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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/112

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Howel
Howel
106

194), 28 May 934 (ib. ii. 196), 16 Dec. 934 (ib. v. 217), and 937 (ib. ii. 203); see also the charters, asterisked by Kemble, dated 17 June 930, 1 Jan. and 21 Dec. 935, ib. ii. 170, v. 222, ii. 203). Howel also attested charters drawn up by Eadred's wise men, dated 946 and 949 (ib. ii. 269, 292,296). He usually styles himself `Howel subregulus,' or `Huwal undercyning,' but in the later charters issued after the death of his cousin Idwal in 943, it is perhaps significant that he becomes 'Howel regulus,' and in the charter of 949 he is 'Howel rex.' Other Welsh reguli, such as Idwal and Morcant, also attested some of these charters. The tenth-century Welsh annalist and Simeon of Durham call him `rex Brittonum.'

The only other clearly attested fact in Howel's life is his pilgrimage to Rome in 928 (Annales Cambriæ in Y Cymmrodor, ix. 168). The later chroniclers put the death of his wife Elen in the same year. His death is assigned by the tenth-century chronicle to 950 (ib. ix. 169), with which Simeon of Durham (Mon. Hist. Brit. p.687), who fixes it in 951, is in practical agreement. The date given in the `Bruts,' 948, is plainly too early.

Howel was married to Elen, the daughter of Loumarc (d. 903), the son of Hymeid, who may perhaps be identified with the Hymeid, king of Dyved, who, in fear of Howel's uncles and father, became the vassal of King Alfred (Asser, Vita Ælfredi in Mon. Hist. Brit. p.488). Elen's pedigree is traced by the tenth-century annalist with the same particularity as that of her husband through Arthur up to Constantine the Great and his mother Helena, who is of course claimed as a Briton (Y Cymmrodor, ix. 171). Howel had several sons, who after his death fought fiercely with the sons of Idwal his cousin. Owain, the eldest son, was his successor, and it was during his reign that the genealogies and annals which are so valuable a source for Howel's history were drawn up. Howel's other sons were Dyvnwal, Rhodri, and Gwyn (Annales Cambriæ, called Etwin in Brut y Tywysogion).

Howel's chief fame is as a lawgiver, but the vast code of Welsh laws which goes by the name of the 'Laws of Howel the Good' only survives in manuscripts of comparatively late date. There are two Latin manuscripts, one at the British Museum of the thirteenth century (Cott. MS. Vesp. E. 11), and the other at Peniarth, of the twelfth century, while the earliest Welsh manuscript of the 'Black Book of Chirk,' also at Peniarth, is not earlier than 1200 (information kindly supplied by Mr. J. Gwenogvryn Evans, who is preparing an edition of the `Chirk Codex' and the oldest Latin manuscript). The prefaces contain an account of the circumstances under which the laws were drawn up. According to the oldest manuscript of the 'North Welsh Code,' Howel, 'seeing that the Welsh were perverting the laws,' summoned to him six men from each cymmwd of the Principality to the White House on the Tav (y Ty Gwyn ar Tav, probably Whitland in the modern Carmarthenshire), four laymen and two clerks, the latter to prevent the laymen from `ordaining anything contrary to holy scripture.' They met in Lent `because every one should be pure at that holy time.' These wise men carefully examined the old laws, rejected some, amended others, and enacted some new ones. Howel then promulgated the code they drew up, and he and the wise men pronounced the curse of all the Welsh on those who should not obey the laws, and on all judges who undertook judicial duties without knowing the three columns of law and the worth of tame and live animals, or on any lord who conferred office on such a judge. After this Howel went with the bishops of St. David's, St. Asaph, and Bangor, and some others to Rome, where the laws were read before the pope, who gave them his sanction. 'And from that time to the present the laws of Howel the Good are in force.' The 'Dimetian' and 'Gwentian' codes, the manuscripts of which are later, add a few additional particulars which are of less authority. Gwent was certainly no part of Howel's dominions.

The form in which the laws of Howel Dda now exist does not profess to preserve the shape which he gave them. In a few exceptional cases only is a law described as being the law as Howel established it (e.g. i. 122, 234, 240, 252, &c.) The 'Gwynedd Code' frequently refers to the amendments made by Bleddyn ab Cynvyn (i. 166, 252, 8vo ed.), who died in 1073, while the `Dyved Code' mentions changes brought about by the Lord Rhys ab Gruffydd ab Tewdwr (i. 574), who died in 1197. The laws manifestly contain much primitive custom which may be referred back to Howel's time or to an earlier date, but it is almost impossible to accurately determine the dates of the various enactments. Some of the details of court law show curious traces of 'early English influence, for example in such titles as 'edling' and 'edysteyn' (discthegn). Like all early codes it leaves the impression of greater system and method than could really have prevailed. The existing documents, and especially those of later date, were plainly drawn up by persons anxious to magnify the departed glory of their country, and to uphold the impossible theory of a definite organisa-