN 0-14-014581-8. 
  3. ^ Davies, J A History of Wales p. 101; Compare Remfry, P.M., Annales Cambriae..., 68 and notes


  • John Edward Lloyd (1911) A history of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest (Longmans, Green & Co.)
  • Remfry, P.M., Annales Cambriae. A Translation of Harleian 3859; PRO E.164/1; Cottonian Domitian, A 1; Exeter Cathedral Library MS. 3514 and MS Exchequer DB Neath, PRO E (ISBN 1-899376-81-X)
  • John Davies A History of Wales (Penguin Books) ISBN 0-14-014581-8
  • Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Lines: 176-2, 176A-4, 177–1