Gwynedd in the High Middle Ages

Gwynedd in the High Middle Ages

Gwynedd in the High Middle Ages is a period in the History of Wales spanning the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries (AD 1000–1300). The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages. Gwynedd is located in the north of Wales.

Distinctive achievements in Gwynedd during this period include further development of medieval Welsh literature, known as the "Beirdd y Tywysogion" (Welsh for "Poets of the Princes"), the reformation of bardic schools, and the continued development of "Cyfraith Hywel" ("The Law of Hywel", or "Welsh law"); all three of which further contributed to the development of a Welsh national identity in the face of Anglo-Norman .

Gwynedd's traditional territory included Anglesey ("Ynys Môn") and all of north Wales between the River Dyfi in the south and River Dee ("Welsh Dyfrdwy") in the northeast.Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "foundations of" pgs 50-51, 54-55] The Irish Sea ("Môr Iwerddon") lies to the north and west, and lands formerly part of the Powys border the south-east. Gwynedd's strength was due in part to the region's mountainous geography which made it difficult for foreign invaders to campaign in the country and impose their will effectively.Lloyd, J.E., "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Recovers Gwynedd", "Norman invasion", "Battle of Anglesey Sound", pgs 21-22, 36, 39, 40, "later years" 76-77]

Gwynedd emerged from the Early Middle Ages having suffered from increasing Viking raids and various occupations by rival Welsh princes, causing political and social upheaval. With the historic Aberffraw family displaced, by the mid 11th century Gwynedd was united with the rest of Wales by the conquest of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, followed by the Norman invasions between 1067 and 1100.

After the restoration of the Aberffraw family in Gwynedd, a series of successful rulers such as Gruffydd I and Owain I in the late 11th and 12th century, and Llywellyn I and Llywelyn II in the 13th century, led to the emergence of the Principality of Wales, based on Gwynedd.

The emergence of the principality in the 13th century was proof that all the elements necessary for the growth of Welsh statehood were in place, and Wales was independent "de facto", wrote historian Dr. John DaviesDavies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "emerging defacto statehood" pg 148] . As part of the Principality of Wales, Gwynedd would retain Welsh laws and customs and home rule until the Edwardian Conquest of Wales of 1282.


11th Century

Norse raids; Aberffraw dispossessed

"See also "

The latter part of the 10th century, and the whole of the 11th century, was an exceptionally tumultuous period for Gwynedd's Welsh population.Davies, John, "A History of Wales", "Tumultuous century", "Meredudd ab Owain", "Viking raids of", "Anglesey name origin" pg 98, 99; ] Deheubarth's ruler Maredudd ab Owain deposed Gwynedd's ruler Cadwallon ab Ieuaf of the House of Aberffraw in 986, annexing Gwynedd into his enlarged domain, which came to include most of Wales.

The Hiberno-Norse from Dublin and the Isle of Man routinely raided the coasts of Wales, with the Welsh of Ynys Môn and the Llŷn Peninsula suffering the most in Gwynedd. In 987 a Norse raiding party landed on Môn and captured as many as two thousand of the island's residents, selling them as slaves across northern Europe. Historian and author Dr. John Davies argues that it is during this period that the Norse name for Môn, "Anglesey", came into existence and was later adopted into English. ["Anglesey" from "Ongle's ey", or "Ongle's Island". ] In 989 Meredudd ab Owain bribed the Norse not to raid that year. However the Norse resumed significant raids on Môn in 993, as well as other parts of Wales for the remainder of the century.

In 999 Meredudd ab Owain of Deheubarth died, and Cynan ap Hywel was able to wrestle back Gwynedd for the Aberffraw dynasty.Lloyd, J.E. "A history of Wales: from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest" "Cynan ap Hywel, Aeddan ap Blegywryd",] However, Cynan himself was deposed by Aeddan ap Blegywryd in 1005. Aeddan was not himself connected to the Aberffraw family, and was perhaps a minor commote lord. Aeddan ruled Gwynedd until 1018, when he and his four sons were defeated in battle by Llywelyn ap Seisyll, lord of Rhuddlan in lower Gwynedd.Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "Llywelyn ap Siesyll, virtually nothing known of..., married Anghared ferch Meredudd, Iago ab Idwal, Gruffydd kills Iago ab Idwal and takes Gwynedd and Powys" pages 99,100] [Little is known of the ancestry of Llywelyn ap Seisyll, with later genealogists suggesting he was descended from a junior son of Anarawd ap Rhodri, which would make them a member of the Aberffraw house. However, this may be a genealogical construct to legitimize his son Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's rule of Gwynedd later in the 11th century.] [There is general consensus from the strong association of Llywelyn ap Siesyll and his son Gruffydd ap Llywelyn with the commote of Rhuddlan, that they may have been of the ruling family of the Rhuddlan commote.]

Llywelyn ap Seisyll married Anghared, daughter of Meredudd ab Owain of Deheubarth, and ruled Gwynedd until his death in 1023, when Iago ab Idwal recovered the rulership of Gwynedd for the senior line of the Aberffraw house. [ [ Rulership] : defined by wiktionary as a position in which one rules or has sovereignty over others.] Iago reigned in Gwynedd until 1039 when he was murdered by his own men, perhaps under the direction of Gruffydd of Rhuddlan, Llywelyn ap Seisyll's eldest son.

At age four, the Aberffraw heir Cynan ab Iago escaped with his mother to exile in Dublin.

Gruffydd ap Llywelyn; 1039-1063

Gruffydd ap Llywelyn seized control of Gwynedd in 1039 with the death of Iago ab Idwal and, after taking possession of Powys, struck at Mercia slaying Edwin of Mercia, brother of Leofric, Earl of Mercia.Lloyd, J.E., "A History of Wales: From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", "Takes Gwynedd and Powys, attacks Mercia, pg 3, "Conquest of South Wales", Alliance with Ælfgar of Mercia" pg 4-9,] Gruffydd's decisive defeat of the Mercians in battle at Rhyd y Groes on the Severn (near Welshpool), neutralized Mercian incursions on Gwynedd and Powys' eastern borders as many of Mercia's leading magnates were also slain alongside Edwin of Mercia.

Conquest of South Wales

Gruffydd then turned his attention to the conquest of Deheubarth, ruled by his maternal cousin Hywel ab Edwin of the House of Dinefwr. The latter was "by no means easy to dislodge", wrote Lloyd. Gruffydd raided Deheubarth's province of Ceredigion in 1036, ravaging the lands of the monastic community of Llanbadarn Fawr (Great Llanbadarn). Hywel of Deheubarth was able to defend Deheubarth against Gruffydd's raids until he was defeated in 1041 at the Battle of Pencader, after which Gruffydd captured Hywel's wife and became master of Ceredigion.

After the Battle of Pencader, Hywel retained Dyfed (Pembrokeshire) and Ystrad Tywi (Carmarthenshire), the heart of Deheubarth. However he was expelled by Gruffydd in 1043 after an unrecorded event, and sought refuge in Ireland. In 1044 Hywel returned to recover Deheubarth with an army of Hiberno-Norse, but was slain and defeated in the Battle of Aber Tywi by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn.

Between 1044 and 1055 Gruffydd ap Llywelyn fought Gruffydd ap Rhydderch of Gwent for control of Deheubarth. Following the defeat of Hywel by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, Gruffydd ap Rhydderch of Gwent was able to "stir up" the minor commote lords of Deheubarth on his behalf, and was able to call up an army to resist Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, wrote Lloyd. By 1046 Gruffydd ap Llywelyn allied with Sweyn Godwinson, Earl of Hereford, and the two of them campaigned in South Wales against Gruffydd of Gwent. In 1047 the lords of Ystrad Tywi, the heart of Deheubarth and the seat of the Dinefwr family, led an army which totally defeated the 150-strong "teulu", or household guard, of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, who was narrowly able to escape. In retaliation against the resurgent nobles of Ystrad Tywi and Dyfed, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn devastated those provinces, but "in vain," wrote Lloyd, "as his authority in South Wales was ... shattered" by Gruffydd ap Rhydderch of Gwent who was now firmly in control of Ystrad Tywi and Dyfed.

In the summer of 1052 Gruffydd ap Llywelyn raided the Norman settlements in Herefordshire in retaliation for the displacement of his former ally Sweyn Godwinson. Sweyn Godwinson and his family were forced into exile and replaced by the Norman Ralph the Timid. Gruffydd defeated the mixed force of Norman and English sent against his raiding party near Leominster.

In 1055 Gruffydd ap Llywelyn defeated and killed his southern rival Gruffydd ap Rhydderch and took possession of Deheubarth, later driving out Meurig ap Hywel and Cadwagan ap Hywel of Gwent, and so becoming master over the whole of Wales.

Wars with England

Gruffydd allied with Ælfgar, Earl of East Anglia (and son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia), who had been dispossessed of his earldom on charges of treason, charges which may or may not have been substantiated.Lloyd, J.E., "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", "Alliance with Ælfgar of East Anglia, Raid of Hereford, Defeat of Bishop Leofgar, King of Wales, Conquests" pgs 8-11]

On 24th October, 1055, Gruffydd, Ælfgar, and Ælfgar's Hiberno-Norse mercenaries, attacked the Norman settlement at Hereford, defeating Ralph, Earl of Hereford, and razing Hereford Castle. In the looting which followed, Gruffydd and Ælfgar raided Hereford Cathedral of its rich vessels and furnishing, killing seven of the canons who sought to bar the cathedral doors against the raiders.

Edward the Confessor, King of England, commissioned Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, to respond to Gruffydd's raid on Hereford. However Harold was unable to penetrate into Wales but for a few miles beyond the Dyffryn Dŵr (Valley of Dore). Unable to campaign in Wales, a peace accord was reached between Gruffydd, Ælfgar, and Harold of Wessex, and Edward the Confessor at Billingsley, near Boulston in Archenfield, with Ælfgar regaining his earldom of East Anglia.

Despite the peace of Billingsley, cross border raids continued. In June 1056 Leofgar, Bishop of Hereford, led an army into Wales in revenge for the earlier raid committed by Gruffydd and Ælfgar. [Bishop Leofgar's raiding party also included Ælfoth, Sheriff of Hereford, and other priests of Hereford Cathedral.] Gruffydd defeated Bishop Leofgar on June 16 in a battle in Dyffryn Machawy, with the bishop among those slain. The following year the men of Hereford raised another army against the Welsh, but their army was dogged by skirmishes and defeat, and they were obliged to negotiate for a peace.

King of Wales

Gruffydd and his "ever-victorious Welshmen", argued Lloyd, continued to poise a threat to the west of England. In 1056 a treaty was reached between Gruffydd, master of Wales and of the Welsh marches, and the leading magnates of England, which included Earl Harold Godwinson, Earl Leofric of Mercia, and Aldred of Worcester (the soon-to-be Archbishop of York). Gruffydd would be recognized in all of his conquests if he would swear fealty to King Edward the Confessor, becoming an "under-king" in a similar manner to the King of Scots. Agreeing to the terms, Gruffydd traveled from Chepstow to Gloucester where he and King Edward the Confessor met, and the treaty terms performed.

From his family seat at Rhuddlan, Gruffydd ruled the whole of Wales as king.

Gruffydd's position was futher strengthened in 1057 when his friend and ally, Ælfgar, Earl of East Anglia, inherited Mercia on the death of his father, Earl Leofric. Their alliance was cemented with a dynastic marriage, as Gruffydd married Ældyth, Ælfgar's daughter, around this time. As allied neighbors, Gruffydd and Ælfgar were "fortified against all attack," argued Lloyd, as their territory included Gruffydd's Wales, and Ælfgar's Mercia and Anglia.

However, Earl Ælfgar died in 1062 and was succeeded by his young and inexperienced son Edwin. The loss of a strong Mercian ruler exposed Gruffydd's position. Following King Edward's Christmas court held at Gloucester, "at a time most unusual for campaigning in Wales," noted Lloyd, Harold Godwinson led a small force of huscarls from Chester into Wales, boldly striking Gruffydd's court at Rhuddlan. However, Gruffydd received warning beforehand, and escaped on a small ship into the River Clwyd just as Harold's forces took Rhuddlan.

Though having failed to take Gruffydd in the winter of 1062, Harold Godwinson began preparations for a spring campaign in Wales. Tostig Godwinson, Earl of Northumbria, brought a force into North Wales, aiming to conquer Ynys Môn, while Harold assembled a light infantry at Bristol, where they boarded ships sailing for North Wales. On landing first in South Wales, and seeing the English army, the local magnates of Deheubarth came to terms with Harold and gave hostages as a guarantee of peace. Harold continued on to Gwynedd, where Gruffydd was already besieged by Tostig's army and "driven from one hiding place to another", wrote Lloyd. Harold landed in Wales and joined in the hunt, and offered peace to the Welsh of Gwynedd in exchange for Gruffydd's head. Desperate to end the Anglo-Saxon siege, Gruffydd's own men murdered him on August 5, 1063.

Mathrafal Ascendency; 1063-1081

Harold Godwinson did not undertake the conquest or occupation of Wales; there was not the planning or resources, nor any national will to conquer Wales. Harold's war goal was the elimination of Gruffydd and any centralized authority in Wales.

Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's maternal half brothers Bleddyn ap Cynfyn and Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn of the Mathrafal house of Powys divided Gwynedd and Powys between them, swearing fealty to Edward the Confessor who endorsed their seizure, and with Deheubarth, Glamorgan, and Gwent returned to their historic dynasties. Lloyd, J.E., "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "rules in Gwynedd", pg 12, "allies with Mercia/Northumbria & aftermath", pg 14 "death of", pg 16] [K. L. Maund is of the opinion that Bleddyn ruled Gwynedd and Rhiwallon Powys,]

Alliance with Mercia and Northumbria

Bleddyn ap Cynfyn allied with the Anglo-Saxons of Northern England to resist the threat from William the Conqueror following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. In 1067 Bleddyn and Rhiwallon joined with the Mercian Eadric the Wild in an attack on the Normans at Hereford Castle, and ravaged the Norman lands in Herefordshire along the River Lugg, "causing serious damage" to the Normans, wrote Llwyd.

Between 1068 and 1070 Bleddyn allied with Edwin, Earl of Mercia, Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria and Morcar of Northumbria in an alliance against the Normans during the Harrowing of the North. However the defeat of the Saxons in 1070 exposed lower Gwynedd, the Perfeddwlad, to Norman incursions, with Robert "of Rhuddlan" taking Rhuddlan Castle and establishing himself firmly at the mouth of the Clwyd river by 1073.

Bleddyn was killed in 1075 by Rhys ab Owain, Prince of Deheubarth, an ally of the dispossessed Aberffraw heir of Gwynedd, Gruffydd ap Cynan, who was attempting to recover his inheritance. Rhys ab Owain was able to recover Deheubarth for the House of Dinefwr following the death of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn in 1063. However, Trahaearn ap Caradog of Arwystli, Bleddyn's cousin, took control of Gwynedd and by 1078 defeated Rhys ab Owain at the Battle of Goodwick.Lloyd, J.E., "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "rules in Gwynedd", pg 17, "allies with Mercia/Northumbria & aftermath", pg 14 "routed by Gruffydd", pg 19; "regains Gwynedd", 20; "Battle of Goodwick", pg 27; "death of", pg 22] Trahaearn allied with Caradog ap Gruffydd of Gwent against Deheubarth.

Gruffydd ap Cynan, who grew up in exile in Dublin and was himself half Hiberno-Norse on his mother's side, made his first attempt to recover Gwynedd in 1075 when he landed on Ynys Môn with a Norse force, and mercenary troops provided by Robert of Rhuddlan. Gruffydd ap Cynan first defeated and killed Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon, an ally of Trahaearn who held Llŷn, then defeated Trahaearn himself in the Battle of Gwaed Erw in Meirionnydd, gaining control of Gwynedd.

Gruffydd then led his forces eastwards into lower Gwynedd, the Perfeddwlad, to recover lands lost to the Normans. Despite the "assistance" previously given by Robert of Rhuddlan, Gruffydd attacked and destroyed Rhuddlan castle. However, tension between Gruffydd's Hiberno-Norse bodyguard and the local Welsh led to a rebellion in Llŷn, and Trahaearn took the opportunity to counterattack, defeating Gruffydd at the Battle of Bron yr Erw, above Clynnog Fawr, that same year.

Gruffydd fled to Ireland but in 1081 returned and made an alliance with Rhys ap Tewdwr, the new Prince of Deheubarth following the death of his cousin. Rhys had been attacked by Caradog ap Gruffydd of Gwent and Morgannwg, and had been forced to flee from his fortress of Dinefwr to St David's Cathedral in Penfro (Pembrokeshire).

Gruffydd this time embarked from Hiberno-Norse Waterford in Ireland with a Norse army and landed near Tyddewi (St David's) joining his ally Rhys ap Tewdwr of Deheubarth. He was joined here by his supporters from Gwynedd, and he and Rhys marched north to seek Trahaearn ap Caradog and Caradog ap Gruffydd of Powys, who had themselves made an alliance and been joined by Meilyr ap Rhiwallon of Powys.

The armies of the two confederacies met at the Battle of Mynydd Carn, with Gruffydd and Rhys victorious and Trahaearn, Caradog and Meilyr all killed.Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "Gruffydd ap Cynan"; "Battle of Mynydd Carn, Norman Invasion", pg 104-108, "reconstructing Gwynedd" pg 116,] Gruffydd was thus able to seize power in Gwynedd for the second time.

The Norman invasion of Gwynedd; 1081-1100

"See also Norman invasion of Wales"

However, Gruffydd's victory was short-lived as the Normans launched an invasion of Wales following the Saxon revolt in northern England. Shortly after the Battle of Mynydd Carn in 1081, Gruffydd was lured into a trap with the promise of an alliance but seized by Hugh the Fat, 1st Earl of Chester in an ambush at Rug, near Corwen.Warner, Philip, "Famous Welsh Battles, Gruffydd's seizure" pg 61, "Escape from Chester", "Kills Robert of Rhuddlan", pg 63, 1997, Barnes and Noble, INC.] Earl Hugh claimed the Perfeddwlad up to the Clwyd river (the commotes of Tegeingl and Rhufoniog; the modern counties of "Denbighshire", "Flintshire" and "Wrexham") as part of Chester, and viewed the restoration of the Aberffraw family in Gwynedd as a threat to his own expansion into Wales. The lands west of the Clwyd were intended for his cousin Robert of Rhuddlan, and their advance extended to the Llŷn peninsula by 1090.

Once in power, the Normans sought control over the spiritual traditions and ecclesiastical institutions in Wales. Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "Celtic Church", 72-79 "Welsh Church" pg 118] Lloyd, J.E., "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Subjection of the Welsh Church", pgs 64-74] In his effort further to consolidate control over Gwynedd, Earl Hugh of Chester had forced the election of Hervé the Breton upon the Bangor diocese in 1092, with Hervé's consecration as Bishop of Bangor performed by Thomas of Bayeux, the Archbishop of York.Barlow, Frank,"William Rufus", Yale University Press, 200, ISBN 0-30-008291-6 p. 320-324] It was hoped that placing a prelate loyal to the Normans over the traditionally independent Welsh Church in Gwynedd would help pacify the local inhabitants. However, the Welsh parishioners remained hostile to Hervé's appointment, and the bishop was forced to carry a sword with him and rely on a contingent of Norman knights for his protection.Bartlett, Robert C. (2000). "England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings: 1075-1225." Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-822741-8.] Owen "Hervery (d. 1131)" "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" [ Online edition] accessed March 6 2008] Additionally, Hervé routinely excommunicated parishioners who he perceived as challenging his spiritual and temporal authority.

Aberffraw resistance

By 1094 almost the whole of Wales was occupied by Norman forces. However, although they erected many castles, Norman control in most regions of Wales was tenuous at best. Motivated by local anger over the "gratuitously cruel" invaders and led by the historic ruling houses such as Gwynedd's Aberffraw family, represented by Gruffydd ap Cynan, Welsh control over the greater part of Wales was restored by 1100.

Gruffydd escaped Norman imprisonment in Chester, and slew Robert of Rhuddlan in a beach side battle at Deganwy on 3 July 1093. Gruffydd recovered Gwynedd by 1095, and by 1098 he allied with Cadwgan ap Bleddyn of the Mathrafal house of Powys, their traditional dynastic rivalries notwithstanding. Gruffydd and Cadwgan led the Welsh resistance to the Norman occupation in north and mid Wales. However, by 1098 Earl Hugh of Chester and Hugh of Montgomery, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury advanced their army to the Menai Strait, with Gruffydd and Cadwgan regrouping on defensible Ynys Môn, where they planned to make retaliatory strikes from their island fortress. Gruffydd hired a Norse fleet from a settlement in Ireland to patrol the Menai and prevent the Norman army from crossing; however the Normans were able to pay off the fleet to ferry "them" to Môn instead.Betrayed, Gruffydd and Cadwgan were forced to flee to Ireland in a skiff.

The Normans landed on Môn, and their furious 'victory celebrations' which followed were exceptionally violent, with rape and carnage committed by the Norman army left unchecked. The earl of Shrewsbury had an elderly priest mutilated, and made the church of Llandyfrydog a kennel for his dogs.

During the 'celebrations', a Norse fleet led by Magnus Barefoot, king of Norway, appeared off the coast at Ynys Seiriol ("Puffin Island"), and in the battle that followed, known as the Battle of Anglesey Sound, Magnus shot dead the earl of Shrewsbury with an arrow to the eye. The Norse left as suddenly and as mysteriously as they had arrived, however leaving the Norman army weakened and demoralized.

The Norman army retired to England, leaving a Welshman, Edwin ap Goronwy, lord of Tegeingl, in command of a token force to control Ynys Môn and upper Gwynedd, and ultimately abandoning any colonization plans there. [ Wilcott, Darrell "The Ancestry of Edwin of Tegeingl"] ] Edwin ap Goronwy transferred his allegiance to Chester following the defeat of his ally Trahaearn ap Caradog in 1081, a move which earned him the epithet "Bradwr", traitor, among the Welsh.

12th Century

Pura Wallia and Marchia Wallie

"See also Welsh Marches, Marcher Lord, Cambro-Norman"

In late 1098 Gruffydd and Cadwgan landed in Wales and recovered Ynys Môn without much difficulty, with Hervé the Breton fleeing Bangor for safety in England. Over the course of the next three years, Gruffydd was able to recover upper Gwynedd to the Conwy, defeating Hugh, Earl of Chester. In 1101, after Earl Hugh's death, Gruffydd and Cadwgan came to terms with England's new king, Henry I, who was consolidating his own authority and also eager to come to terms.

In the negotiations which followed Henry I recognized Gruffydd's ancestral claims of Môn, Llŷn, Dunoding (Eifionydd and Ardudwy) and Arllechwedd (Môn, Caernarfonshire and northern Merionethshire), the lands of upper Gwynedd to the Conwy which were already firmly in Gruffydd's control. Cadwgan regained Ceredigion, and his share of the family inheritance in Powys, from the new earl of Shrewsbury, Robert of Bellême.

With the settlement reached between Henry I and Gruffydd I, and other Welsh lords, the division of Wales between "Pura Wallia", the two-thirds of Wales under Welsh control; and "Marchia Wallie", the remaining one-third of Wales under Norman control, came into existence. Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "Pura Wallia, Purae Wallie (the Welshries), Marchia Wallie" pg 109, 127-130, 137, 141, 149, 166, 176] Author and historian John Davies notes that the border shifted on occasion, "in one direction and in the other", but remained more or less stable for almost the next two hundred years.

Consolidation 1101-1132

After generations of incessant warfare, Gruffydd began the reconstruction of Gwynedd, intent on bringing stability to his country. According to Davies, Gruffydd sought to give his people the peace to "plant their crops in the full confidence that they would be able to harvest them". Gruffydd consolidated princely authority in north Wales, and offered sanctuary to displaced Welsh from the Perfeddwlad, particularly from Rhos, at the time harassed by Richard, 2nd Earl of Chester.J.E. Lloyd, "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004,"Advances westward" pg 77, 78, 79]

Alarmed by Gruffydd's growing influence and authority in north Wales, and on the pretext that Gruffydd sheltered rebels from Rhos against Chester, Henry I launched a campaign against Gwynedd and Powys in 1114, which included a vanguard commanded by King Alexander I of Scotland. While Owain ap Cadwgan of Ceredigion sought refuge in Gwynedd's mountains, Maredudd ap Bleddyn of Powys made peace with the English king as the Norman army advanced. There were no battles or skirmishes fought in the face of the vast host brought into Wales, rather Owain and Gruffydd entered into truce negotiations. Owain ap Cadwgan regained royal favor relatively easily. However Gruffydd I was forced to render homage and fealty and pay a heavy fine, though he lost no land or prestige.

The invasion left a lasting impact on Gruffydd, who by 1114 was in his 60s and had failing eyesight. For the remainder of his life, while Gruffydd I continued to rule in Gwynedd, his sons Cadwallon, Owain, and Cadwaladr, would lead Gwynedd's army after 1120. Gruffydd's policy, which his sons would execute and later rulers of Gwynedd adopted, was to recover Gwynedd's primacy without blatantly antagonizing the English crown.

In 1120 a minor border war between Lywarch ab Owain, lord of a commote in the Dyffryn Clwyd cantref, and Hywel ab Ithel, lord of Rhufoniog and Rhos (all three part of either Conwy county or "Denbighshire") brought Powys and Chester into conflict in the Perfeddwlad. Powys brought a force of 400 warriors to the aid of its ally Rhufoniog, while Chester sent Norman knights from Rhuddlan to the aid of Dyffryn Clwyd. The bloody Battle of Maes Maen Cymro, fought a mile to the north-west of Ruthin, ended with Lywarch ab Owain slain and the defeat of Dyffryn Clwyd. However, it was a pyrrhic victory as the battle left Hywel ab Ithel mortally wounded. The last of his line, when Hywel ab Ithel died six weeks later he left Rhufoniog and Rhos bereft. Powys, however, was not strong enough to garrison Rhufoniog and Rhos, nor was Chester able to exert influence inland from its coastal holdings of Rhuddlan and Deganwy. With Rhufoniog and Rhos abandoned, Gruffydd I annexed the cantrefi.

On the death of Einion ap Cadwgan, lord of Meirionydd, a quarrel engulfed his kinsmen on who should succeed him. Meirionydd was then a vassel cantref of Powys, and the family there a cadet of the Mathrafal house of Powys. Gruffydd gave license to his sons Cadwallon and Owain to press the opportunity the dynastic strife in Meirionydd presented. The brothers raided Meirionydd with the Lord of Powys as important there as he was in the Perfeddwlad. However it would not be until 1136 that the cantref was firmly within Gwynedd's control.

Perhaps because of their support of Earl Hugh of Chester, Gwynedd's rival, in 1124 Cadwallon slew the three rulers of Dyffryn Clwyd, his maternal uncles, bringing the cantref firmly under Gwynedd's vassalage that year. And in 1125 Cadwallon slew the grandsons of Edwin ap Goronwy of Tegeingl, leaving Tegeingl bereft of lordship.

However, in 1132 while on campaign in the commote of Nanheudwy, near Llangollen, 'victorious' Cadwallon was defeated in battle and slain by an army from Powys. The defeat checked Gwynedd's expansion for a time, "much to the relief of the men of Powys", wrote historian Sir John Edward Lloyd (J.E Lloyd).

During England's Anarchy 1135-1157

The Great Revolt; 1136-1137

By 1136 an opportunity arose for the Welsh to recover lands lost to the Marcher lords after Stephen de Blois had displaced his cousin Empress Matilda from succeeding her father to the English throne the previous year, sparking the Anarchy in England.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Great Revolt", "beginings" "Gwenllian" pg 80, "taking Ceredigion, restores Welsh monks, Battle of Crug Mawr", 82-85] Davies, John, "A History of Wales, the Anarchy, Norman vulnerability in Wales, extends borders, Oswestry annexed, capture of Rhuddlan, Ystrad Alun, Ial, Tegeingl," 124 ] The usurpation and conflict it caused eroded central authority in England. The revolt began in south Wales, as Hywel ap Maredudd, lord of Brycheiniog ("Brecknockshire"), gathered his men and marched to the Gower, defeating the Norman and English colonists there. Inspired by Hywel of Brycheiniog's success, Gruffydd ap Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth, hastened to meet with Gruffydd I of Gwynedd, his father-in-law, to enlist his aid in the revolt. However, with Gruffydd ap Rhys' absence the Normans increased their incursions into Deheubarth.Warner, Philip "Famous Welsh Battles, Gwenllian" pg 69, 79] Gruffydd ap Rhys' wife Gwenllian, Princess of Deheubarth, gathered a host for the defense of her country.

Gwenllian was the youngest daughter of Gruffydd I of Gwynedd, and after she eloped with the Prince of Deheubarth she joined him resisting Norman occupation in south Wales. Husband and wife led retaliatory strikes on Norman positions in Deheubarth, taking goods from the Norman, English, and Flemish colonists and redistributing them to Deheubarth's displaced Welsh, "as a pair of Robin Hoods of Wales", wrote historian Philip Warner.

With her husband meeting with her father in Gwynedd, Gwenllian raised an army to counter Norman incursions ravaging Deheubarth. Gwenllian met the Norman army, led by Maurice of London, near Kidwelly Castle. Gwenllian's forces were routed, and she was captured and beheaded by the Normans. Though defeated, her 'patriotic revolt' inspired others in south Wales to rise. The Welsh of Gwent, led by Iowerth ab Owain (grandson of Caradog ap Gruffydd, Gwent's Welsh ruler displaced by the Norman invasions), ambushed and slew Richard Fitz Gilbert, the Norman lord who controlled Ceredigion.

When word reached Gwynedd of Gwenllain's death and the revolt in Gwent, Gruffydd I's sons Owain and Cadwaladr invaded Norman controlled Ceredigion, taking Llanfihangel, Aberystwyth, and Llanbadarn Fawr. Liberating Llanbadarn, one local chronicler hailed Owain and Cadwaladr both as "bold lions, virtuous, fearless and wise, who guard the churches and their indwellers, defenders of the poor [who] overcome their enemies, affording a safest retreat to all those who seek their protection". The brothers restored the Welsh monks of Llanbadarn, who had been displaced by monks from Gloucester brought there by the Normans who had controlled Ceredigion.

By late September 1136 a vast Welsh host gathered in Ceredigion, which included the combined forces of Gwynedd, Deheubarth, and Powys; and met the Norman army at the Battle of Crug Mawr at Cardigan Castle. The battle turned into a rout, and then into a resounding defeat of the Normans.

Realizing how vulnerable they were to a resurgent Wales during the Great Revolt, the Marcher lords became estranged from Stephen of England due in large part to his lackluster response to the Welsh resurgence. These lords began shifting their allegiance back to the cause of Empress Matilda and the return of a strong royal government.

Owain I of Gwynedd

When their father Gruffydd I died in 1137, the brothers Owain and Cadwaladr were on a second campaign in Ceredigion, and took the castles of Ystrad Meurig, Lampeter ("Stephen's Castle"), and Castell Hywel ("Humphries Castle")

Owain I ap Gruffydd succeeded his father to the greater portion of Gwynedd in accordance to Welsh law, the "Cyfraith Hywel", the Laws of Hywel; and became known as "Owain Gwynedd" to differentiate him from another Owain ap Gruffydd, the Mathrafal ruler of Powys, known as "Owain Cyfeiliog".Lloyd, J.E. 0"A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest, Gruffydd Gwynedd, Gruffydd Cyfeiliog", pg 93] Cadwaladr, Gruffydd's youngest son, inherited the commote of Aberffraw on Ynys Môn, and the recently conquered Meirionydd and northern Ceredigion, that is Ceredigion between the rivers Aeron and Dyfi.Lloyd, J.E. 0"A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest, Cadwaladr's inheritance", pgs 85, 93, 104]

By 1141 Cadwaladr and Madog ap Maredudd of Powys led a Welsh vanguard as an ally of the Earl of Chester in the Battle of Lincoln, and joined in the rout which made Stephen of England prisoner of Empress Matilda for a year.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest, Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd's inheritance", pg 94, 95] Owain, however, did not participate in the battle, keeping the majority of Gwynedd's army at home. Owain, of restrained and prudent temperament, may have judged that aiding Stephen's capture would lead to the restoration of Matilda and a strong royal government in England; a government which would support Marcher lords, support absent since Stephen's usurpation.

Owain and Cadwaladr came to blows in 1143 when Cadwaladr was implicated in the murder of Prince Anarawd ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth, Owain's ally and future son-in-law, on the eve of Anarawd's wedding to Owain's daughter.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", "Cadwaladr's betrayal," pg 95] Warner, Philip "Famous Welsh Battles", "Cadwaladr and Anarawd" pg 80] Owain followed a diplomatic policy of binding other Welsh rulers to Gwynedd through dynastic marriages, and Cadwaladr's border dispute and murder of Anarawd threatened Owain's efforts and credibility.As ruler of Gwynedd, Owain stripped Cadwaladr of his lands, with Owain's son Hywel dispatched to Ceredigion, where he burned Cadwaladr's castle at Aberystwyth. Cadwaladr fled to Ireland and hired a Norse fleet from Dublin, bringing the fleet to Abermenai to compel Owain to reinstate him. Taking advantage of the brotherly strife, and perhaps with the tacit understanding of Cadwaladr, the marcher lords mounted incursions into Wales. Realizing the wider ramifications of the war before him, Owain and Cadwaladr came to terms and reconciled, with Cadwaladr restored to his lands. Peace between the brothers held until 1147, when an unrecorded event occurred which led Owain's sons Hywel and Cynan to drive Cadwaladr out of Meirionydd and Ceredigion, with Cadwaladr retreating to Môn. Again an accord was reached, with Cadwaladr retaining Aberffraw until a more serious breach occurred in 1153, when he was forced into exile in England, where his wife was the sister of Gilbert de Clare, 2nd Earl of Hertford and the niece of Ranulph de Gernon, 2nd Earl of Chester.

In 1146 news reached Owain that his favoured eldest son and heir, Rhun, died. Owain was overcome with grief, falling into a deep melancholy from which none could console him, until news reached him that Mold castle in Tegeingl (Flintshire) had fallen to Gwynedd, " [reminding Owain] that he had still a country for which to live," wrote historian Sir John Edward Lloyd. Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Rhun's death", pg 96]

Between 1148 and 1151, Owain I of Gwynedd fought against Madog ap Maredudd of Powys, Owain's son-in-law, and against the Earl of Chester for control of Iâl, with Owain having secured Rhuddlan Castle and all of Tegeingl from Chester.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Owain takes Iâl, Ruddlan, Tegeingl", pg 96, 97, 98] "By 1154 Owain had brought his men within sight of the red towers of the great city on the Dee", wrote Lloyd."Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Owain takes Iâl, Ruddlan, Tegeingl", pg 96, 97, 98]

Henry II's 1157 Campaign

Having spent three years consolidating his authority in the vast Angevin Empire, Henry II of England resolved on a strategy against Owain I of Gwynedd by 1157. By now, Owain's enemies had joined Henry II's camp, enemies such as his wayward brother Cadwaladr and in particular Madog of Powys.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Owain and Henry II, pg 99. 1070] Henry II raised his feudal host and marched into Wales from Chester. Owain positioned himself and his army at Dinas Basing (Basingwerk), barring the road to Rhuddlan, setting up a trap in which Henry II would send his army along the direct road along the coast, while he crossed through the woods to outflank Owain. The Prince of Gwynedd anticipated this, and dispatched his sons Dafydd and Cynan into the woods with an army, catching Henry II unaware.

In the melée which followed Henry II would have been slain, had not Roger, Earl of Hertford rescued him. Henry II retreated and made his way back to his main army, by now slowly advancing towards Rhuddlan. Not wishing to engage the Norman army directly, Owain repositioned himself first at St. Asaph, then further west, clearing the road for Henry II to enter into Rhuddlan "ingloriously". Once in Rhuddlan, Henry II received word that his naval expedition had failed. Instead of meeting Henry II at Deganwy or Rhuddlan as the king had commanded, the English fleed had gone to plunder Môn.

The naval expedition was led by Henry II's maternal uncle (Empress Matilda's half-brother), Henry FitzRoy; and when they landed on Môn, Henry FitzRoy had the churches of Llanbedr Goch and Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf torched. During the night the men of Môn gathered together, and the next morning fought and defeated the Norman army, with Henry FitzRoy falling under a shower of lances. The defeat of his navy and his own military difficulties had convinced Henry II that he had "gone as far as was practical that year" in his effort to subject Owain, and the king offered terms to the prince.

Owain I of Gwynedd, "ever prudent and sagacious", wrote Lloyd, recognized that he needed time to consolidate power further, and agreed to the terms. Owain was to render homage and fealty to the King, and resign Tegeingl and Rhuddlan to Chester, and restore Cadwaladr to his possessions in Gwynedd.

The death of Madog ap Meredudd of Powys in 1160 opened an opportunity for Owain I of Gwynedd to press Gwynedd's influence further at the expense of Powys.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Owain 1160-1170", pg 107, 108, 109,] However, Owain continued to further Gwynedd's expansion without rousing the English crown, maintaining his 'prudent policy' of "Quieta non movere" ("don't move settled things"), as Lloyd wrote. It was a policy of outward conciliation, while masking his own consolidation of authority. To further demonstrate his goodwill, in 1160 Owain handed over to the English crown the fugitive Einion Clud. By 1162 Owain was in possession of the Powys cantref of Cyfeiliog, and its castle of Tafolwern; and ravaged another Powys cantref of Arwystli, slaying its lord, Hywel ab Ieuaf. Owain's strategy was in sharp contrast to Rhys ap Gruffydd, prince of Deheubarth, who in 1162 rose in open revolt against the Normans in south Wales, drawing Henry II back to England from the continent.

The Great Revolt of 1166

In 1163 Henry II quarrelled with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, causing growing divisions between the king's supporters and the archbishop's supporters. With discontent mounting in England, Owain I of Gwynedd joined with Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth in a second grand Welsh revolt against Henry II. Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "Henry and Becket", "Owain's leadership in 1166", "Owain recaptures Tegeingl", pg125 "Gwynedd's embassy to France" pg 125,126] England's king, who only the previous year had pardoned Rhys ap Gruffydd for his 1162 revolt, assembled a vast host against the allied Welsh, with troops drawn from all over the Angevin empire assembling in Shrewsbury, and with the Norse of Dublin paid to harass the Welsh coast. While his army gathered on the Welsh frontier, Henry II left for the continent to negotiate a truce with France and Flanders in order not to disturb his peace while campaigning in Wales.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Henry's invasion plans" pg 111, "Welsh drawn together", pg 112, Angevin advance into Wales 112, 113, "Henry II's campaign failure", pg 113, 114]

However, when Henry II returned to England he found that the war had already begun, with Owain's son Dafydd raiding Angevin positions in Tegeingl, exposing the castles of Rhuddlan and Basingwerk to "serious dangers", wrote Lloyd. Henry II rushed to north Wales for a few days to shore up defences there, before returning to his main army now gathering in Croesoswallt (Oswestry).

The vast host gathered before the allied Welsh principalities represented the largest army yet assembled for their conquest, a circumstance which further drew the Welsh allies into a closer confederacy, wrote Lloyd. With Owain I of Gwynedd the overall battle commander, and with his brother Cadwaladr as his second, Owain assembled the Welsh host at Corwen in the vale of Edeyrion where he could best resist Henry II's advance.

The Angevin army advanced from Oswestry into Wales crossing the mountains towards Mur Castell, and found itself in the thick forest of the Ceiriog Valley where it was forced into a narrow thin line. Owain I had positioned a band of skirmishers in the thick woods overlooking the pass, which harassed the exposed army from a secured position. Henry II ordered the clearing of the woods on either side to widen the passage through the valley, and to lessen the exposure of his army. The road his army travelled later became known as the "Ffordd y Saeson", the "Englishmen's Road"; it led through heath and bog towards the Dee. In a dry summer the moors may have been passable, however "on this occasion the skies put on their most wintry aspect; and the rain fell in torrents [...] flooding the mountain meadows" until the great Angevin encampment became a "morass," wrote Lloyd. In the face of "hurricane" force wind and rain, diminishing provisions and an exposed supply line stretching through hostile country subject to enemy raids, and with a demoralized army, Henry II was forced into a complete retreat without even a semblance of a victory.

In frustration, Henry II had twenty-two Welsh hostages mutilated; the sons of Owain' supporters and allies, including two of Owain's own sons. In addition to his failed campaign in Wales, Henry's mercenary Norse navy, which he had hired to harass the Welsh coast, turned out to be too small to be useful, and was disbanded without engagement.

Henry II's Welsh campaign was a complete failure, with the king abandoning all plans for the conquest of Wales, returning to his court in Anjou and not returning to England for another four years. Lloyd wrote;

It is true that [Henry II] did not cross swords with [Owain I] , but the elements had done their work for [the Welsh] ; the stars in their courses had fought against the pride of England and humbled it to the very dust. To conquer a land which was defended, not merely by the arms of its valiant and audacious sons, but also by tangled woods and impassable bogs, by piercing winds and pitiless storms of rain, seemed a hopeless task, and Henry resolved to no longer attempt it.

Owain expanded his international diplomatic offensive against Henry II by sending an embassy to Louis VII of France in 1168, led by Arthur of Bardsey, Bishop of Bangor (1166-1177), who was charged with negotiating a joint alliance against Henry II. Distracted by his widening quarrel with Thomas Becket, Owain's army recovered Tegeingl for Gwynedd by 1169. The following year, Prince Owain ap Gruffydd died, and was interned in Bangor Cathedrial, near his father Gruffydd ap Cynan.

Interregnum; 1170-1200

As the eldest surviving son and "elding", Hywel succeeded his father in 1170 as Prince of Gwynedd in accordance with Welsh law and custom. Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest" "Hywel's succession and overthrow by Cristen and Dafydd", pg 134 "Dafydd takes Gwynedd by 1074", pg 135, "Gwynedd between 1175-1188", pg 145] Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Davies argues that following the death of Hywel ab Owain, Iorwerth, as the eldest son, was and legitimate heir of Owain Gwynedd (page 126). After Iorwerth's death, his eldest son Llywelyn ab Iorwerth was the legitmate heir to the Crown and Throne of Gwynedd. With the rule of Gwynedd returning to the senior legitimate line of Aberffraw when Llywelyn defeated Dafydd ab Owain in 1194 (page 135)] However, the new prince was immediately confronted by a coup instigated by his step-mother Cristin, Dowager Princess of Gwynedd. [Cristin was the daughter of Goronwy ab Owain, and was Owain ap Gruffydd's first cousin. The Archbisop of Canterbury excommunicated Owain ap Gruffydd for not putting her away, as well as for disputing the appointed bishop of Bangor.] The dowager princess plotted to have her eldest son Dafydd usurp the Throne of Gwynedd from Hywel, and with Gwynedd divided between Dafydd and her other sons Rhodri and Cynan. The speed with which Cristen and her sons acted suggest that the conspiracy may have had roots before Owain's death. Additionally, the complete surprise of the elder sons of Owain suggests that the scheme had been a well kept secret.

Within months of his succession Hywel was forced to flee to Ireland, returning later that year with a Hiberno-Norse army and landing on Môn, where he may have had Maelgwn's support.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest"] [Davies, R.R. "The Age of Conquest; Wales 1066-1415"] Dafydd himself landed his army on the island and caught Hywel off guard at Pentraeth, defeating his army and killing Hywel.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest"] [Davies, R.R. "The Age of Conquest; Wales 1066-1415"] Following Hywel's death and the defeat of the legitimist army, the surviving sons of Owain came to terms with Dafydd. Iorwerth was apportioned the commotes of Arfon and Arllechwedd, with his seat at Dolwyddelan, with Maelgwn retaining Ynys Môn, and with Cynan receiving Meirionydd. [Maelgwn ab Owain secured himself on Ynys Môn following his father's death, and was strong enough to retain the island following Hywel's defeat by Dafydd. Maelgwen may have also been instrumental in supporting his full brother Iorwerth in keeping Arfon and Aellechwedd, for once Maelgwn was captured Iorwerth escaped into exile in Powys, at his wife's kinsmen's court.] [Lloyd suggests that despite some traditions, Iorwerth was in control of Arfon and Nant Conwy at least in 1170, given that he was buried at Penmachno. He may later have been expelled after the partition, as had Cynan, only to be buried at Penmachno.] ["Arllechwedd" commote is the west bank of the Conwy river in the modern Conwy local authority area] [It is during this dynastic strife that Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd and his brother Rhirid ab Owain Gwynedd may have sailed west distancing themselves from the civil war, and according to tradition, discovered America] However by 1174 Iorwerth and Cynan were both dead and Maelgwn and Rhodri were imprisoned by Dafydd, who was now master over the whole of Gwynedd. [Llywelyn ab Iorwerth was too young to press for his claim, though under Welsh law would have been prince of Gwynedd on the death of his father Iorwerth ab Owain Gwynedd]

During the upheavals of 1173-4 Dafydd had remained loyal to Henry II, and as if in reward for his loyalty, but also in recognition of Dafydd's appearent supremacy in north Wales, Dafydd married the king's half-sister Emma of Anjou. [ The Embassy Dafydd sent to Henry II was headed by Simon the Monk, who negociated with the English crown for the marriage of Dafydd with Emma.] Henry II did not approve of the match, but needed a Welsh ally to distract from the resurgant Welsh of South Wales under The Lord Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth and rebellious marcher lords. However, Dafydd's ascendency was short-lived as Rhodri had escaped his imprisionment and recovered Arfon, Llŷn, Ynys Môn, and Arllechwedd, with Meirionydd, Ardydwy, and Eifionydd returned to Gruffydd and Meredudd ap Cynan. [Rhys ap Gruffydd, Prince of Deheubarth had been recognized as lord of Meirionydd by Henry II in 1177, a claim he later abandoned after unsuccessful campaigning in 1177. Rhys ap Gruffydd then undertook an allience with Rhodri ab Owain, who controlled Arfon, Llŷn, Ynys Môn, and Arllechwedd] Though Henry II continued to recognize his brother-in-law Dafydd as Prince of Gwynedd he did not send aid to him, and Dafydd effectively had to content himself with the rule of lower Gwynedd, the Perfeddwlad, establishing court at Rhuddlan Castle. The following year Dafydd joined with other Welsh rulers in swearing fealty to Henry II at Oxford.

By 1187, on reaching his majority in Welsh law at age 14, Llywelyn ab Iorwerth began asserting his senior claim as Prince of Gwynedd over those of his paternal uncles Dafydd and Rhodri, harassing their positions with the aid of Gruffydd Maelor, lord of Powys Fadog and his maternal uncle; as attested to by Gerald of Wales who was traveling through north Wales in 1188 recruiting soliders for the Third Crusade. [According to Lloyd and Dr. Davies, Llywelyn ab Iorwerth represented the dynastically surperior claim to the title of Prince of Gwynedd. Though Welsh law is silent on how a Heir apparent, the "edling", would be determined; the position of a single Heir Appearent was recognized in Welsh law. At least since the sucession of Gruffydd ap Cynan, and prehaps as early as the 9th century, the tradition of primogeniture was the regular method of succession to the princely title and throne, though junior sons were also provided for.] Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest" Gwynedd between 1187-1200 pgs 160, 161,] Llywelyn ab Iorwerth was raised in exile with his mother's Mathrafal family in Powys, primarily in the court of Powys Fadog in Maelor. [The age of Majority in traditional Welsh law was at age 14, according to Lloyd (pg 161)] [Llywelyn ab Iorwerth may have been named after his deceased maternal uncle Llywelyn ap Madog, as the name 'Llywelyn' does not appear in any of the genelogies of the Aberffraw family before him]

While Dafydd maintained his allience with the English Crown, Rhodri allied with The Lord Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth, who was now the pre-eminate prince in Wales. [Rhodri ab Owain married Gwenllian ferch Rhys, daughter of Rhys ap Gruffydd, Prince of Deheubarth in a diplomatic marriage] [With the dynastic civil war in Gwynedd from 1170, and with the divison of Powys into Powys Fadog and Powys Gwenwynwyn in 1160, the Lord Rhys was the most powerful of the independent Welsh princes.] Rhodri was beset by his nephews Gruffydd and Meredudd ap Cynan, the two brothers ejecting Rhodri from Môn in 1190. That same year, Rhodri allied with Ragnald IV of the Isle of Man, solidifying their allience with a diplomatic marriage. By summer of 1193 Rhodri and a contigent of allied Manx forces recovered Môn, a periode known as the 'Gaelic Summer' "so called, no doubt, because of the influx of Gaelic-speaking allies from Man into Gwynedd", argued J.E. Lloyd.

13th Century

Llywelyn I of Wales 1195-1240

By 1200 Owain Gwynedd's grandson Llywelyn I Fawr (the Great) ruled over all of Gwynedd, with England endorsing all of Llywellyn I's holdings that year Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994 "Llywelyn I relations with English crown" pg 136] ] . England's endorsement was part of a larger strategy of reducing the influence of Powys Wenwynwyn, as King John had given William de Breos license in 1200 to "seize as much as he could" from the native Welsh Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994 "English policy in Wales" pg 136, "Hangs Welsh hostages" pg 137] . However, de Breos was in disgrace by 1208, and Llywelyn seized both Powys Wenwynwyn and northern Ceredigion.

In his expansion, the Prince was careful not to antagonise King John, his father-in-law . Llywelyn had married Joan, King John's illegitimate daughter, in 1204.Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "Aberffraw primacy" pg 116, "patron of bards" 117, "Aberfraw relations with English crown" pg 128, 135] In 1209 Prince Llywelyn joined King John on his campaign in Scotland.

However, by 1211 King John recognized the growing influence of Prince Llywelyn as a threat to English authority in Wales. King John invaded Gwynedd and reached the banks of the Menai, and Llywelyn was forced to cede the Perfeddwlad, and recognize John as his heir if Llywelyn I's marriage with Joan did not produce any legitimate successors. Succession was a complicated matter given that Welsh law recognized children born out of wedlock as equal to those in born in wedlock Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "Welsh law succession" pg 136] . Llywelyn had by then had several children with a mistress.

Many of Llywelyn I's Welsh allies had abandoned him during England's invasion of Gwynedd, preferring an overlord far away rather than one nearby. Davies, John, "A History of Wales", By John Davies, Penguin, 1994 "Welsh lords" pg 135-136] These Welsh lords expected an unobtrusive English crown, however King John had castles built in Ystwyth, and John's direct interference in Powys and the Perfeddwlad caused many of these Welsh lords to rethink their position.

Llywelyn capitalized on Welsh resentment against King John, and led a church sanctioned revolt against him. As King John was an enemy of the church, Innocent III gave his blessing to Llywelyn's revolt. Early in 1212 Llywelyn had regained the Perfeddwlad and burned the castle at Ystwyth.

Llywelyn's revolt caused John to postpone his invasion of France, and Philip Augustus, the King of France, was so moved as to contact Prince Llywelyn I and propose that they ally against the English kingDavies, John, "A History of Wales" Penguin, 1994 "Relations with France" pg 136] King John ordered the execution by hanging of his Welsh hostages, the sons of many of Llywelyn's supporters

Prince of Wales

"Main article Principality of Wales"

Llywelyn I was the first prince to receive the fealty of other Welsh lords with the 1216 Council of Aberdyfi, thus becoming the "de facto" Prince of Wales and giving substance to the long-standing Aberffraw claims of primacy over the whole of Wales.

Culture and society

ettlements, archetecture, and economy

When Gruffydd I ap Cynan died in 1137 he left a more stable realm than had hitherto existed in Gwynedd for more then 100 years.Lloyd, J.E. "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Gruffyd's legacy" pg 79, 80] No foreign army was able to cross the Conwy into upper Gwynedd. The stability in upper Gwynedd provided by Gruffydd I and his son Owain I, between 1101 and 1170, allowed Gwynedd's Welsh to plan for the future without fear that home and harvest would "go to the flames" from invaders.

Settlements in Gwynedd became more permanent, with buildings of stone replacing timber structures. Stone churches in particular were built across Gwynedd, with so many limewashed that "Gwynedd was bespangled with them as is the firmament with stars". Gruffydd had built stone churches at his princely manors, and Lloyd suggests Gruffydd's example led to the rebuilding of churches with stone in Penmon, Aberdaron, and Towyn in the Norman fashion.

By the 13th century Gwynedd was part of the Principality of Wales (that is "Pura Wallia"), which came to encompass three quarters of the surface area of modern Wales; "from Anglesea to Machen, from the outskirts of Chester to the outskirts of Cydweli," wrote Davies.Davies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "Aberffraw stablilty" and "effects on population", "town-dwellers", "decline in slavery", page 151] Lloyd, J.E., "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", "Aberffraw stability" pg 219, 220] By 1271, Prince Llywelyn II could claim a growing population of about 200,000 people, or a little less than three fourths of the total Welsh population. [ The emergence of the principality of Wales] ]

Population increase was common throughout Europe in the 13th century, but in Wales it was more pronounced. By Llywelyn II's reign as much as 10 per cent of the population were town-dwellers. Additionally, "unfree slaves... had long disappeared" from within "Pura Wallia" due in large part form the social upheavals of the 11th cenury," argued Davies. The increase in free men allowed the prince to call on and field a far more substantial and professional army.

The increase in the Welsh population in Gwynedd, and in the Principality of Wales as a whole, allowed a greater diversification of the economy. The Meirionnydd tax rolls evidence the thirty-seven various professions present in Meirionnydd directly before the Edwardian Conquest of 1282.

Of these professions, there were eight gold-smiths, four professional bards (poets), twenty-six shoemakers, a doctor in Cynwyd and an hotel keeper in Maentwrog, and twenty-eight priests; two of whom were university graduates. Also present were a significant number of fishermen, administrators and clerics, professional men and craftsmen. With the average temperature of Wales a degree or two higher then it is today, more Welsh lands were arable, "a crucial bonus for a country like Wales," wrote historian Dr John DaviesDavies, John, "A History of Wales", Penguin, 1994, "agriculture" pg 150] .

Of significant importance for the Welsh of Gwynedd and "Pura Wallia" were more developed trade routes, which allowed the introduction of the windmill, the fulling-mill, and the horse collar (the horse collar doubled the efficiency of horse-power).

Gwynedd traded cattle, skins, cheese, timber, horses, wax, dogs, hawks, and fleeces, and also flannel (with the growth of fulling mills). Flannel was second only to cattle among the principality’s exports. In exchange, the principality imported salt, wine, wheat, and other luxuries from London and Paris. But most importantly for the defense of the principality, iron and specialized weaponry were also imported.

Welsh dependence on foreign imports was a tool that England used to wear down Gwynedd and the Principality of Wales during times of conflict between the two countries.

Poetry, literature, and music

"Main artical Medieval Welsh literature"

A more stable social and political environment provided by the Aberffraw administration allowed for the natural development of Welsh culture, particularly in literature.Lloyd, J.E., "A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest", Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. 2004, "Recovers Gwynedd", "Norman invasion", "Battle of Anglesey Sound", pgs 21-22, 36, 39, 40, "later years" 76-77] Tradition originating from "The History of Gruffydd ap Cynan" attributes Gruffydd I as reforming the orders of bards and musicians. Welsh literature of the High Middle Ages demonstrated "vigor and a sense of commitment" as new ideas reached Wales, even in "the wake of the invaders", according to historian John Davies. Additionally, contacts with continental Europe "sharpened Welsh pride", argues Davies.

In Welsh this period is known as "Beirdd y Tywysogion" (Poets of the Princes) or "Y Gogynfeirdd" (The Less Early Poets). The main source for the poetry of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is the Hendregadredd manuscript, an anthology of court poetry brought together at the Cistercian Strata Florida Abbey from about 1282 until 1350.

The bards of this period were schooled professionals and members of a guild of poets, a kind of "Bardic Guild" whose rights and responsibilities were enshrined in native Welsh law. Members of this bardic guild worked within a developed literary culture and with prescribed literary and oral syntax. Bardic families were common -- the poet Meilyr Brydydd had a poet son and at least two poet grandsons -- but it was becoming more and more usual for the craft of poetry to be taught formally, in bardic schools which might only be run by the "pencerdd" (chief musician).

According to Welsh law, the prince retained the skills of several bards at court, the chief of which were the "pencerdd" and the "bardd teulu". The "pencerdd", the head bard, was the top of his profession and a special chair was set aside for him in the princely court in an honoured position next to the heir, the "edling". When the pencerdd performed he was expected to sing twice: once in honour of God, and once in honour of the prince. The "bardd teulu" was part of the prince's "teulu", or household guard, and was responsible for singing for the military retinue before going into battle, and also for successful military campaigns. Additionally, the "bardd teulu" held a further responsibility composing for and singing to the princess, often privately at her leisure. A private performance by a bard was a sign of high status and prestige. The "cerddorion" were poet-musicians, considered the lowest tier in bardic schools, and perhaps the entry level position.

The poetry praises the military prowess of the prince in a language that is deliberately antiquarian and obscure, echoing the earlier praise poetry tradition of Taliesin. There are also some religious poems and poetry in praise of women.

With the death of the last native prince of Wales in 1282 the tradition gradually disappears. In fact, Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch's (fl. 1277-83) elegy on the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, is one of the most notable poems of the era. Other prominent poets of this period include:
*Meilyr Brydydd, fl. ca. 1100-1137; the earliest of the Gogynfeirdd
*Bleddyn Fardd, fl. ca. 1258-1284;
*Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr; fl. ca. 1155-1200;
*Dafydd Benfras, fl. ca. 1220-58; and
*Llywarch ap Llywelyn (also known as "Prydydd y Moch"), fl. 1174/5-1220.

A rather different poet of this period was Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd (d. 1170), known as the Poet-Prince, who as the son and heir of Prince Owain Gwynedd, was not a professional poet.

The Welsh Church in Gwynedd

"see also Church in Wales"

Celtic Christian traditions

Prior to the Norman invasions between 1067-1101, Christians of Gwynedd shared many of the spiritual traditions and ecclesiastical institutions found throughout Wales and other Celtic nations, customs inherited from 'Celtic Christianity' of the Early Middle Ages.Davies, John, The Celts, pg 126-155] The Celtic Church was an integral part of the universal Christian Church, venerating the Papacy as the successor Church to the ministry of St. Peter.

However, Welsh ecclesiastics questioned to what degree the Papacy could impose Canon law upon them, especially with regard to the marriage of priests, the role of women both in the Church and in society, and the status of "illegitimate" children in society, with canon law conflicting with native Welsh law and customs. Additionally, Welsh bishops (Welsh sing. "esgob", pl. "esgobion") rejected the premise that the Archbishop of Canterbury held authority over them. Professor John Davies argued that there were dangers inherent for Welsh Bishops submitting to an ecclesiastical authority "that would, by necessity, be heavily under the influence ... of an English king".

By the 11th century, the Welsh Church consisted of three dioceses which were tied closely together by a strong sense of community and a shared sentiment in religious practice, but were independent of each other and whose boundaries were somewhat indeterminate. Central to this organizational approach was the rural nature of Welsh settlements which favored localized and autonomous monastic communities called "clasau" (sing. "clas").

"Clasau" were ruled by an abbot (Welsh: "abad") and contained a number of small churches and dormitory huts. Welsh monasticism highly valued asceticism, and the most celebrated Welsh ascestic was the 6th century St. David, who developed a monastic rule which emphasized hard work, encouraged vegetarianism, and promoted temperance. Women, who held a higher status in Welsh law and custom than elsewhere in Europe, could hold quasi-sacerdotal (semi-priestly) roles in the Welsh Church, noted Davies. As celibacy was not an important aspect of the Welsh Church, many priests married and supported families of their own, with some monastaries serving as single or extended family endeavors, and some ecclesiastical offices becoming hereditary. For many Welsh, monasticism was a familial way of life spent in devotion to Christ. As marriage was viewed as a secular social contract and governed by the well established Welsh law, divorce was recognized by the Welsh Church.

The Diocese of Bangor served as the episcopal see for all of upper and lower Gwynedd.

Latin Christianity

Post-Norman Invasion

Gruffydd I of Gwynedd promoted the primacy of the episcopal see of Bangor in Gwynedd, and funded the building of Bangor Cathedral during the episcopate of David the Scot, Bishop of Bangor, between 1120-1139. Gruffydd's remains were interred in a tomb in the presbytery of Bangor Cathedral.

Government and law

The traditional sphere of Aberffraw influence in north Wales included Ynys Môn as their early seat of authority, and Gwynedd-Uwch-Conwy ("Gwynedd above the Conwy", or "upper Gwynedd"), and the Perfeddwlad ("the Middle Country") also known as Gwynedd-Is-Conwy ("Gwynedd below the Conwy", or "lower Gwynedd"). Additional lands were acquired through vassalage or conquest, and by regaining lands lost to Marcher lords, particularly those of Ceredigion, Powys Fadog, and Powys Wenwynwyn. However these areas were always considered additions to Gwynedd, never as part of Gwynedd.

The extent of the kingdom varied with the strength of the current ruler. Gwynedd was traditionally divided into "Gwynedd Uwch Conwy" and "Gwynedd Is Conwy" (with the River Conwy forming the dividing line between the two); the latter included Môn (Anglesey). The kingdom was administered under Welsh custom through thirteen "Cantrefi" each containing, in theory, one hundred settlements or "Trefi". Most cantrefs were also divided into cymydau (English commotes).

Gwynedd at war

According to Sir John Edward Lloyd, the challenges of campaigning in Gwynedd and Wales as a whole were exposed during the 20 year Norman invasions between 1081-1101. If a defender could bar any road, control any river-crossing or mountain pass, and control the coastline around Wales, then the risks of extended campaigning in Wales were too great. With control of the Menai Strait, an army could regroup on Môn, without control of the Menai an army could be stranded there, and any occupying force on Môn could deny the vast harvest of the island from the Welsh. And the Welsh throughout Wales were able to lead retaliatory strikes from mountainous strongholds or remote forested glens.

The Welsh were revered for the skills of their bowmen. Additionally, the Welsh learned from their Norman rivals. During the generations of warfare and close contact with the Normans, Gruffydd I and other Welsh leaders learned the arts of knighthood and adapted them for Wales. By Gruffydd's death in 1137 Gwynedd could field hundreds of heavy well-armed cavalry as well as their traditional bowmen and infantry.

In the end Wales was defeated militarily by the improved ability of the English navy to blockade or seize areas essential for agricultural production such as Anglesey. Lack of food would force the disbandment of any large Welsh force besieged within the mountains. Following the occupation Welsh soldiers were conscripted to serve in the English Army. During the revolt of Owain Glyndwr the Welsh adapted the new skills they had learnt to guerilla tactics and lightning raids. Owain Glyndwr reputedly used the mountains with such advantage that many of the exasperated English soldiery suspected him of being a magician able to control the natural elements.



* BBC Wales/History, [|"The emergence of the principality of Wales"] extracted 26 March, 2008

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