House of Gwynedd

House of Gwynedd

The House of Gwynedd is the name given to the old royal house of the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Technically it is divided between the earlier House of Cunedda which lasted from c.420-825 and the later House of Aberffraw beginning in 844. They are so named after the founding king of Gwynedd; Cunedda, and the old capital of Gwynedd; Aberffraw. The House of Aberffraw is believed by many to have become extinct on the death of Owain Lawgoch in 1378, although it now seems more likely that some cadet branches of this family could have survived.

Under the laws of Hywel Dda, which were adapted from the much earlier pagan Molmutine Laws, any son can inherit from his father. This refers even to illegitimate sons if they are acknowledged by their father while he still lives. The throne cannot be inherited through the female line, unless her father was royal and so was the ancestry of her spouse. In many examples cousins were inter-married which made the distinction somewhat academic.

The House of Aberffraw began with the accession of Rhodri Mawr to the throne of Gwynedd. His father Merfyn Frych ap Gwriad had seized the throne of Gwynedd on the death of the last of the old royal line Hywel ap Rhodri Molwynog. He had married the former king's niece Ethyllt verch Cynan ap Rhodri Molwynog and their son, thus uniting both lines, was Rhodri "Mawr". Merfyn was said to have come from "Manau" (e.g. Manau Gododdin) which would make it likely he was of the same descent as Cunedda the founder of the Kingdom of Gwynedd who had migrated from Manau Gododdin and founded the original ruling house of Gwynedd way back in 420. Another possibility is that Merfyn was from Ynys Manaw but the ruling family of this kingdom had also begun with a son of Cunedda. The ancestors of Cunedda are detailed in several ancient Welsh manuscripts and reach back to Beli Mawr who ruled Britain long before the Romans or the English had ever set foot on the island.

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