Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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GRUFFUDD ap LLYWELYN (d. 1063 ), king of Gwynedd and Powys, and after 1055 king of all Wales ;

son of Llywelyn ap Seisyll (q.v.) and Angharad , daughter of Maredudd ab Owain (d. 1072 ) (q.v.) , king of Deheubarth . Not much information about his youth is available but some traditions have been preserved in the tales of Walter Map . As a youth he is said to have been slow and spiritless, but ambition later turned him into a man of valour and boldness and developed in him imagination and steadfastness of purpose. After Iago ab Idwal had been slain by his own men in 1039 Gruffudd ap Llywelyn became king of Gwynedd and Powys . Immediately afterwards, he struck a blow against the Saxons of Mercia in the battle of Rhyd-y-groes on the Severn and drove them to flight. This victory made him a prominent figure; and thenceforth until his death he continued to be the shield of his country and the terror of its enemies. Having struck the men of Mercia and made the Marches safe he turned his attention to Deheubarth , where Hywel ab Edwin (q.v.) was king . There is not much information about the conflict between the two; but in 1040 Gruffudd again attacked Ceredigion and burned Llanbadarnfawr . In 1041 Gruffudd again defeated Hywel in the battle of Pencader , but he did not succeed in overpowering him completely for in 1042 Hywel defeated a host of ‘ Black Gentiles ’ at Pwlldyfach (today, Pwlldyfarch ), near Carmarthen . Two years later ( 1044 ), Hywel brought with him from Ireland a fleet of the ‘ Black Gentiles ,’ but he was slain in a fierce encounter with Gruffudd in the estuary of the Towy . Even after this Gruffudd failed to gain possession of Deheubarth ; Gruffydd ap Rhydderch ap Iestyn (q.v.) rose up against him. According to ‘ Brut y Tywysogion ’ ( Pen. MS. 20, 18a ), great deceit and treachery took place in 1045 between Gruffydd ap Rydderch and his brother Rhys and Gruffudd ap Llywelyn . The latter was forced to call in the help of Swegen son of Godwin , in his endeavour to uphold his authority in Deheubarth . In 1047 about 140 of Gruffudd 's war-band were slain through the treachery of the men of Ystrad Tywi , and to avenge them Gruffudd plundered Dyfed and Ystrad Tywi ; but that was all he succeeded in doing and for the next eight years Gruffydd ap Rhydderch was in sure possession of Deheubarth . Gruffudd ap Llywelyn directed his efforts in another direction; early in the summer of 1052 he invaded the land of Hereford and defeated a combined host of Saxons and Normans near Leominster . In 1055 he slew Gruffydd ap Rhydderch and thus at last gained possession of Deheubarth . Moreover, leagued with Aelfgar of Mercia he attacked the Saxons and Normans of Hereford under earl Ralph , drove them to flight and set fire to the town. Earl Harold was sent to avenge this attack but all he succeeded in doing was to repair Hereford and to come to terms with Aelfgar . In 1056 Leofgar , bishop of Hereford , led an army against Gruffudd , and on 16 June a battle took place between them in the valley of the Machawy . Once again Gruffudd was victorious. Then, through the efforts of earl Harold , earl Leofric of Mercia , and Ealdred of Worcester , an agreement was reached and Gruffudd swore fealty to king Edward . About this time too Gruffudd m. Ealdgyth , daughter of Aelfgar , and when Aelfgar was again exiled in 1058 Gruffudd , with the help of Magnus Haroldson , assisted him in regaining his lands. The close alliance between Gruffudd and Aelfgar ensured security for Wales , but towards the close of the year 1062 , when Aelfgar had died, earl Harold without warning fell upon Gruffudd 's court at Rhuddlan , but Gruffudd made good his escape. In 1063 Gruffudd was slain ‘through the treachery of his own men,’ according to ‘ Brut y Tywysogion ,’ after he had been ‘the head and shield and defender of the Britons.’ Gruffudd left two sons, Maredudd (d. 1070 ) and Idwal (d. 1070 ) and one daughter, Nest , who m. Osbern FitzRichard .

Sources:

  • Annales Cambriae (1860) ;
  • Brut y Tywysogion, Peniarth MS. 20 (1941) , 1941 ;
  • Walter Map , De Nugis Curialium (1850; 1914; 1923) , xxii-iii;
  • Lives of Edward the Confessor (1858) (ed. Luard ), 425;
  • The Anglo-saxon chronicle ;
  • The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion , 1899-1900 ;
  • A History of Wales: from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest , 358 ff.

Author:

Professor Thomas Jones, D.Litt., Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959