Howel y Fwyall

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Howel y Fwyall (fl. 1356 - died 1381), or 'Howel of the Battle-axe,' was a Welsh knight and hero. He is also referred to as Hywel ap Gruffydd

According to Philip Yorke's The Royal Tribes of Wales, his father was Gruffydd ab Howel ab Meredydd ab Einion ab Gwganen.[1] Sir John Wynne, however, says that he was the son of Einion ab Gruffydd[2] Both the accounts agree that he was descended from Collwyn ab Tangno, 'lord of Eifionydd, Ardudwy, and part of Lleyn.' Howel was one of the Welshmen who fought at Battle of Poitiers in 1356, and Welsh tradition made him out to be the actual captor of John II of France, 'cutting off his horse's head at one blow'[3]

Howel undoubtedly seems to have fought well, for he was knighted by the Black Prince, and received afterwards (1359) the constableship of Criccieth Castle, and also the rent of Dee Mills at Chester, 'besides other great things in North Wales;' and as a memorial of his services a mess of meat was ordered to be served before his axe in perpetuity, the food being afterwards given to the poor `for his soul's health.' This ceremony is said to have been observed till the beginning of Elizabeth I's time, eight yeoman attendants at 8d. a day having charge of the meat[4] 'Howel was also "raglot" or bailiff of Aberglaslyn, and died between Michaelmas 2 and the same time 6 Rich. II,' leaving two sons, Meredydd, who lived in Eifionydd; and Davydd, who lived at Henblas, near Llanrwst.[5]


  1. ^ Royal Tribes of Wales, p. 184
  2. ^ Hist. Gwydir Family,pp.29,30,79; cf.Table II., ib.
  3. ^ ib.p.80n.
  4. ^ ib. p. 30, and n.
  5. ^ ib. p. 30 and n.; Williams, Eminent Welshmen

"Howel y Fwyall" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.