Family in context

The family of Elystan in historical context

with a record of some of his early descendants

The first chart below shows the traditional descent of Elystan Glodrydd from the legendary Casnar Wledig (Casnar the Ruler), through Iorwerth Hirflawdd (of the long struggle), whose father Tegonwy was ancestor of the Princes of Powys who descend from Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, King of Gwynedd & Powys. Elystan’s connections to the dynasty of Gwynedd and Powys, and his legendary descent from Macsen Wledig is also shown for interest, in addition to the genealogical connection between Cadwgan ab Elystan and Iestyn ap Gwrgant. Iestyn was the last of the descendants of Saint Tewdrig (i.e. Theodoric), King of Glywysing, to rule the region of Morgannwg.

One of the branches of Bleddyn’s family, the rulers of northern Powys (Powys Fadog) produced that great Welsh Prince Owain Glyndŵr. The southern branch (Powys Wenwynwyn) produced Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn whose direct descendants were the only native Welsh dynasty to have retained large landholdings - the present day Earls of Powis descend from him through female lines and built Powis Castle on the site of one of the earlier Princes’ fortresses. 

Another dynasty descended from Iorwerth Hirflawdd were the Princes of Arwystli, one of whom - Trahaearn ap Caradog seized the throne of Gwynedd and was finally overthrown by Gruffudd ap Cynan and Rhys ap Tewdwr (see page on the five royal tribes). 

The chart below provides details of Elystan’s ancestry and dynastic connections, of which much more is written about both within the narrative and on the more detailed chart further below. The context within which Elystan and others established new royal dynasties, and the history of Wales from the 11th century onwards, cannot be truly understood without knowledge of the dynastic and family relationships between the various kings, princes and other rulers of Wales throughout this period of history. Genealogy was of crucial importance and makes sense of much that history, devoid of knowledge of family relationships, might otherwise find confusing or surprising.

As has already been recorded, Elystan Glodrydd is supposed to have died during a conflict on Long Mountain in the year 1010. His heir was his son Cadwgan ab Elystan, of whom almost nothing is known other than he is said to have inherited his father’s possessions, and he is traditionally referred to as Lord of Radnor. Cadwgan’s mother was Gwenllian, daughter of Einion ab Owain ap Hywel Dda. But there are some records that claim his mother was Gladys, daughter of Rhun son of Ednowain Bendew, Lord of Tegaingl (approximating to modern day Flintshire) - perhaps Gladys was another wife of Elystan. 

The history of Cadwgan’s descendants was one of continual conflict with the house of Mortimer, based in Wigmore, which was ruthless in its efforts to supplant the line of Elystan. The survival of Cadwgan’s successors, who faced intense Norman pressure and competition from the kingdoms of Powys, Gwynedd and Deheubarth was remarkable. Elystan’s family is something of a forgotten dynasty in Wales, ruling in an area riven by chaos and conflict and it is a tribute to their tenacity that their influence in the area lasted through to the end of the 13th Century.

There are a number of views on who Cadwgan married and it is quite likely that he could have married more than once. The names of his wives that are found in various reords are: an un-named daughter of Rhun ap Cynan, Margaret daughter of Brochwel ap Aiddan, and lastly (the more accepted claim) Efa (i.e. Eva), daughter of Gwrgant ab Ithel and sister of Iestyn ap Gwrgant. Iestyn was the founder of another of the five ‘Royal Tribes of Wales’ and Prince of Morgannwg, the area now known as ‘Glamorgan’. Iestyn’s first wife is sometimes recorded as having been Angharad ferch (i.e. daughter of) Elystan Glodrydd, thus making Cadwgan and Iestyn brothers-in-law. 

Cadwgan and Efa had several sons including: Idnerth, whose descendants were centered on Maelienydd and Elfael, Llywelyn who has a son called Sitsyllt, Lord of Buellt whose descendants are mostly found in the cantref of Buellt and include the Cadogan family - Earls of Cadogan; Goronwy, whose son Hywel carved out a short-lived new ‘kingdom’ in south Wales; Hoedlyw from whom the well known Philip Dorddu and his family descend from; and Ieuaf from whom a number of families in Ceri and the nearby districts of Shropshire descended. Some histories have written that Cadwgan founded the Cistertian Abbey of Cwm Hir, but this is not correct - as will be shown, another member of the family founded it much later. Cadwgan is also said to have founded three churches dedicated to St. Michael at Kerry, Cefnllys, and Llanfihangel-bryn-pab-ifan.

What became of Cadwgan ab Elystan Glodrydd is not known, but as has been said above it is supposed that he had died sometime before the time of Bleddyn as records only speak of his sons activities.

However, inside the church of St. Dogfan Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Montgomeryshire is an impressive 9th century rectangular cross-slab, with intricate carving (see picture on left). It was discovered in 1879 by a Professor Babington and Messrs Hartland and Robinson, built into the south western section of the wall of the south aisle of the church. In 1894 it was recorded standing upright inside the church near the vestry door and it is now located attached to the south wall of the south chancel. Although said to date from the 9th century, it was re-used and has a more recent inscription in the middle of the celtic cross carved on it. There has been a notice next to the stone detailing its history headed ‘The Cwgan Stone’, which gives a transcription of the inscription as CO(CORG)OM FILIUS EDELSTAN, with the suggestion that it could commemorate Cwgan, son of Edelstan. Historian Paul Remfry has recorded the words as:

+ Cogom Filiu Edelstan

He has suggested that ‘Cogom’ could well be shorthand for Cadwgan, rather than Cwgan. If not, then the person referred to is almost certain to have been another son of Elystan Glodrydd. The cross before his name signifies that he was a Bishop. An early monastery occupied the site before the church was built here and the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust has seen the cross as a vivid reminder of this earlier history of the place. Now whether Cogom (or Cadwgan) was buried at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant is questionable. It is possible that the stone was moved from another place, but we shall probably never know. Pictures of the stone can be seen on the ‘Monuments’ page of this website.

After the death of Cadwgan, his sons became entwined in the struggles that resulted from the death of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn and the rise and fall of his half brother Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, who was a cousin of Cadwgan ab Elystan.

It was after the killing in 1075 of Bleddyn, then the most powerful and the dominant ruler of much of Wales, that a series of dynastic struggles and petty wars developed across Wales - Trahaearn became de facto ruler of much of Wales, having been a cousin of Bleddyn. The family of Cadwgan ab Elystan, having been closely related to, and great supporters of Bleddyn were intricately involved in the resulting warfare - Elystan was not only first cousin to Bleddyn’s mother Angharad as well as being a kinsman who shared descent with Bleddyn from the family of Iorwerth Hirflawdd.

The chart below connects with and adds to the one above, and it illustrates the dynastic connections that created much of the fierce competition for succession and power, both before and after the death of Bleddyn. What followed could be said to be a continuation of the struggle for inheritance to the kingdom and patrimony of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, who was killed in 1055, after successfully uniting all of Wales under his rule - the only Welsh King to have achieved this. The resulting history and emergence to power of Gruffudd’s half-brother Bleddyn ap Cynfyn and the family of Cadwgan ab Elystan has to be seen in this context.

Please note, the chart is purely illustrative and has therefore missed out a lot of people who would otherwise appear in each generation.

With Trahaearn, the family of Elystan sought revenge for, and dynastic advantage from Bleddyn’s death at the hands of rulers in south Wales. It seems likely that Cadwgan ab Elystan had died by this time; his sons were active in the battles that took place during this period. The Brut y Tywysogyon (Chronicle of the Princes - the Welsh equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) records the following (taken from the Red Book of Hergest version translated by Thomas Jones 1955):

[ - 1075]

And then Bleddyn ap Cynfyn was slain by Rhys ab Owain through the treachery of the evil-spirited rulers and chief men [the Welsh word used is: Uchelwyr, which equates to the English word ‘nobles’ but literally translates as ‘high men’] of Ystrad Tywi - the man who, after Gruffudd, his brother, eminently held the whole kingdom of the Britons. And after him Trahaearn ap Caradog, his first cousin, ruled over the kingdom of the men of Gwynedd; and Rhys ab Owain and Rhydderch ap Caradog held Deheubarth. And then Gruffudd ap Cynan, grandson of Iago, besieged Anglesey, and the men of Gwynedd slew Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon.

    And then was the battle in the Camddwr between Goronwy and Llewelyn, sons of Cadwgan [i.e. Cadwgan ab Elystan Glodrydd],and Caradog ap Gruffudd along with Rhydderch ap Caradog [i.e. Rhydderch ap Caradog of Gwynllwg]. [And Goronwy and Llywelyn were defeated, and Caradog] along with them.

       In that year was the battle of Bron-yr-erw between Gruffudd [i.e. Gruffudd ap Cynan] and Trahaearn.

[- 1076]

And then Rhydderch ap Caradog was slain by his first cousin Meirchion ap Rhys ap Rhydderch, through treachery.

[- 1077]

And then was the battle of ‘Gweunotyll’ between [Goronwy] and Llewelyn, sons of Cadwgan, and Rhys ab Owain and Rhydderch ap Caradog, who prevailed a second time. 

[- 1077]

And then was the battle of Pwllgwdig. And then Trahaearn, king of Gwynedd, prevailed; and through the grace of God he avenged the blood of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, who was the gentlest and most merciful of kings; and he would do no harm to anyone unless injury were done to him, and when injury was done, it was against his will that he would avenge the injury; he was gentle towards his kinsmen and a defender of orphans and of the weak and of widows, and the strength of the learned and the honour and foundation of the churches, and the comfort of the lands, and generous towards all; terrible in war and loveable in peace, and a defence for all. And then all Rhys’s war-band fell, he himself being a fugitive like a frightened stag before the hounds through the brakes and the rocks.

        And at the close of that year Rhys and Hywel, his brother, were slain by Caradog ap Gruffudd [i.e. Caradog ap Gruffudd ap Rhydderch ab Iestyn, a nephew of Caradog ap Rhydderch ab Iestyn of Gwynllwg]. And then Sulien resigned his bishopric, and Abraham assumed it.

[- 1079]

And then Rhys ap Tewdwr began to rule.

[- 1080]

And Menevia [i.e. St. David’s] was woefully ravaged by the Gentiles. And Abraham, Bishop of Menevia, died. And Sulien, against his will, assumed the bishopric a second time.

[- 1081]

And then there was a battle on Mynydd Carn. And then Trahaearn ap Caradog and Caradog ap Gruffudd [and Meilyr ap Rhiwallon] were slain [by Rhys ap Tewdwr. And Gruffudd,] grandson of Iago, and Irish along with him [came] to help him. And Gwrgeneu ap Seisyll was slain through treachery by the sons of Rhys Sais. And then William the Bastard, king of the Saxons and the French and the Britons, came on a pilgrimage to Menevia to offer prayers. 

[- 1088]

And then Rhys ap Tewdwr was expelled from his kingdom by the sons of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, that is, Madog, Cadwgan and Rhiddid. And he fled to Ireland. And forthwith after that he assembled a fleet and came back again. And then the battle of ‘Llychcrei’ took place, and the sons of Bleddyn were slain; and Rhys ap Tewdwr gave immense treasure to the seamen, Scots and Irish, who had come to his aid.

The records above confirm that Goronwy and Llywelyn the sons of Cadwgan ab Elystan lost two key battles against the enemies of Trahaearn (and of Bleddyn before him). In the first they fought with an ally - Caradog ap Gruffudd, against Caradog’s cousin Rhydderch, who was an ally of Rhys ab Owain ab Edwin ab Einion ab Owain ap Hywel Dda. In the second battle, the brothers appear to have fought against Rhys ab Owain himself and Rhydderch ap Caradog. These two defeats must have blunted their power. If they had won, who knows what may have resulted. But later history would suggest the family played their cards cleverly in an effort to retain their ancestral lands, caught as they were between Norman invasion, and rivalry between the more dominant Welsh kingdoms of Powys, Gwynedd and Deheubarth.

The exact location of the battle in the Camddwr is not entirely known, but is supposed to have been where the river Camddwr met the Tywi, a spot now covered by the waters of Llyn Brianne reservoir. This area was in the strategic borderlands of Powys, Deheubarth and Rhwng Gwy a Hafren. Lloyd’s map (see Geography page) shows the location of Cwmwd Deuddwr, a cantref in Rhwng Gwy a Hafren, north of Buellt which was the part of Elystan’s patrimony that was ruled by Llywelyn ap Cadwgan. He and his brother would have crossed from Cwmwd Deuddwr into the territory of Rhys ab Owain - the Camddwr. The location of the second battle the sons of Cadwgan lost is also uncertain. But south west of Dolaucothi, itself some distance south west of Llyn Brianne, is a farm called Glaunwythwl where interesting artifacts have been found, including a much older stone with the name of Pawlin on it - that man, better known as Paulinus, was St. David’s teacher. If this farm was the site of the battle, it means that Goronwy and Llywelyn had bravely raided well inside Deheubarth, threatening Rhys ab Owain’s home territory. They may have successfully sprung back from their earlier defeat, but they brought Rhys and his host to battle against them and were clearly unable to withstand that force.

The period was very complicated and finally came to an end on the death of Trahaearn in 1081 at the historically significant Battle of Mynydd Carn, which was won by Gruffudd ap Cynan of Gwynedd and his ally Rhys ap Tewdwr of Deheubarth. The family of Cadwgan ab Elystan thereby lost their influential patron and supporter, but it was not the end of their story - far from it, for the conflict with the Mortimers and others that would last across the Middle March for over 200 hundred years was about to begin. Into a Wales riven by years of internal conflict came the Normans.

From the 1090s, the family of Cadwgan were at the centre of most of the conflicts between the Normans and Welsh. In 1094 the Brut y Tywysogyon records that William Rufus was in Normandy to protect it in the absence of his brother Robert who was on crusade. The Welsh siezed this window of opportunity, just as they were to do over the succeeding centuries, as this extract from that year’s chronicle records:

[- 1094]    

...........Whilst William stayed in Normandy, the Britons threw off the rule of the French, being unable to suffer their tyranny, and they destroyed their castles in Gwynedd and devised plunderings and slaughters against them. And then the French led hosts into Gwynedd; and Cadwgan ap Bleddyn met them and attacked and defeated them, and overthrew and subdued them with great slaughter. And that battle was fought in Coedysbwys. And at the close of that year the Britons destroyed all the castles of Ceredigion and Dyfed except two, that is, Pembroke and Rhyd-y-gors.

It is clear from the Brut that Cadwgan’s family were operating in southern Wales, and Pembroke was to know them:

[1092- 1096]    

..........And the French moved a host to Gwent; but they returned empty-handed having gained naught. And as they were returning they were slain by the Britons at a place called Celli Carnant. And after that the French moved a host to Brycheiniog and thought to ravage the whole land, but, having failed to accomplish their thoughts, as they were returning they were slain by the sons of Idnerth ap Cadwgan [ab Elystan], Gruffudd and Ifor, in the place called Aber-llech. And the inhabitants stayed in their houses unafraid although the castles were still intact and the garrisons in them.

    In that year Uchryd ab Edwin and Hywel ap Goronwy [ap Cadwgan ab Elystan] and many other chieftans along with them, and several of the war-band of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, made for the castle of Pembroke and plundered it of all its cattle and ravaged the whole land; and they returned home with vast spoil.

[1095- 1099]    

The year after that, Cadwgan ap Bleddyn and Gruffudd ap Cynan returned from Ireland. And after that they had made peace with the French they seized part of the land: Cadwgan ap Bleddyn took Ceredigion and a portion of Powys, and Gruffudd obtained Anglesey. And then Llywelyn ap Cadwgan [ab Elystan] was slain by the men of Brycheiniog [in 1099]. And Hywel ab Ithel went to Ireland.

[1097- 1101]    

........And in that year died Goronwy ap Cadwgan [ab Elystan] and Owain ap Gruffudd.

In the reign of Henry I, one of Elystan’s family was given a new ‘kingdom’ to rule by Henry, who was using his patrimony to introduce a new settlement in south Wales, as the following extract from the Brut records:

[1100- 1102]    

........And he [i.e. King Henry I] gave Ystrad Tywi and Cydweli and Gower to Hywel ap Goronwy [ap Cadwgan ab Elystan].

As the map below illustrates*, this was an extraordinary advance in good fortune and power, which gave Hywel greater lands than any of the descendants of Elystan Glodrydd. The political map of Wales could have changed significantly if these changes enacted by Henry I had lasted. (* reference caveat about the map’s accuracy in relation to the period, previously mentioned on the ‘Geography’ page)

But it is very probable that Henry I deliberately planned to create division within Wales by his redistribution of land. He must have known that the Welsh tradition of inheritance and the Norman claims on parts of this area of Wales would have resulted in dispute and conflict that would ultimately make his plans unacceptable and unsustainable. So, as might have been expected, Hywel’s luck didn’t last, despite his clear talent for military and political command, and he was ejected from his recently won lands, much of which he probably hadn’t been able to fully take hold of. This is how the Brut records it:

[1102- 1105]    
The following year died Owain ab Edwin after a long illness and long languishing. And then Richard fitz Baldwin provisioned the castle of Rhyd-y-gors. And Hywel ap Goronwy, to whom king Henry had entrusted the custody of Ystrad Tywi and Rhyd-y-gors, was expelled from his territory. And he gathered spoils, burning houses with people in them, and ravaging nearly all the lands, and slaying many of the French who were returning home. And he encompassed the land on all sides and occupied it, but the castle remained undisturbed with its garrison in it.

Hywel’s ferocious response and the grievance of those from whom Henry I had taken lands to give to Hywel probable explain what happened next:

[- 1106]    

That year Hywel ap Goronwy was slain through treachery by the French who were in Rhyd-y-gors. It was Gwgan ap Merig, the man who was nurturing a son of Hywel’s and in whom Hywel placed greater trust than in anyone, who wrought his betrayel in this wise. Gwgan called Hywel to his house and invited him in, and he sent to the castle and called the French to him, and informed them of an appointed place wherein to wait for a time during the night. And they came about cock-crow and surrounded the hamlet and the house where Hywel was. And they raised a shout, and with the shout Hywel vigorously awoke and sought his arms and awoke his comrades and called upon them. And the sword which he had placed at the head of his bed, and his spear at his feet, Gwgan had removed whilst he was sleeping. And Hywel sought out his comrades to fight and thought they were ready. But they had fled at the first shout. And then he too, had to flee. And Gwgan closely pursued him until he caught him, and as he had promised. And when Gwgan’s comrades came to him, they strangled Hywel; and they brought the strangled man well-nigh dead to the French. And after they had cut off his head, they returned to the castle.

Some years later, in a very long passage of the Brut, much of it about Powys, there appears the earliest written historical reference to Elystan Glodrydd himself; this comes after a section about the death of Owain ap Cadwgan ap Bleddyn:

[1112- 1115]    

And after he had been slain, his brothers held his portion of Powys, except what Owain had before that taken from Maredudd ap Bleddyn, that is, Caereinion, which belonged before that to Madog ap Rhiddid. And these are his brothers’ names, to wit: Madog, son of Cadwgan by Gwenllian, daughter of Gruffudd ap Cynan; and Einion, son of Cadwgan by Sannan, daughter of Dyfnwal; and third was Morgan, son of Cadwgan by Ellylw, daughter of Cedifor ao Gollwyn, the man who had been supreme lord over the land of Dyfed; the fourth was Henry, son of Cadwgan by the Frenchwoman, his wife, daughter of Picot, a leader of the French; and by her he had another son called Gruffudd; the sixth was Maredudd by Euron, daughter of Hoedlyw ap Cadwgan ab Elystan

King Henry I died in 1135 and Stephen became king since there was no immediate support for a woman - Henry’s daughter ‘The Empress’ Matilda - to inherit the throne. But the tide changed and a long civil war soon ensued, which would come to involve the family of Cadwgan ab Elystan.

However, returning to Idnerth ap Cadwgan ab Elystan, he is supposed to have been the eldest son - whether this is true or not, he and his family appear to have inherited and ruled most of the parts of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren. Idnerth had a number of sons, perhaps eight, of whom the eldest was Madog ab Idnether. Madog succeeded his father and was the last of the family to rule over a kingdom that comprised a united Maelienydd and Elfael. Like his father and uncles before him, he became involved in the ongoing battles of the day, for control of Wales, as these excerpts from the Brut illustrate:



    After that Owain and Cadwaladr, sons of Gruffudd ap Cynan, moved a mightly, fierce host into Ceredigion - the men who were the splendour of all the Britons, and their security and their strength and their freedom........... and were jointly upholding together the whole kingdom of the Britons. Those in the first attack burned Walter’s Castle. And thereupon, with their wings stirred, they laid siege to the castle of Aberystwyth and burned it. And along with Hywel ap Mareudd and Madog ab Idnerth and the two sons of Hywel, namely Maredudd and Rhys, they burned the castle of Caerwedros. And thence they returned home.

    At the close of that year they came a second time to Ceredigion, and along with them a numerous force of picked warriors, about six thousand fine foot-soldiers and two thousand mailed horsemen most brave and ready for battle. And to their aid came Gruffudd ap Rhys and Hywel ap Maredudd from Brycheiniog and Madog ab Idnerth and the two sons of Hywel ap Maredudd. And all those united together directed their forces to Cardigan. 

Madog died in 1140. He had five sons. Two of these, Hywel ap Madog and Cadwgan ap Madog, were killed in 1142 by Helias of Say, who was Lord of Clun. Another son, Maredudd ap Madog died in 1146, having been killed in 1146 by Hugh Mortimer. The Brut records his death as follows:



And then Maredudd ap Madog an Idnerth was slain by Hugh de Mortimer.

Madog ab Idnerth's remaining two sons had greater success than their siblings. Cadwallon ap Madog became Prince of Maelienydd, the northern part of his father’s old kingdom and Einion Clud became Prince of Elfael, the southern part of their father’s larger kingdom. 

It is clear that the two brothers did not always get on well, for in 1160, Cadwallon seized his own brother Einion and handed him over to Owain Gwynedd (ap Gruffudd ap Cynan), Prince of Gwynedd. This was the same year that Cadwallon’s father-in-law died - Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys. Here is how the Brut records it:


The following year died Madog ap Maredudd, lord of Powys, - the man who was of great renown, whom God had fashioned with incomparable beauty and endowed with matchless wisdom and graced with bravery and renown; meek and kind and generous towards the poor, pleasant towards the meek, harsh and warlike towards his adversaries - after doing healing penance and receiving the communion of the Body of Christ and extreme unction. And in Meifod, where his burial-place was, in the church of St. Tysilio, he was honourably buried.

    It was not long after that till Llywelyn ap Madog, his son, the man who was the only hope for all the men of Powys, was slain. And then Cadwallon ap Madog ab Idnerth seized Einion Clud, his brother, and sent him into the custody of Owain Gwynedd. And Owain delivered him to the French. [this meant to King Henry II of England]

Clearly, Einion must have done something wrong against the King of England’s interests, leaving Owain Gwynedd obliged to hand him over. Whatever, Einion escaped from his custody and became reconciled to his brother Cadwallon since in 1163 they rallied to the banner of Owain Gwynedd at Corwen. There Owain had managed to gather perhaps the greatest Welsh army ever, in order to counter successfully an invasion by Henry II. The Brut refers indirectly to Cadwallon and Einion, as follows:


The following year Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd ravaged Tegeingl, and he removed the people and their cattle with him into Dyffryn Clwyd. And when the king had thought that there would be fighting against his castles which were in Tegeingl, he moved a host in great haste and came to Rhuddlan and encamped there for three nights. And after that he returned to England and gathered along with him a mighty host of the picked warriors of England and Normandy and Flanders and Anjou and Gascony and all Scotland; and he came as far as Oswestry, purposing to carry into bondage and to destroy all the Britons. And to meet him came Owain Gwynedd and Cadwaladr, sons of Gruffudd ap Cynan, and all the host of Gwynedd along with them, and The Lord Rhys ap Gruffudd and all Deheubarth along with him, and Owain Cyfeiliog and Iorwerth Goch ap Maredudd and the sons of Madog ap Maredudd and all Powys along with them, and the two sons of Madog ap Idnerth and all their might along with them [these were Cadwallon ap Madog, Prince of Maelineydd and his brother Einion Clud, Prince of Elfael]. And all steadfastly united together they came into Edeirnion, and they encamped at Corwen. 

In the years that followed, Cadwallon and Einion came under the patronage and influence of their kinsman ‘The Lord Rhys’ ap Gruffudd, Prince of Deheubarth, grandson of Rhys ap Tewdwr.

In 1175, the two brothers accompanied The Lord Rhys to Henry II’s court at Gloucester, as the Brut records:



    And then the Lord Rhys ap Gruffudd prepared to go to the king’s court at Gloucester. And he took along with him, by the king’s counsel, all the princes of the South who had been in opposition to the king, to wit: Cadwallon ap Madog of Maelienydd, his first-cousin [i.e. Rhys’s cousin*], and Einion Clud of Elfael, his son-in-law [i.e. Rhys’s son-in-law], and Morgan, son of Caradog ap Iestyn of Glamorgan by Gwladus, his sister [i.e. Rhys’s sister], and Gruffudd ab Ifor ap Meurig of Senghenydd, his nephew by Nest, his sister [i.e. Rhys’s sister], and Iorwerth ab Owain of Caeleon and Seisyll ap Dynfal of Gwent Uwch-Coed, the man who was then married to Gwladus, sister to the Lord Rhys. All those princes returned to their lands peacefully along with the Lord Rhys, the man who was a most beloved friend of the king at that time, after Caerleon had been restored to Iorwerth ab Owain. 

* Rhys ap Gruffudd had married Gwenllian, a daughter of Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys. Gwenllian’s sister Efa had married Cadwallon ap Madog. So Rhys’s wife was Cadwallon’s sister-in-law and vice versa.

In 1176 Cadwallon re-founded the Cistercian Abbey of Cwm Hir (of the Long Valley) - he is supposed to have originally founded the Abbey in 1143 with his two brothers Einion Clud Prince of Elfael, and Maredudd ap Madog. The later date of 1176 probably resulted from a false-start in 1143, perhaps as a result of interruption from conflict in the area caused by Mortimer incursions. The foundation of the Abbey could perhaps be read as a clear sign of the family’s strength and confidence at this time, bolstered by the patronage and support of The Lord Rhys and also their close kinship and alliances with the Princes of Powys and Gwynedd.

Later that same year (1176), The Lord Rhys (Rhys ap Gruffudd, prince of Deheubarth) organised an historic Christmas gathering at Cardigan Castle, at which he held his famous Eisteddfod. Einion Clud ap Madog was one of the Princes who attended. On his way back home in new year 1177, Einion was ambushed and killed, it is supposed by the Mortimers men.

The place he was killed is marked today above Rheaedr (Rhayader) by an ancient standing stone called Maen Serth (see picture below), sometimes called The Prince’s Stone, which once had a cross carved on it. The last sight that Einion is likely to have seen was the view of his beautiful homelands stretching into the distance.

Cadwallon married his cousin Efa, daughter of Madog ap Maredudd ap Bleddyn, Prince of Powys, had three sons. After the death of his brother Einion Clud, Cadwallon took control of Elfael and became Prince of that region. He became quite powerful, but just as he reached the peak of his power, he was murdered on 22nd September 1179, whilst he was travelling back from the King’s court, by the men of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore. The King was furious, since Cadwallon had been travelling with the King’s protection, so Roger Mortimer was imprisoned for two years in Winchester Castle and the men involved in the Prince’s killing were hunted down, caught and brought to justice. Maelgwn ap Cadwallon succeeded his father as Prince of Maelienydd. He took the cross to go on crusade in 1188 (but sensibly, perhaps, stayed at home to guard against the Mortimer mice playing whilst the the cat was away!). He died in 1197 and his son Cadwallon, who had taken the habit and become a monk at Abbey Cwm Hir died in 1234. His younger son Maredudd ap Maelgwn became Prince of Maelineydd.

Einion Clud, Prince of Elfael had two sons: the elder - Einion ab Einion Clud usually known as Einion o'r Porth married Susanna, a daughter of ‘the Lord Rhys’, Prince of Deheubarth, and succeeded his father as Prince of Elfael in 1177. Like Maelgwn ap Cadwallon, he took the cross in 1188 but stayed at home. He died in 1191.

Cadwgan ab Elystan Glodrydd’s third son, Llywelyn, had a son called Sitsyllt who became Lord of Buellt and is the ancestor of the Cadogan family - Earls of Cadogan, amongst others.

                                       [...................very much unfinished - to be continued and completed................]

In the 13th and 14th centuries the Norman family of Mortimer, which from an early date had encroached upon the lands of Elystan’s dynasty and fought against them, eventually succeeded in acquiring complete possession of the family’s lands and these then formed the foundation of the Mortimers great estates. This historical background is reflected in the coat of arms of Radnorshire (granted in the 1950's) which are those of Elystan and his son Cadwgan, edged with the blue and gold bordure of the arms of the Mortimers. 

In his History of Wales (1993), John Davies wrote:

In the lands between the rivers Wye and Severn - the southern part of Powys but a region detached from that kingdom under circumstances which are difficult to interpret - lay the cantrefi of Elfael, Gwrtheyrnion and Maelienydd; they were ruled by the descendants of Elstan Glodrydd, the founder of one of the five lineages which later antiquarions would delight in calling the five royal tribes of Wales..............Gwenwynwyn (Prince of Powys Wenwynwyn c.1190's).....saw himself as fulfilling the role once undertaken by Rhys ap Gruffudd - that of defending the power of the Welsh rulers of the region between the rivers Wye and Severn. There the Mortimer and de Breos families were seeking to uproot the authority of the descendants of Elstan Glodrydd with a ferocity unparalleled in the bloody chronicle of the March