Kingdom of Dyfed

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Kingdom of Dyfed
Teyrnas Dyfed

c. 410 – 920
Map showing Dyfed, after the late 7th century, showing its seven cantrefi.
Capital Not specified
Languages British, Irish, Latin,[1] and Welsh
Government Monarchy
Historical era Middle Ages
 •  Established 410
 •  Disestablished 920
Post-Roman Welsh petty kingdoms. Dyfed is the promontory on the southwestern coast. The modern Anglo-Welsh border is also shown.

The Kingdom of Dyfed is one of several Welsh petty kingdoms that emerged in 5th-century post-Roman Britain in south-west Wales, based on the former Irish tribal lands of the Déisi from c 350 until it was subsumed into Deheubarth in 920.[2] In Latin, the country of the Déisi was Demetae, eventually to evolve into Welsh as Dyfed. Following the Norman invasions of Wales between 1067–1100, the region was conquered by the Normans and by 1138 incorporated into a new shire called Pembrokeshire after the Norman castle built in the Penfro cantref, and under the rule of the Marcher Earl of Pembroke.


In the latter days of the Roman Empire through to the early post-Roman period, the Déisi Muman peoples, a name which originates in Irish as déis meaning "vassal", migrated to the region between 350 and 400 AD. Their migration may have been with the support of Magnus Maximus, who contracted with them to become vassals and seafaring defenders of Britain from Wales to Cornwall, following standard Roman policies.[2] Gaelic became, or remained, the predominant language of the region, as evidenced by twenty stones dated to this periode with Irish ogam inscriptions.[2] One inscribed stone in Castelldwyran near Neath memoralizes one leader known as Voteporix in Latin and in ogam, with his title given as Protictoris, who claimed descent from a Magnus Maximus, suggesting that "one of his ancestors was a member of the retinue of an emperor and that the title had become hereditary," according to Professor John Davies.[2] Davies suggests that Voteporix may be descended from the same Maximus that had encouraged the Déisi to settle in the region in the late 4th century.[2]

Dyfed may have originally occupied the area that bordered the rivers Teifi, Gwili and Tywi, and included contemporary Pembrokeshire, the western part of contemporary Carmarthenshire, and with the town of Carmarthen. Dyfed eventually comprised at least seven cantrefi: Cemais, Deugleddyf, Emlyn, Cantref Gwarthaf, Pebidiog, Penfro and Rhos, with an approximate area of about 2,284 km2. During times of strength, the kingdom expanded to additionally cover the Ystrad Tywi (Valley of the [river] Tywi), including Cydweli and Gwyr, and even bordered Brycheiniog. Dyfed lost the Ystrad Tywi region to Ceredigion, another petty kingdom, in the late 7th century.

During the 'Age of the Saints', Dyfed may have had as many as seven bishops: one for each cantref.[3][4] However, by the High Middle Ages the bishopric of St. David's emerged as one of only three episcopal dioceses in Wales, with St. David's covering all of West Wales and part of Mid Wales.[5]

Dyfed was subject to extensive raids during the Viking Age between the 8th and 11th centuries, causing social and political instability, and with the Vikings establishing settlements in southern Dyfed.[2] By the latter part of the 9th century, the rulers of Dyfed had grown cautious of the influence of the sons of Rhodri the Great, and sought out an alliance and the patronage of Alfred the Great of England.[2] The precise nature of the relationship between King Alfred and the rulers in Wales remains unclear, whether a transitory alliance or a formal mediatization of the Welsh rulers to the king of England.[2] Historical attempts have been made to cast the relationship as one as a confederation of Christian unity on the isle of Britain, under the leadership of Alfred, against the heathen Danes.[2] However, there evolved a significant degree of coercion in the relationship, according to Davies. "The recognition by Welsh rulers that the king of England had claims upon them would be a central fact in the subsequent political history of Wales," according to Davies.[2]

In about 904, Dyfed's ruler, Llywarch ap Hyfaidd, died, leaving his daughter Elen as his heiress.[2] Elen was married to Hywel, ruler of neighbouring Seisyllwg and grandson of Rhodri the Great through his second son Cadell.[2] Through his marriage to Elen, Hywel incorporated Dyfed into an enlarged realm to be known as Deheubarth, meaning the "south part", and later went on to conquer Powys and Gwynedd.[2] However, both Powys and Gwynedd returned to their native dynasties on Hywel's death in 950. Hwyel's grandson Maredudd ab Owain recreated the kingdom of his grandfather, but his rule was beset with increasing Viking raids during the latter part of the 10th century.[2] It is during this period that Viking settlements increased, particularly in the area in the cantref of Penfro, with other Viking settlements and trading station at Haverfordwest, Fishguard and Caldey Island in Dyfed.[2] Viking raids upon the Welsh were "relentless", according to Davies, and Maredudd was compelled to raise taxes to pay the ransoms for Welsh hostages in 993, and in 999 a Viking raiding party attacked St. David's and killed Morganau, the bishop.[2]

Dyfed remained an integral province within Deheubarth until the Norman invasions of Wales between 1068-1100. In the Dyfed region, the cantrefi of Penfro, Rhos, Cemais and Pebidiog became occupied by Norman overlords. The Normans influenced the election of the Bishops of St. David's, in Pebidiog, from 1115 onwards. The Princes of Deheubarth, and later Llywelyn the Great as the Prince of a virtual Principality of Wales from 1216, fought to recover the region until the Edwardian Conquest of Wales in 1284 settled the matter. The 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan established the English county of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire out of the region formally known as Dyfed. In 1974 an administrative county council was established in south west Wales, called Dyfed but also covering areas such as Ceredigion; this county was broken up in 1996, though preserved for some ceremonial purposes.



Archaeological evidence and theories from this period (as well as prior and post-Kingdom) are dealt with in depth by Dyfed Archaeological Trust.[6]

Modern times[edit]

Main article: Dyfed

It was not until 1974 that the name of the ancient kingdom was resurrected as an administrative area of Wales: Dyfed. It was lost again with the reorganisation of county administration in 1996. It does, however, survive in the names of some regional organisations, such as Dyfed–Powys Police.

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Charles-Edwards, TM (2013). Wales and the Britons, 350–1064. The History of Wales (series vol. 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-19-821731-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Davies, John, A History of Wales, Penguin, 1994, foundations of pgs 17,19, 43, Migration of the Desi into Demetia, page 52 Demetia 17, 30, 34, ruling house of 52, 72, 85, 87, and the Vikings pages 85, relations with Alfred of Wessex, page 85, and the Vikings/Northmen page 98, and the Normans 106, 112, 114
  3. ^ Williams, A. H., An Introduction to the History of Wales: Volume I: Prehistoric Times to 1063, UoWP, 1941, p 120
  4. ^ Davies, John, The Celts, pg 126-155
  5. ^ Davies, John, A History of Wales, Penguin, 1994, Celtic Church, 72-79 Welsh Church pg 118
  6. ^ "Dyfed Archaeological Trust". Retrieved 8 February 2016. 

Additional reading[edit]

  • The Irish settlements in Wales, Myles Dillon, Celtica 12, 1977, p. 1-11.