Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rhys ap Tewdwr

RHYS ap TEWDWR (d. 1093), Welsh king, was the son of Tewdwr ap Cadell ab Einon ab Owain ap Hywel Dda (Gir. Cambr. Descr. Kambr. i. 3; Jesus Coll. MS. 20, in Cymrodor, viii. 88). Late authorities, such as David Powel and Lewis Dwnn (Visitations, ii. 16), omit Cadell, and by making Rhys a son of the Tewdwr ab Einon who died about 994 (Annales Cambriæ), would have it understood he performed the active deeds of his short reign between the ages of ninety and a hundred. He became king of South Wales on the death of Rhys ab Owain, his second cousin, in 1078; according to the untrustworthy ‘Gwentian Brut,’ he came from Brittany; but ‘Brut Ieuan Brechfa,’ another late authority, says it was from Ireland, while the other Bruts give no hint that he was an exile at all. For two or three years after his accession he was harassed by the attacks of Caradog ap Gruffydd ap Rhydderch, who had now made himself master of the greater part of Gwent and Morgannwg. According to the twelfth-century life of Gruffydd ap Cynan (1055?–1137) [q. v.], that prince found him in 1081, when he landed at Porth Clais, near St. David's, a refugee in the cathedral precincts, willing to promise homage and the half of his realm to Gruffydd in return for assistance. While this part of the story may have been coloured by the biographer's provincial zeal, it is certain the two princes marched together against Caradog ap Gruffydd, Trahaearn ap Caradog, and Meilyr ap Rhiwallon, who met them at Mynydd Carn, a place not yet identified (though it cannot be Carno in Montgomeryshire, as popularly supposed), but probably to be looked for in South Cardiganshire (Cymrodor, xi. 167). There a decisive battle was fought, in which Caradog, Trahaearn, and Meilyr fell, and the crowns of Gwynedd and of Deheubarth were permanently secured to the descendants of Gruffydd and of Rhys respectively. Gruffydd's biographer alleges that he was distrusted by Rhys, who withdrew from him after the battle, and that in revenge he ravaged Rhys's lands. Rhys was again involved in civil strife in 1088, when Madog, Cadwgan, and Rhiryd, sons of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, drove him into exile. Before the end of the year, however, he returned with Irish assistance, and defeated the three in the battle of ‘Pen Lethereu,’ in which Madog and Rhiryd fell. Another movement, due to the conduct of the relatives of Cadifor ap Collwyn of Dyfed, who set up Gruffydd ap Maredudd against Rhys, was crushed in 1091 at the battle of Llan Dudoch (St. Dogmel's). The Normans were now beginning that vigorous attack on South Wales which marked the reign of William Rufus, and in the Easter week of 1093 (17–23 April) Rhys met the new settlers of Brecknock in battle, and was slain. Both Florence of Worcester and the Welsh Bruts use language which implies that the blow was believed in that age to have put an end to kingship among the Welsh; Dyfed and Ceredigion were at once invaded by the Normans, and many years went by ere the descendants of Rhys were able to restore the principality of South Wales. Rhys married Gwladys, daughter of Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn (Brut y Tywysogion, Oxford edit. p. 281), and left three children: Gruffydd, who after many years succeeded him; Hywel, who was imprisoned by Arnulf Montgomery, but escaped with some bodily injury (ib. p. 295); and Nest, who married Gerald of Windsor.

The circumstantial account given in the ‘Gwentian Brut’ and in Powel's ‘Historie’ of the relations between Rhys and Iestyn ap Gwrgant of Glamorgan appears to be without historical authority. So, too, is the statement found in the Iolo MSS. (p. 215) that Rhys brought over from Brittany the ‘system of the round table,’ with rules for the bards as they were observed in Arthur's time.

[Annales Cambriæ; Bruts in Myvyrian Archaiology, 2nd edit.; Florence of Worcester; Powel's Historie of Cambria; Life of Gruffydd ap Cynan in Myv. Arch.; Freeman's Norman Conquest and William Rufus.]

J. E. L.