Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 34.djvu/13

This page needs to be proofread.
Llywelyn
Llywelyn
7

as chief king of the Welsh. Next year he died. The date is either 1021 or 1023, probably the later year. He left a brother named Cynan, who was slain four years later. His son Gruffydd ab Llywelyn (d. 1063) [q. v.] was for a time driven from Gwynedd by a restoration of the rightful line. The Gwentian chronicler celebrates Llywelyn's virtues in war and peace, and couples him with his son as 'the noblest princes that had been until their time in Wales.'

[Annales Cambriæ, Brut y Tywysogion, both in Rolls Ser.; Brut y Tywysogion, ed. Rhys and J.G. Evans; Gwentian Brut y Tywysogion, Cambrian Archæological Association.]

T. F. T.

LLYWELYN ab IORWERTH, called Llywelyn the Great (d. 1240), prince of North Wales, afterwards prince of Wales, was the son of Iorwerth, the only one of the many sons of Owain Gwynedd [q. v.] who had, from the ecclesiastical point of view, any claim to be called legitimate. About 1176 Iorwerth was expelled from Gwynedd by his half-brother, Davydd ab Owain [see Davydd I], who thus became, in name at least, lord of Gwynedd. But Iorwerth and his other brothers continued to molest their successful rival, whose real dominions seldom extended far beyond the vale of Clwyd. Iorwerth, according to the Welsh genealogists, married Marred, daughter of Madog ab Maredudd, prince of Powys, but there is documentary evidence that the mother of Llywelyn was a member of the border family of Corbet (Eyton, Shropshire, vi. 160; Monasticon, vi.497). Eyton says that it was common for Welsh genealogists to suppress English marriages. In any case Llywelyn seems to have been born or brought up in exile, probably in England. He was only twelve years old when his partisans began to molest Davydd ab Owain. Their success proved, to the satisfaction of Giraldus Cambrensis, that Providence was on the side of the legitimate stock in their struggle against the offspring of an incestuous union. As he grew older Llywelyn formed an alliance against Davydd with his uncle Rhodri, lord of Mona and Snowdon and the full brother of Davydd, and also with his cousins, the two sons of Cynan, another brother of Davydd, who reigned jointly in Meirionydd. In 1194 the combined cousins and uncle won a great triumph, expelling Davydd from all his territory except three castles, and soon driving him out altogether, and forcing him to take refuge in England.

The reign of Llywelyn over Gwynedd begins with the flight of Davydd. His chief rival in the earlier years of his principality was Gwenwynwyn [q. v.], who became by his father Owain's death, in 1197, prince of Powys, and who, 'though near to Llywelyn as to kindred, was a foe to him as to deeds' (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 258). Gwenwynwyn now took possession of Arwystli, the region of the upper Severn round about Llanidloes, and took Llywelyn prisoner in the course of the conflict (ib. p. 251), though he does not seem to have kept him long in confinement. But Llywelyn had other enemies among his old allies and kinsfolk of the house of Gwynedd, though over these also he gradually proved victorious. In 1201 he conquered Lleyn, the promontory of the modern Carnarvonshire, driving out the old ruler, his cousin Maredudd ab Cynan, whom he accused of treachery (ib. p. 257). Next year Maredudd also lost Meirionydd. In September 1202 Llywelyn marched with a great host to be revenged on his old enemy Gwenwynwyn. He succeeded in taking Bala Castle; but some of his followers were lukewarm, and the clergy, regular and secular, combined to negotiate a peace. In 1203 the death of Davydd ab Owain in his English exile still further secured Llywelyn's position.

Llywelyn had now laid the foundations of the great power which he was to exercise for the next forty years. It had already become worth while for the English king to secure his alliance. As long as Richard I lived there was generally open war between Llywelyn and the English. But on 11 July 1201 King John made peace with Llywelyn and his nobles, thus abandoning Davydd and his claims. He now sought to make the connection between the Welsh prince and himself closer by the marriage of Llywelyn to Joan, his illegitimate daughter [see Joan, d. 1237]. Already, in 1205, John had conferred on Llywelyn as part of her marriage portion the castle of Ellesmere, the old gift of Henry II to Davydd ab Owain and his wife (Rot. Chart, i. 147). At Ascensiontide 1206 the marriage was celebrated (Worcester Annals, p. 394).

In 1207 John and Llywelyn combined against Gwenwynwyn. While the king seized Gwenwynwyn at Shrewsbury, Llywelyn took possession of all his territory and castles. Thus master of the whole north by his conquest of Powys, Llywelyn now for the first time extended his power into South Wales. Maelgwn ab Rhys,lord of Ceredigion, sought to prevent his advance over the Dyvi, by razing the castles of Aberystwith and Ystradmeurig. This did not stop Llywelyn's advance. He took possession of Aberystwith, and speedily repaired the ruined castle. He conquered all Ceredigion north of the Aeron, retaining Penwedig in his own hands, and