Gwenwynwyn ap Owain

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Attributed arms of Gwenwynwyn ab Owain[1]

Gwenwynwyn ab Owain Cyfeiliog (died c. 1216) was the last major ruler of mid Wales before the completion of the Norman English invasion.


He ruled southern Powys from 1195, having taken control following the death of his father Owain Cyfeiliog.

Conflict with Llywelyn the Great[edit]

His possession of Powys Wenwynwyn brought him into conflict with Llywelyn the Great, ruler of Gwynedd, who was keen to extend his own jurisdiction over the whole of Wales.

Conflict with King John[edit]

King John favoured Gwenwynwyn until a marriage alliance was made between Llywelyn and John's illegitimate daughter. The two native princes then kept their distance until 1207. As a result of Gwenwynwyn's activities, John confiscated his lands, and Llywelyn seized Ceredigion, Aberystwyth, and Powys.[2]

Gwenwynwyn did not get his territory back for two years, but his resentment towards the English led him into an alliance with Llywelyn, which lasted from 1212 until 1216, when John restored some of Gwenwynwyn's property and the two Welsh princes fell out again.[3]

Main events[edit]

  • 1187 Attacks Carreghofa Castle at night with his brother Cadwallon, killing their uncle Owain Fychan
  • 1195 Becomes ruler of Powys Wenwynwyn
  • c. 1198 Assists Maelgwn ap Rhys in taking Aberystwyth castle and capturing his brother Gruffydd ap Rhys II. Gwenwynwyn hands Gruffydd over to the English
  • c. 1198 Raises a large army and besieges Painscastle. Gruffydd, released by the English, engages Gwenwynwyn with a large force and defeats him.
  • c. 1202 Swears allegiance to Llywelyn the Great
  • 1208 Arrested by King John and his lands annexed by Llywelyn.
  • c. 1210 Freed by John and recovers his possessions. He accompanies John on his expedition into Wales.
  • 1211 Takes up arms for Llywelyn.
  • c. 1216 Deserts to John, pursued by Llywelyn who takes his lands, and takes refuge in Chester.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Llywelyn invaded Powys, and Gwenwynwyn is believed to have died or been killed that same year. He was survived by his son Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn whose actions in 1282 are blamed by many for the death of the last native prince of an independent Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Williams, Richard (1887). The royal tribes of Wales; To which is added an account of The fifteen tribes of north Wales. With numerous additions and notes, preface and index. Liverpool I. Foulkes. Unknown ID AFV-0947.
  2. ^ Evans, Howell T. (1907). An Analysis of the History of Wales. Merthyr Tydfil: Educational Publishing. p. 79. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  3. ^ Tout, Thomas Frederick (1885–1900). Dictionary of National Biography. p. 34:7. Retrieved 1 May 2018.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  4. ^ Yorke, Philip (1887). The Royal Tribes of Wales. London: Isaac Foulkes. pp. 61–64.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Owain Cyfeiliog
Prince of Powys Wenwynwyn
Succeeded by
Llywelyn the Great