Home | Main Menu | Castle Index | Historical Essays | Recommended Castles | What's New | Links

The Early Welsh Kingdoms

The information that follows comes from
The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens
by Mike Ashley, Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. New York, 1998.

View, purchase or read reviews about this book at Amazon.com
View or purchase this book at Blackwell's Online


The native British retained a degree of autonomy in Wales throughout the Roman occupation. Little is recorded about them that can be established as firm historical fact though it is possible that the Silures, Ordovices and Demetae continued to be ruled by tribal chieftains within the Roman administration. Towards the end of this period an influx of Irish from the west and British from the east began to test these tribal boundaries and new ones emerged based, initially, on the old tribes, but subsequently developing into four main kingdoms - Gwent, Gwynedd, Powys and Deheubarth.

Gwynedd covered the territory of the Ordovices, but the kingdom established by Cunedda brought together migratory British from elsewhere in Britain. The territory was originally known as Venedotia, a name which mutated to Gwynedd over the next two centuries. The heart of Gwynedd was originally at Deganwy, but shifted to Anglesey and at one time included the Isle of Man. It became the most powerful kingdom in Wales.


Ruler Born Reign Died Notes
Cunedda   c450s-c460s    
Einion   c470s-c480s    
Cadwallon Lawhir (Longhand)   c500-c534 c534  
Maelgwn Hir (the Tall) c497 c520s-c549 c549 died in a plague
Rhun Hir c520 c549-?580s    
Beli   580s-c599 c599  
Iago   c599-c613 c613  
Cadfan   c615-c620 c625  
    Edwin of Northumbria overran Gwynedd between 620 and 627    
Cadwallon c590s c620-634 634 in exile 620-627; killed in battle
Cadfael   634-c655   usurper; later deposed
Cadwaladr   c655-c682 c682 died in a plague
Idwal   c682-?720 ?720  
Rhodri Molwynog   c720-c754 c754  
Caradog   c754-c798 c798 killed
Cynan   c798-816 816 may have ruled from 813 only
Hywel   814-825 825  
Merfyn Frych (the Fredkled)   825-844 844 son of Gwriad of Man


Gwynedd was always the primary kingdom of Wales, even though it has moments when it was dominated by rulers from the south. It had several great rulers during its early years but the first to earn the title "the Great" was Rhodri ap Merfyn who by 871 had inherited Powys (855) and Seisyllwg, in addition to Gwynedd, and was effectively ruler of all northern and western Wales.

Rhodri Mawr (the Great)   844-878 878 driven out by Vikings; killed in battle
Anarawd ap Rhodri   878-916 916  
Idwal Foel   916-942 942 killed in battle
    Idwal submitted to Edward the Elder of England from 918-37. Gwynedd was ruled by Hywel Dda of Deheubarth from 942-50.    
Iago ab Idwal   950-979   deposed
Ieuaf ab Idwal   950-969 988 deposed and imprisoned
Hywel ap Ieuaf   974-985 985 killed
Cadwallon ap Ieuaf   985-86 986 slain
    Gwynedd was ruled by Maredudd ap Owain of Deheubarth from 986-999.    
Cynan ap Hywel   999-1005 1005  
Llywelyn ap Seisyll   1005-23 1023 also ruled Deheubarth from 1018
Iago ap Idwal ap Meurig   1023-39 1039 murdered
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn   1039-63 1063 ruled Deheubarth from 1055; recognized as sovereign ruler of all Wales; murdered
Bleddyn ap Cynfyn c1025 1063-75 1075 murdered
Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn   1063-70 1070 co-ruler with Bleddyn; killed in battle
Trahern ap Caradog   1075-81 1081 killed in battle
Gruffydd ap Cynan c1055 1081-1137 1137 regained territory briefly in 1075
Owain Gwynedd c1100 1137-70 1170 styled Prince of Gwynedd from 1157


Upon Owain's death his lands were divided between his sons, of whom Maelgwyn inherited Anglesey. Civil War broke out from 1170-74, from which emerged two victors who eventually divided the kingdom between them. Another son, Cynan, succeeded in retaining his land at Merioneth and briefly re-establishing a ruling dynasty there.


Maelgwyn ab Owain   1170-73   fled to Ireland; returned but imprisoned
Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd c1135 1170-95 1203 East Gwynedd; ruled all of Gwynedd 1174-75; deposed
Rhodri ab Owain Gwynedd   1170-90 1195 West Gwynedd; deposed, though temporarily regained Anglesey in 1193
Llywelyn the Great 1173 1195-1240 1240 acceded to East Gwynedd in 1195 and gradually rebuilt the kingdom; became effective ruler of Wales from 1216
Dafydd ap Llywelyn c1208 1240-46 1246 styled himself "Prince of Wales"
Llywelyn the Last ap Gruffydd c1225 1246-82 1282 killed
Owain Goch ap Gruffydd   1246-55 1282? deposed by his brother; later reinstated by Edward I as co-ruler, 1277-1282?
Dafydd ap Gruffydd   1282-83 1283 deposed and executed for treason


With the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in 1282 and his brother Dafydd the following year, 400 years of dominance in Wales by the house of Gwynedd came to an end. The kingdom had survived intense pressures from within Wales, as well as outside threats from Saxons, Vikings and Norman would-be-conquerors. It had survived and prospered through a combination of skilled military leadership and diplomacy, efforts that nevertheless failed to withstand the final determined assault from the English in the person of Edward I.


Learn more about Medieval Gwynedd
Learn more about early Medieval Wales
Learn more about the early kingdoms of Wales

Home | Main Menu | Castle Index | Historical Essays | Recommended Castles | What's New | Links

Copyright © 2009 by Mike Ashley and the Castles of Wales Website