Powys Wenwynwyn

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Principality of Powys Wenwynwyn
Tywysogaeth Powys Wenwynwyn

Banner of Powys Wenwynwyn Coat of Arms of Powys Wenwynwyn and successive de la Pole dynasty
Powys as divided in 1190.
Capital Welshpool
Languages Middle Welsh
Government Monarchy
 -  1160 - 1195 Owain Cyfeiliog
 -  1195 - 1216 Gwenwynwyn ab Owain
 -  1216 - 1286 Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn
Historical era Middle Ages
 -  Established 1160
 -  Abolished by Act of Parliament 1283
Today part of  Wales
^ Powys Wenwynwyn was often known in English as Upper Powys

Powys Wenwynwyn or Powys Cyfeiliog was the southern portion of the former princely state of Powys which split following the death of Madog ap Maredudd of Powys in 1160. The realm had been split, with the northern portion (Maelor) going to Gruffydd Maelor and becoming known, eventually, as Powys Fadog and the southern portion (Cyfeiliog) going to Owain Cyfeiliog and becoming known, eventually, as Powys Wenwynwyn after Prince Gwenwynwyn ab Owain, its second ruler.

Powys Wenwynwyn and Gwynedd became bitter rivals in the years that followed with the former frequently allying itself with England to further its own aims in weakening the latter.

Princes of Powys Wenwynwyn[edit]

Gwenwynwyn seized the cantref of Arwystli in 1197 when he was aligned with England. Following the marriage of Llywelyn the Great and Joan of England in 1208, warfare broke out once more between Gwenwynwyn and Llywelyn. In 1212 Gwenwynwyn's ancient royal seat at Mathrafal was destroyed and he was evicted from his territories. He changed allegiances again and was restored to his realm in 1215 making a new capital at Welshpool. In 1216 he was defeated in battle with the forces of Llywelyn and fled to England, where he died shortly afterwards. He was succeeded by his son.

Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn was forced to submit to Llywelyn Fawr in 1216. Like his father he repeatedly switched allegiances and was invested with the lordships of Arwystli, Cyfeiliog, Mawddwy, Caereinion, Y Tair Swydd and Upper Mochnant by Henry III of England in 1241.

Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn married Hawise daughter of John Le Strange of Salop in 1241. He transferred his allegiance back to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1263 before returning to England's protection again after 1276 following a failed plot to murder Prince Llywelyn in collusion with his rival's own brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd. His forces commanded by his son Owen mobilised during the Welsh War of 1282–1283 with those of John Le Strange and Hugh le Despenser and it was their soldiers who ambushed and killed the last native Prince of Wales near Builth on that fateful day in 1282.

End of the Principality[edit]

Owain ap Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn (alias de la Pole) allegedly surrendered the principality of Powys to Edward I at the Parliament of Shrewsbury in 1283 (his rival in Powys Fadog had already been deposed for fighting on the wrong side). In return for surrendering the principality he received it again from the king as a free Baron of England "sub nomine et tenura liberi Baronagii Angliæ, resignando Domino Regi heredibus suis et Coronæ Angliæ nomen et circulum principatus." ("Under the name and tenure of the free baronage of England, by resigning together with his heirs to the Lord the King and to the Crown of England the princely name and coronet") The date should be accepted with reserve because Owen did not succeed his father in possession until 1286: it is possible that Owen was acting on behalf of his father, who was by then an old man. From about that time the former princely family began using the Normanised surname "de la Pole" instead of Welsh patronymics. The name derives from Pool (now called Welshpool), his principal town.

The Lordship of Powys[edit]

After the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 all of the other old princely titles in Wales also ceased to exist; and henceforth, with the exception of the Kingdom of Scotland after 1344, the English Crown did not recognise the title of "prince" or "king" in any native dynasty other than their own. However the principality continued as a marcher lordship.

The ruling family of Powys survived in the children and remoter descendants of Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, henceforth known as the de la Pole family, who lived in the newly built Powis Castle. In 1293 Owen died and was succeeded by his son Griffith de la Pole, who died without heirs in 1309. The lordship was then inherited (according to English law) by his sister Hawise "Gadarn" (often simply referred to as "The Lady of Powis") and on her death in 1353 the lordship passed to the children of her marriage with John Charleton, 1st Baron Cherleton and thence out of native Welsh hands, rather than to the heirs male (as prescribed by Welsh law).

Marcher Lords of Powys[edit]

His heiresses were:

Beyond the Marcher Lordship[edit]

The Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 abolished the feudal rights of the Lords of Powis and saw the territory of the Lordship of Powis almost entirely incorporated within the new county of Montgomeryshire. However the lordship continued to exist as a great landed estate.

  • Edward Grey, 3rd Baron Grey of Powis (died 1551).
  • Edward Grey of London, his illegitimate son, sold the lordship (no longer a marcher lordship) to his kinsman Sir Edward Herbert in 1587.[1]
  • Sir Edward Herbert, a blood relative of both descendant branches of the Cherleton Barony.
  • Sir William Herbert was created Baron Powis in 1629.

The estate then descended to successive holders of the titles Baron Powis, Marquess of Powis, and Earl of Powis.[2]

Progeny of the Princely House[edit]

Owen de la Pole (ap Gruffydd) had several brothers, whom he enfeoffed as his feudal tenants with lordships within his own lordship. However none of them left issue except William de la Pole (of Mawddwy), who had the lordship of Mawddwy, comprising that parish and most of Mallwyd. There descendants of the ancient princes of Powys were lords for several generations, until the lordship passed to an heiress and then was divided between four coheiresses. One of these coheiress, Elisabeth (Isabella) de Burgh married Sir John Lingen d 1506 and their descendants still exist today.

Certain genealogical sources have claimed (though apparently without reliable sources) that Owen de la Pole had other sons, including an alleged William de la Pole (rather than the historical Gruffydd de la Pole), who succeeded to the lordship on Owen's death in 1293. Some have sought to identify him with the father of William de la Pole (of Hull),[3][4] who may possibly also have been called William, but whose name is not certainly known. However, the link is most improbable, the merchants' surname probably being derived from a place near Hull.[5] William de la Pole and his brother Richard were successful merchants from Hull, who rose to become royal financiers under Edward II and Edward III, William's son Michael being created 1st Earl of Suffolk.


  1. ^ Dictionary of Welsh Biography, Powis, Lords of Grey
  2. ^ Dictionary of Welsh Biography, Powis, Earls of Herbert
  3. ^ Welsh icons
  4. ^ Tudor Place
  5. ^ GEC, Complete Peerage, s.v Suffolk, Earl.