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|The Birth of Nations: WALES|
"The name of Wales was not derived from Wallo, a general, or Wandolena, the queen, as the fabulous history of Geoffrey Arthurius [Geoffrey of Monmouth] falsely maintains, because neither of these personages are to be found amongst the Welsh; but it arose from a barbarian appellation. The Saxons, when they seized upon Britain, called this nation, as they did all foreigners, Wallenses; and thus the barbarous name remains to the people and their country."Wendy Davies, in the introduction to her book, 'Wales in the Early Middle Ages', articulates the difficulties of presenting a history of early medieval Wales:
Giraldus Cambrensis (c.1146-c.1223), 'Descriptio Cambriae' (Description of Wales)
"Interesting though the subject matter is, the available source material is quite inadequate to resolve the simplest problems, and it is no longer acceptable to take material written at a late date and project its implications backwards over several centuries. There is very, very little written material that survives from the pre-Conquest period, and that which does survive is often corrupt and fragmentary ... Any history, therefore, becomes more of an exercise in speculative imagination than a sober, well-documented analysis, however rigorous the writer might attempt to be."
Wendy Davies defines her use of the term "pre-Conquest" as "... loosely used of Wales before the Norman impact and not, as it might be, of Wales before it was completely over-run."
Norman-Welsh cleric and writer Giraldus Cambrensis (c.1146-c.1223) wrote his 'Descriptio Cambriae' (Description of Wales) in the early 1190s. His comments, however, are as close as we can get to the character of early medieval Wales: "The Welsh esteem noble birth and generous descent above all things, and are, therefore, more desirous of marrying into noble than rich families. Even the common people retain their genealogy, and can not only readily recount the names of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, but even refer back to the sixth or seventh generation, or beyond them ... Being particularly attached to family descent, they revenge with vehemence the injuries which may tend to the disgrace of their blood; and being naturally of a vindictive and passionate disposition, they are ever ready to avenge not only recent but ancient affronts ..."KINGDOMS
Gwynedd, which is known to have existed in the 6th century, is the area traditionally associated with Cunedda. Cunedda, his eight sons and one grandson, purportedly travelled from the north-eastern British kingdom of Gododdin (which evolved from, the Iron Age tribe, the Votadini) to north-west Wales, in order to repel invading Scots (from Ireland). The 'Harleian Genealogies' represent Cunedda's progeny as the eponymous founders of divisions of Gwynedd (for example: Meirchion = Meirionydd, Rhwfon = Rhufoniog, etc).
The 'Annales Cambriae' (B-text only) states that, in 816, the: "Saxons invaded the mountains of Eryri [Snowdonia] and the kingdom of Rhufoniog." Entries in the 'Annales' announcing the deaths of Idris (in 632) and Brocmail (662) are usually considered to be referring to figures who appear in the royal line of Meirionydd, though neither is named as a king by the 'Annales'. In the poem, 'Marwnad Cynddylan' (Death-song of Cynddylan), which, it is thought, may have its origins as far back as the 7th century (the surviving manuscript is 17th century), Cynddylan is king of Dogfeiling. Purportedly, Dogfeiling's founder was Cunneda's son, Dogfael. Harleian MS 3859 does provide a genealogy for Dunoding, said to be founded by Cunedda's son, Dynod, but there are no other references.The kingdom of Ceredigion, too, which was recorded in the 9th century ....
'Annales Cambriae' entry corresponding to 807: "Arthen king of Ceredigion dies.".... has Cunedda's son, Ceretic, as its eponymous founder. In his diatribe, 'De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae' (Concerning the Ruin and Conquest of Britain), written in the 540s, the British monk, Gildas, picked out five kings for particular criticism. Cuneglasus is usually equated with Cinglas (Cynlas), who appears, in the genealogy attributed to the Rhos dynasty, as great-grandson of Cunedda.
One king of the Rhos dynasty seems to have seems to have been king of Gwynedd at the end of the 8th century. His death, in 798, is recorded by the 'Annales Cambriae': "Caradog king of Gwynedd is killed by the Saxons."Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd, is represented as Cunedda's great-grandson by the Harleian Genealogies, though in the 'Historia Brittonum' he is said to be Cunedda's great-great-great-grandson. Either way, Maelgwn,"the island dragon", is another of the kings singled out by Gildas. Maelgwn's great-grandson, Iago died in the same year as the battle at Chester (613x616), in which Welsh forces were defeated by Northumbrian king, Æthelfrith.
The A-text of the 'Annales Cambriae' notes: "And Iago son of Beli slept [i.e. died]." The B-text, however, says that Iago was killed in the battle. There is also a 'Welsh Triad' in which "Three Hatchet-Blows" are recorded: "And the third, one of his own men struck upon Iago, son of Beli, with a hatchet, on the head." Whether Iago died at Chester remains uncertain.Iago's son, Cadfan, is commemorated as "the most wise and most renowned of all kings" in the Latin inscription on his memorial stone, which is now built into the church wall at Llangadwaladr, Anglesey. Cadfan's son, Cadwallon, is Bede's "king of the Britons" who, in cahoots with Penda of Mercia, killed Edwin, king of Northumbria (632/3).
Tradition has it that, before he became king, Edwin had spent some time exiled in Gwynedd.After a year of ravaging Northumbria, Cadwallon was himself killed by Edwin's successor, Oswald. Cadwallon's son Cadwaladr died of a pestilence in 682.
Between Cadwallon and Cadwaladr, Gwynedd seems to have been ruled by one Cadafael. According to the 'Historia Brittonum', Cadafael was in Penda's army, which was preparing to do battle with Oswiu of Northumbria. However, during the night before the Battle of Winwæd (called "Gai Campi" by the 'Historia'), in which Penda was killed (654/5), Cadafael "escaped together with his army". As a result he earned the epithet 'Battle Shirker'.
"In war this nation [i.e. Wales] is very severe in the first attack, terrible by their clamour and looks, filling the air with horrid shouts and the deep-toned clangour of very long trumpets; swift and rapid in their advances and frequent throwing of darts. Bold in the first onset, they cannot bear a repulse, being easily thrown into confusion as soon as they turn their backs; and they trust to flight for safety, without attempting to rally ... Their courage manifests itself chiefly in the retreat, when they frequently return, and, like the Parthians, shoot their arrows behind them; and, as after success and victory in battle, even cowards boast of their courage, so, after a reverse of fortune, even the bravest men are not allowed their due claims of merit. Their mode of fighting consists in chasing the enemy or in retreating. This light-armed people, relying more on their activity than on their strength, cannot struggle for the field of battle, enter into close engagement, or endure long and severe actions ... Though defeated and put to flight on one day, they are ready to resume the combat on the next, neither dejected by their loss, nor by their dishonour; and although, perhaps, they do not display great fortitude in open engagements and regular conflicts, yet they harass the enemy by ambuscades and nightly sallies. Hence, neither oppressed by hunger or cold, nor fatigued by martial labours, nor despondent in adversity, but ready, after a defeat, to return immediately to action, and again endure the dangers of war; they are as easy to overcome in a single battle, as difficult to subdue in a protracted war."In south-west Wales, the tribal area of the Demetae evolved into the kingdom of Dyfed. According to tradition, the area is said to have been settled by a displaced Irish people: the Déisi. Wendy Davies ('Wales in the Early Middle Ages') writes:
Giraldus Cambrensis 'Descriptio Cambriae'
"The occurrence of Irish names in the Dyfed genealogy, and the circumstance of the preservation of 12 generations of that genealogy in an apparently independent Irish context, must suggest the intrusion of the Irish not merely into the land of Dyfed but also into the political control of it in the fifth century."Gwrthefyr (Vortipor), Gildas' "tyrant of the Demetae", and said to be great-great-great-grandson of Eochaid, son of Artchorp (it was Eochaid who purportedly led the Déisi from Ireland), is commemorated on a memorial stone which is inscribed in both Latin and Irish ogam. The kingdom of Brycheiniog is evidenced in the mid-8th century (Llandaff charters). Brychan, its eponymous founder, also has traditional Irish links, indeed, he is said to have been born there - son of a Welsh princess and an Irish prince. The Irish connection is substantiated by a cluster of ogam inscribed stones being found in Brycheiniog.
Brychan is purported to have been the father of many saints. In his 'Itinerarium Cambriae' (Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales), Giraldus Cambrensis comments: "The British histories testify that he had four-and-twenty daughters, all of whom, dedicated from their youth to religious observances, happily ended their lives in sanctity." The "Lineage of Brychan Brycheiniog" is the third of the three, presented by the 'Welsh Triad' the "Three Saintly Lineages of the Island of Britain" – the other two being those of Joseph of Arimathea and Cunedda (who is here given the epithet ‘Wledig’, which would seem to be related to the Welsh ‘gwlad’, i.e. ‘land’, and is, apparently, the title of a military leader).The 'Vita Samsonis' (Life of St.Samson' - of Dol, Brittany), possibly dating from the early-7th century, written by an anonymous author, relates that:
"The father of the same St.Samson was, as I have said, of Demetian stock, Amon by name, and his mother, of Gwent, the next province to Demetia, Anna by name. In the providence of Almighty God they were honourably married by mutual agreement and with the common consent of their fathers, who were of the same station in life. Moreover, we certainly know that the parents of the same married couple were court officials of the kings of their respective provinces ..."The year of St.Samson's birth is not known for certain, though c.485 has been suggested. The Llandaff charters mention one Iddon as king of Gwent, and also evidence the kingdom of Ergyng, in the late-6th century. Other kingdoms, in the vicinity of Cardiff and in Gower are noted in the 7th century. (There are also kings named who cannot be located). What is evident from the charters, however, is that, by the second quarter of the 8th century, these minor south-eastern kingdoms had been absorbed by Glywysing, whose influence, under the direction of one Meurig ap Tewdrig (approx. first half of 7th century) and his descendants, gradually spread from the vicinity of the mouth of the River Wye.
According to tradition, Tewdrig abdicated and became a hermit at Tintern. However, he later came to his son Meurig's assistance, and they repelled the invading English in a battle at Pont y Saeson (Bridge of the Saxons). Unfortunately, Tewdrig was wounded. His wounds were washed at a spring, now called St.Tewdric's Well, where he died. A church was erected on the site of his burial (Mathern), and he was revered as a saint. There are theories that Meurig's son, Athrwys, is 'the real' King Arthur.The author of the 'Historia Brittonum' (an honour claimed by one Nennius, in some manuscripts) mentions that, at the time of his writing (c.829), Fernmail (Ffernfael) ruled in two regions: Buelt (Builth) and Guorthigirniaun (Gwrtheyrnion) ....
Gwrtheyrnion was the region named from Gwrtheyrn i.e. Vortigern. the 'Historia' notes that it was Vortigern's third son: "... Pascent, who reigned in the two provinces Buelt and Guorthegirniaun, after the death of his father. These were granted him by Ambrosius, who was the great king among the kings of Britain." The author of the 'Historia' traces the descent of Ffernfael, of his own time, back through Pascent and Vortigern to Vortigern's great-grandfather, Glovi, after whom the city of Cair Glovi (Gloucester) was purportedly named..... and says his father, Teudubir (Tedwr) was king of the Builth region, so it appears that Gwrtheyrnion was a subdivision within the kingdom of Builth. (The phraseology is not clear. It may be that Tedwr and Ffernfael ruled concurrently, rather than consecutively). At any rate, nothing further is known of the kings of Builth. Powys is not named as such until the early-9th century, when the 'Annales Cambriae' announce the death of Cadell of Powys (808).
Cadell also features in a genealogy inscribed on Eliseg's Pillar, which, it is presumed, was erected in the early-9th century by Cadell's son, Concenn (Cyngen, d.854), in memory of Eliseg (Elisedd) his (i.e. Cyngen's) great-grandfather.However, the 'Annales' record the death of "Selyf, son of Cynan", at the battle of Chester (613x616), against Northumbrian king Æthelfrith, and Bede reports that Brocmail (Brochfael) and his men fled "at the first approach of the enemy" on the same occasion. All three men, Brochfael appearing as Cynan's father, appear in the 'Harleian Genealogies', associated with later, known, kings of Powys.
"In their rhymed songs and set speeches they [i.e. the Welsh] are so subtle and ingenious, that they produce, in their native tongue, ornaments of wonderful and exquisite invention both in the words and sentences. Hence arise those poets whom they call Bards, of whom you will find many in this nation, endowed with the above faculty ..."Cynan is featured in a poem attributed to Taliesin (fl. late-6th century): 'Trawsganu Cynan Garwyn mab Brochfael' (Satire of Cynan son of Brochfael). From its record of Cynan's activities, his homeland seems to have been north-east Wales. The founder of Cynan's line is presented as Cadell (his dynasty is known as the Cadelling).
Giraldus Cambrensis 'Descriptio Cambriae'
A yarn in the 'Historia Brittonum' purports to tell how Cadell became a king.It is dangerous to regard poems, no matter how old their origins are thought to be, as history. Wendy Davies suggests that:
"It would be simpler to treat them as a strict scholar of literature might do, that is as texts without chronological context, works of art that stand alone - outside context - as works of art. In some real sense they are timeless: many can still communicate to twentieth-century man; and many are the product of repetition over several generations, being slightly refashioned with each repetition, and so belong to no one period. If they are in any sense the product of the early medieval period, however, the historian cannot afford to ignore them; they say something about attitudes and values, something about mental culture; they may occasionally note events, procedures, institutions, behaviour. The problems of dating are intensified, the above problems apart, for they survive in manuscripts of the thirteenth century and later; and being almost entirely in the vernacular, their assessment also depends on consideration of the problems of linguistic change."However, another leader, Cynddylan, features in several poems. A 9th century collection known as the 'Canu Heledd' (Songs of Heledd - the poems are presented as the laments of Heledd, Cynddylan's sister) in which the destruction of the "court of Pengwern" and the death of "Cynddylan Powys", at the hands of the English, are mourned. From the places mentioned, it seems that Cynddylan's domain also included Shropshire, in, what is now, England.
Giraldus Cambrensis ('Descriptio Cambriae') asserts: "For the country now called Shropshire formerly belonged to Powys, and the place where the castle of Shrewsbury stands bore the name of Pengwern, or the head of the Alder Grove."In the 'Marwnad Cynddylan' (Death-song of Cynddylan), thought to be 7th century, Cynddylan is presented, not only as king of Dogfeiling (eastern Gwynedd), but apparently as an opponent of the Cadelling. There is a reference to his brother, Morfael, taking spoil in a battle at Lichfield.
"This nation conceives it right to commit acts of plunder, theft, and robbery, not only against foreigners and hostile nations, but even against their own countrymen. When an opportunity of attacking the enemy with advantage occurs, they respect not the leagues of peace and friendship, preferring base lucre to the solemn obligations of oaths and good faith ..."The Harleian Genealogies note a Morfael as son of Glast, the eponymous founder of Glastonbury, and that Glast travelled through Lichfield. The 'Marwnad Cynddylan' also seems to suggest that Cynddylan was a willing ally of Penda. Further, another reference in the 'Canu Heledd' suggests that Cynddylan was on the side of Penda, in 641/2, at the battle of Maes Cogwy (Bede's "Maserfelth" - traditionally identified with Oswestry, Shropshire), where, Northumbrian king, Oswald was killed. On the basis of these somewhat dubious fragments, it is possible to speculate that, in the early-7th century, a powerful British dynasty flourished in the west midlands of England and eastern Wales. Allies of Penda, they were then overthrown by Oswiu of Northumbria, in the aftermath of Penda's defeat (654/5). A remnant of the dynasty moved to the Glastonbury area. The expansion of the Mercians into Shropshire and Herefordshire left the remains of Cynddylan's territory (i.e. eastern mid-Wales) free for the Cadelling's taking. DEVELOPMENTS
Giraldus Cambrensis 'Descriptio Cambriae'
In the south-east, Glywysing continued to be ruled by the descendants of Meurig ap Tewdrig. The 'Annales Cambriae' record three battles, in 721 or 2, between the Welsh (Britons) and the English, one of which was:
"... the battle of Pencon among the south Britons, and the Britons were the victors in those three battles."
"Not addicted to gluttony or drunkenness, this people who incur no expense in food or dress, and whose minds are always bent upon the defence of their country, and on the means of plunder, are wholly employed in the care of their horses and furniture. Accustomed to fast from morning till evening, and trusting to the care of Providence, they dedicate the whole day to business, and in the evening partake of a moderate meal; and even if they have none, or only a very scanty one, they patiently wait till the next evening; and, neither deterred by cold nor hunger, they employ the dark and stormy nights in watching the hostile motions of their enemies."The sole king of Glywysing at that time was Ithel (c.715-c.745). Pencon is often (though not with certainty) identified with Pencoyd, in Ergyng. It seems plausible that Glywysing was a target when, in 743, Æthelbald of Mercia and Cuthred of Wessex "fought with the Welsh" ('Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'). Following the reign of Ithel, the kingship appears to have been divided between his sons. The 'Annales Cambriae' note (760):
Giraldus Cambrensis 'Descriptio Cambriae'
"A battle between the Britons and the Saxons, that is the battle of Hereford ..."Though the outcome is not mentioned, presumably it was the "Saxons" (i.e. Mercians, under Offa) who were the victors. Hereford was immediately to the north of Ergyng. The latest evidence of a land-grant in Ergyng, by kings of Glywysing, occurs during the time of Ithel's son, Ffernfael (d.775). Between that time and the end of the 9th century, Mercia gained control of Ergyng. Glywysing apparently continued to have multiple kings. In his biography of Alfred 'the Great' (871-899) of Wessex, Asser reports that Hywel, king of Glywysing, and the brothers Brochfael and Ffernfael, kings of Gwent:
"... compelled by the violence and tyranny of earl Ethered [Æthelred] and of the Mercians, of their own accord sought king Alfred, that they might enjoy his government and protection from him against their enemies."Charter evidence indicates that responsibility between contemporary kings, in Glywysing, was not necessarily divided along strict territorial lines. Wendy Davies ('Wales in the Early Middle Ages') writes:
"They moved, as kings, within the whole available area. There is much to suggest, however, that the one who was called king of Glywysing was in some sense pre-eminent."
"This nation is, above all others, addicted to the digging up of boundary ditches, removing the limits, transgressing landmarks, and extending their territory by every possible means. So great is their disposition towards this common violence, that they scruple not to claim as their hereditary right, those lands which are held under lease, or at will, on condition of planting, or by any other title, even although indemnity had been publicly secured on oath to the tenant by the lord proprietor of the soil. Hence arise suits and contentions, murders and conflagrations, and frequent fratricides, increased, perhaps, by the ancient national custom of brothers dividing their property amongst each other. Another heavy grievance also prevails; the princes entrust the education of their children to the care of the principal men of their country, each of whom, after the death of his father, endeavours, by every possible means, to exalt his own charge above his neighbours. From which cause great disturbances have frequently arisen amongst brothers, and terminated in the most cruel and unjust murders; and on which account friendships are found to be more sincere between foster-brothers, than between those who are connected by the natural ties of brotherhood. It is also remarkable, that brothers shew more affection to one another when dead, than when living; for they persecute the living even unto death, but revenge the deceased with all their power."The early-9th century saw a power struggle between two brothers, Hywel and Cynan, for control of the north-western kingdom of Gwynedd. The 'Annales Cambriae' note:
Giraldus Cambrensis 'Descriptio Cambriae'
Nine years later (825), the 'Annales' succinctly announce:
"Hywel dies."The direct male line appears to have ended with Hywel's death, and he was succeeded by one Merfyn Frych ('the Freckled'). According to the 'Harleian Genealogies', Merfyn was the son of Cynan's daughter, Essyllt (in other, later, genealogies, Essyllt appears as Merfyn's wife). Kari Maund, in 'The Welsh Kings', writes:
"It must be said, however, that given the lapse of time between Merfyn's life and the composition of the pedigree in HG [Harleian Genealogies], that the connexion via Essyllt ferch Cynan, must at best be regarded as tradition and may be simple fiction... supposed blood-links to the ancient ruling lines of other kingdoms supplied later members of the line of Merfyn with a superficial layer of legitimacy in their attempts to dominate and intrude into neighbouring kingdoms."
Merfyn's descent on his father's side is traced (Jesus College MS 20) back, via the legendary late-6th/early-7th century bard Llywarch Hen, who is associated with Powys (and who, incidentally, was at one time thought to be the author of the 'Canu Heledd'), along a branch of the line associated with the erstwhile kingdom of Rheged (north-west England), to Coel Hen. Further, tradition has it that Merfyn came "from the land of manaw". That could refer to either Manau Gododdin or The Isle of Man. Merfyn's father was Gwriad. An inscribed stone on the Isle of Man, which could date from the 9th century, reads "crux guriat" (cross of Guriat). Guriat is usually identified with Gwriad.At any rate, when Merfyn died (844), he was succeeded by his son Rhodri. According to the genealogies in Jesus College MS 20, Rhodri's mother was Nest of Powys, sister of Cyngen, king of Powys.
Cyngen is the Concenn who erected Eliseg's Pillar, in memory of his great-grandfather, Eliseg (Elisedd). Elisedd would probably have been a contemporary of the powerful Mercian king, Offa (757-796). The pillar commemorates Elisedd's reclamation of Powysian territory from the English, and the 'Annales Cambriae' record several campaigns against the Welsh by Offa. At some point, Offa seems to have decided that there should be no doubt where the border between the English and the Welsh lay, and the massive earthwork, known as Offa's Dyke was constructed. Whether Offa's Dyke was more symbolic than truly defensive is the subject of debate. Even if it prevented Welsh incursions into England, it certainly it didn't prevent English incursions into Wales. 'Annales Cambriae' (822): "The fortress of Degannwy [Gwynedd] is destroyed by the Saxons and they took the kingdom of Powys into their own control."Cyngen died in 854, possibly having been forced into exile by Rhodri. Powys was subsequently annexed by Gwynedd. How this takeover was achieved is not recorded, but Powys was ruled as a subsidiary of Gwynedd until the late-11th century. In 853, the 'Annales Cambriae' had noted:
"Mon [Anglesey] laid waste by black gentiles."
The phrase "black gentiles" (and variations thereof, e.g. dark heathens, dark foreigners) means Danish, rather than Norwegian (fair heathens, fair-haired foreigners), Vikings. The first recorded Viking attack on Wales actually appears in the 'Annales' three years previously (i.e. in 850). They were responsible for the killing of one Cyngen, whose provenance is unknown.In 856, however, as recorded by the 'Annals of Ulster', Rhodri won a famous victory against them:
"Horm [Gorm], chief of the dark foreigners, was killed by Rhodri son of Merfyn, king of Wales."The 'Annals of Ulster' also provide a reminder that the Vikings weren't the only external threat that Rhodri had to contend with (865):
"The Britons were driven from their land by the Saxons [presumably Mercians] and were placed in bondage in Móin Chonáin [Anglesey]."Nevertheless, Rhodri's empire building activities continued. Jesus College MS 20 shows him married to Angharad, sister of Gwgon of Ceredigion. Gwgon drowned ('Annales Cambriae' - the circumstances are unrecorded), in 872, and control of Ceredigion was subsequently acquired by Gwynedd.
Ceredigion is still the term used in 9th century annals, but later tradition has it that (around the start of the 8th century) Seisyll, the king of Ceredigion, added the territory of Ystrad Tywi (literally 'Vale of Towy' - to the south of Ceredigion), and that the enlarged kingdom was thenceforth called Seisyllwg in his honour.In 877, however, the 'Annals of Ulster' note that:
"Rhodri son of Merfyn, king of the Britons, came in flight from the dark foreigners to Ireland."And a year later (878):
"Rhodri son of Merfyn, king of the Britons, was killed by the Saxons."
Also in 878, Asser, reports that: "... the brother of Hingwar [Ivar 'the Boneless'] and Halfdene [Halfdan], with twenty-three ships, after much slaughter of the Christians, came from the country of Demetia , where he had wintered, and sailed to Devon, where, with twelve hundred others, he met with a miserable death, being slain while committing his misdeeds, by the king's servants, before the castle of Cynuit [Countisbury], into which many of the king's servants, with their followers, had fled for safety."Rhodri is remembered as Rhodri Mawr ('the Great'), the only Welsh king to be so honoured. The 'Annales Cambriae' record that, in 881, there occurred:
"The battle of Conwy. Vengeance for Rhodri at God's hand."
Presumably, it was, the Mercian king, Ceolwulf II who was responsible for the death of Rhodri - and also his forces who were defeated at Conwy.After Rhodri's death, his sons (of whom Anarawd appears to have been the senior) ravaged south and mid Wales. Asser reports that:
"... king Hemeid [Hyfaidd], with all the inhabitants of the region of Demetia [Dyfed], compelled by the violence of the six sons of Rotri [Rhodri], had submitted to the dominion of the King [Alfred 'the Great' of Wessex]... Helised [Elisedd], also, son of Tendyr [Tewdr], king of Brecon [Brycheiniog], compelled by the force of the same sons of Rotri, of his own accord sought the government of the aforesaid king ....Anarawd, it seems, had entered into an alliance with the Northumbrian Danes.
.... and Anarawd, son of Rotri, with his brother, at length abandoning the friendship of the Northumbrians, from which he received no good but harm, came into king Alfred's presence and eagerly sought his friendship. The king received him honourably, received him as his son by confirmation from the bishop's hand, and presented him with many gifts. Thus he became subject to the king with all his people, on the same condition, that he should be obedient to the king's will in all respects, in the same way as Ethered [Æthelred] with the Mercians. Nor was it in vain that all these princes gained the friendship of the king. For those who desired to augment their worldly power, obtained power; those who desired money, gained money; and in like way, those who desired his friendship, or both money and friendship, succeeded in getting what they wanted. But all of them gained his love and guardianship and defence from every quarter, even as the king with his men could protect himself."In 892 a Danish army invaded England. In 893 the Danes were besieged, on an island in the Severn, by an alliance of English and Welsh forces (see: The Danish Invasion of 892). It seems possible that, after the siege and ensuing battle, whilst there were English and Welsh troops together, Anarawd took advantage of his "friendship" with Alfred. The 'Annales Cambriae' has an entry which records that:
"Anarawd came with the Angles and laid waste Ceredigion and Ystrad Tywi."
The reason for the ravaging of Ceredigion and Ystrad Tywi is not recorded. Perhaps there was local opposition to Rhodri's sons, or, possibly, the territory was being contested for by the king of Dyfed. A couple of years previously, Hyfaidd (king of Dyfed), had died, maybe his successor (his son, Llywarch) had failed to renew the agreement that Hyfaidd had made with Alfred, persuading Alfred to assist Rhodri's sons.Towards the end of 893, the Danish army escaped from Chester into Wales. Once in Wales, the Danes disappear from the view of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' - until, in 894, they return from their expedition laden with booty. It seems reasonable to suppose that an entry in the 'Annales Cambriae' refers to this expedition:
"The Northmen came and laid waste Lloegr [England] and Bycheiniog and Gwent and Gwynllwg."
It is a little odd that, since the Danes would appear to have entered and left Wales at the northern end (to avoid, as much as possible, crossing English held territory), the provinces which the 'Annales' say were plundered are in the south-eastern quarter. This is, though, the only time that the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' mentions that this particular band of Danes entered Wales. However, towards the end of 895 (after harvest), they built a fortification at Bridgnorth, where they stayed until the summer of 896. The 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' reports no incidents, but, given the proximity of Bridgnorth to south-eastern Wales, it is possible that the raids noted by the 'Annales Cambriae' refers to this period.It would appear that Anarawd's brother, Cadell, established himself as ruler of Ceridigion and Ystrad Tywi. In 903, Llywarch ap Hyfaidd, king of neighbouring Dyfed, died. It seems reasonable to speculate that Cadell took advantage of this and invaded Dyfed. The following year (904) the 'Annales' note that Llywarch's brother, Rhodri:
"... was beheaded in Arwystli."The opposition having been disposed of, Cadell handed control of Dyfed to his son, Hywel, who then legitimised his authority by marrying Elen, the daughter of Llywarch.
Elen is certainly a historical figure - her death being chronicled in 928.Anyway, Cadell died, in 910, and Hywel's brother, Clydog, appears to have stepped into his shoes. In 918, Hywel, Clydog and their cousin Idwal (son of Anarawd), who was now ruling Gwynedd (Anarawd having died in 916), submitted to Edward of Wessex, who was successfully campaigning against the Danes in England.
The so called 'Mercian Register' of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' records that, in 916, Edward's sister, Æthelflæd (Lady of the Mercians), in reprisal for the killing of "innocent Abbot Ecgberht", despatched an army into Brycheiniog and captured the king's wife, along with thirty-three others.In 920:
"King Clydog was killed."The 'Annales Cambriae' give no further detail, but the 'Brut y Tywysogion', adds that he:
"... was killed by his brother Meurig."The upshot was that Hywel was now sole ruler of Dyfed, Ceredigion and Ystrad Tywi. Meanwhile, in 902, the Vikings had been expelled from Dublin. The 'Annales Cambriae' state that:
"Igmund came to Mon [Anglesey] and took Maes Osfeilion."
Osfeilion being the territory purportedly named from Cunedda's son, Ysfael.An Irish source, often referred to as the 'Three Fragments', says:
"Now the Norwegians left Ireland, as we said, and their leader was Ingimund, and they went then to the island of Britain. The son of Cadell son of Rhodri was king of the Britons at that time. The Britons assembled against them, and gave them hard and strong battle, and they were driven by force out of British territory."
"The son of Cadell son of Rhodri" seems like a reference to Hywel, however, at the time of Ingimund's arrival, Cadell himself was still very much alive. It was Cadell's brother, Anarawd, who was ruling in Gwynedd, so it is possible that the word "son" has, at some stage, simply replaced the word "brother", in error. How long Ingimund stayed in Anglesey is not recorded, but it may have been for a considerable time. The following year (903), as reported by the 'Annales Cambriae' (C-text), Merfyn, a brother of Cadell and Anarawd, was killed by Vikings - possibly Ingimund's band. The 'Three Fragments' go on to tell how Ingimund was allowed to settle near Chester, by Æthelflæd, but then hatched a plan to capture the city: Ingimund's Invasion
"... Ireland and Mon were devastated by the people of Dublin."Of course, it wasn't only the north that was subject to Viking predations; the 'Annales Cambriae' note, in 906:
"The battle of Dinmeir and Mynyw was broken."
Mynyw (or Menevia) was the precursor of St.Davids, Dyfed.In 914, as reported by the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle', a large Viking force sailed from Brittany:
"... entered the mouth of the Severn; and plundered in North-Wales [i.e. Wales, as distinct from Cornwall] everywhere by the sea, where it then suited them; and took Cameleac [Cyfeilliog] the bishop in Archenfield [Iercingafelda i.e. Ergyng], and led him with them to their ships; whom King Edward afterwards released for forty pounds."The Viking force suffered heavy losses at the hands of the English, who were determined they should not get a foothold, and, eventually, after pausing in Dyfed, the remnants left for Ireland.
'Vita Samsonis' by T. Taylor
'Historia Brittonum' by J.A. Giles
Asser 'Vita Alfredi' by Dr. J.A. Giles
'Annales Cambriae' by James Ingram
Rhigyfarch 'Vita Davidis' by J.W. James
Lifris 'Vita Cadoci' by A.W. Wade-Evans
'Annals of Ulster' by MacAirt & MacNiocaill
'Brut y Tywysogion' by Rev. John Williams ab Ithel
'Fragmentary Annals of Ireland' by Joan Newlon Radner
Gildas 'De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae' by Hugh Williams
Bede 'Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum' by J.A. Giles, revised by A.M. Sellar
Giraldus Cambrensis 'Descriptio Cambriae' and 'Itinerarium Cambriae' by Sir Richard Colt Hoare