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…