Nest Ferch Rhys (3) – Gwenllian, Lord Rhys and Owen Tudor

We’ve mentioned Nest’s brother Gruffudd ap Rhys briefly before. As son and heir to Rhys ap Tewdwr he had a bad start when Rhys got killed in 1093 and his lands passed to the Normans. As was the style amongst penniless Welsh heroes of the day, Gruffudd spent the years following his Dad’s death in exile in Ireland. After one unsuccessful truce with Henry 1 and another Irish interlude Gruffudd joined Owain Gwynedd’s superb 1137 campaign which liberated Deheubarth. Smashed the Normans at the battle of Crug Mawr. Amongst the losers of Crug Mawr was Nest’s son Maurice FitzGerald, a big player in the Norman Irish adventures.
The most romantic character of the 1137 campaign was Gwenllian ferch Gruffudd. Gruffudd’s wife and Owain’s daughter, Gwenllian led a glorious kamikaze attack on the Normans at Cydweli – reminding the nation of the resistance of Buddug to the Romans. Killed in the battle The Town Council repeat the tale that the ghost of her headless corpse has been wandering the town ever since.
Next we have Gruffudd’s son, Rhys ap Gruffudd, the most successful ruler of Deheubarth post the Norman invasion – Fantastic bloke. His pressure on the Norman lordships a key driver in the Norman desire to seek further lands in Ireland. Indeed at the request of the King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, who had been driven out of his kingdom, he release Robert Fitz-Stephen from captivity to take part in the Irish adventure. John Davies (brilliant historian and one of the funniest blokes I’ve ever met) states succintly:
“Thus the sorrowful history of English involvement in Ireland has Welsh roots” Rhys died in 1197, the primary power in the whole of Wales.
Moving on Rhys’s sons were a pretty feckless bunch whose squabbling soon led to the loss of Deheubarth to Gwynedd and Normans. Of interest to our tale is his daughter Gwenllian (he called two of his daughters Gwenllian, a popular name in Wales at the time…). She married Ednyfed Fychan a decent soldier and “Distain” (sort of Prime Minister) of Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd. He died in 1246 – his two sons continued to serve the House of Gwynedd until the last – Llywelyn the Last’s death in 1282. The family avoided extinction and came to terms with Longshanks – Ednyfed’s son Goronwys’s son Tudur Hen kept an estate of the family land in Penmynydd, Anglesey. Tudur was father to another Goronwy, who in turn fathered another Tudur (Fychan). His son Maredudd was the father of Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur. A soldier for Henry V Owain entered the service of Henry’s widow, Catherine of Valois, on Henry’s death in 1422. Officially or unofficially married the angliscised Owen Tudor and the Queen had 6 kids – he was one of the early casualties of the Wars of the Roses – after defeat in battle in 1461 he was executed by beheading with the famous legendary last words “the head which used to lie in Queen Katherine’s lap, would now lie in the executioner’s basket”
…One more of these and I reckon I’ll be done….

Welsh Nationalist. Rugby Fan. Know a bit about History and Railways…

  • Sean

    God you have to love the goofy welsh spelling

    Good one Dewi

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Dewi, this all happened a long time ago. You have to learn to move on and learn to love your neighbours.

  • dewi

    “You need to move on”
    I went from 1090 to 14 summat in 5 paragraphs – as long as it’s raining on the bank holiday I’ll get to space travel by Tuesday!
    “Learn to love your neighbours” I do honest. Seriously there has been a dramatic reflowering of Welsh historical writing over the last 30 years or so. It’s a different narrative but no less true.

  • susan

    Be as you are and stay ever wonderful, Dewi. You’re the best thing to happen to my appreciation of Welsh culture since a 23 year old Gito Harri started broadcasting traffic snarls and pop star interviews on Welsh language radio all those years ago.


  • Dewi

    Siwsan – where on earth have you been hiding?

  • Katinka

    Dewi, I was always under the impression that the Normans who made up the major force of knights who invaded Ireland were men who had no or little prospect of land in Wales. You are claiming that they were held in check in Wales by Rhys ap Gruffudd. However, if they were prepared to fight to create their colony in Ireland, then surely they would have been equally prepared to fight for land in Wales. The question is, was the land in Wales worth it? (In terms of fertility and so on).

  • Dewi

    “However, if they were prepared to fight to create their colony in Ireland, then surely they would have been equally prepared to fight for land in Wales”

    I’m sure they were prepared to fight – but we beat them.

  • Dewi

    Anyway Katinka – who’se side are you blasted on?

  • susan

    Oh, Dewi, I was overcome in June by a burst of productivity and purpose, but I’m doing my best to fight in back. Plus Slugger was doing my head in. Again.

    But I loved your threads on Nest (the dish) and Dic Jones, gorwedd mewn hedd. And I know you’ll forgive me if I spelt that all wrong, ’cause you’re
    drawn that way. :o)

    Got to get back to my books. Keep it up with the cross-cultural Celtic narratives, will ye? And tell Pete he’s endearing as f*ck if he’d just stop banging on about the North.

  • Dewi

    Siwsan – if I behave Mick says I can do spaceship stuff….

  • ersehole

    goofy welsh spelling eh?

    In welsh and irish, more or less, you say what you see.

    Not like bough cough dough rough english.

    You daft twat.

  • Dewi

    ersehole – Sean was being ironic – no need for abuse on this thread….and it’s 2.00am!!!

  • susan

    Nos da, Dewi, Nos da, ersehole.

  • Katinka

    Dewi, that was a serious question about the economic value of land in Wales in the 11th century. We know that the lands of south Leinster were very fertile and worth settling on if you could beat the natives….

    I’m not on anyone’s side….the Normans, the Welsh, the Irish are all our ancestors, as well as the Scots….so taking sides should not be taken too seriously!

    However, keep going!

  • Dewi

    “14.Dewi, that was a serious question about the economic value of land in Wales in the 11th century”

    It was actually a serious answer – the first one anyway!. From about 1170 Rhys captured the territories of Ceredigion, Emlyn and Cantref Bychan back from the Normans – he was keen to facilitate a Norman exit and released Robert Fitzstephen from prison to lead a force to Ireland – amongst whom would have been Normans dispossessed of their Welsh lands by the force of Deheubarth. Not sure relative land fertility had much to do with it.

    “I’m not on anyone’s side” – right I’m going to have to change that! – This is Slugger you know !!!

  • Dewi

    Sorry Katinka – the capturing of Ceredigion etc would have been in mid 1160s.