Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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HYWEL ab OWAIN GWYNEDD (d. 1170 ), soldier and poet ;

natural son of Owain Gwynedd by Pyfog , an Irishwoman . Hywel played a leading part in the occupation of Ceredigion by the house of Gwynedd . His father assigned southern Ceredigion to him in 1139 . There was continual strife between him and his uncle Cadwaladr who held northern Ceredigion and Meirionydd . In 1143 Hywel drove his uncle out of Ceredigion . In 1144 there was a reconciliation and Cadwaladr was reinstated. In 1145 Hywel and his half-brother Cynan tried unsuccessfully to storm Cardigan castle , which had remained in Norman hands. In 1146 Hywel joined forces with Cadell of Deheubarth against the Normans of West Wales ; they took the castles of Carmarthen , Llanstephan , and Wiston . In 1147 Hywel and Cynan drove Cadwaladr out of Meirionydd . When Cadwaladr handed over northern Ceredigion to his son Cadfan , Hywel invaded that territory, captured Cadfan ( 1150 ) and occupied the new castle at Llanrhystud . Meanwhile, the princes of Deheubarth , Cadell and his brothers, to whom Ceredigion rightfully belonged, overran the southern part; by 1153 they had recovered northern Ceredigion also, and Hywel 's career there was at an end. In 1157 Hywel was with his father in the Basingwerk campaign against Henry II . In 1159 he accompanied a Norman force from Carmarthen against the lord Rhys , then in revolt against Henry II . This move was probably prompted by Owain Gwynedd 's desire to keep on good terms with the Crown . We hear little more of Hywel until his death in battle against his half-brothers near Pentraeth , Anglesey ( 1170 ), in the strife that followed the death of Owain Gwynedd . Hywel was buried at Bangor .

Hywel is probably better known as a poet . He was pre-eminent in his day as a lyric poet . He was not restricted as to subject matter as were the professional court bards ; he sang of love and of the natural beauty of his native Gwynedd . Eight of his poems survive; they are printed in Myv. Arch. , i, 275-8.


  • A History of Wales: from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest , 489-91, 501-4, 533-4, etc.;
  • J. E. Lloyd , The Story of Ceredigion (400-1277) (1937) , 56-9;
  • T. Parry , Hanes Llenyddiaeth Gymraeg (1944) , 47-52;
  • Transactions of the Anglesey Antiquarian Society and Field Club , 1923 , 49-58;
  • Annales Cambriae (1860) ; Brut y Tywysogion


Arthur James Roderick, Ph.D., Cardiff

Published date: 1959