Said to have been "Prince of Fferlys" in the era of Gruffudd ap Cynan of Gwynedd and Bleddyn ap Cynfyn of Powys, Elystan was included as one of the five founders of "Royal Tribes of Wales" when that list was compiled in the 12th century. He is wholly absent from the chronicles and annals of Wales, where not even his obit is recorded. His only mention in John Lloyd's classic "History of Wales" is a note on page 406 where he says "of whom nothing is recorded on any good authority".
After reading what various medieval writers say about Elystan, one can certainly agree they were anything but "good authority". His bogus biography can be summed up as:
"Elystan Glodrydd, King of Gloucester and Hereford, and by conquest King of Fferlix, which is the territory between the Wye and the Severn. This district Elystan won from Dryffin ap Hwgan, King of Brecknock....He was born in the castle of Hereford, AD 933, and was named after the Saxon king Athelstan, who was his godfather. He was living in AD 1010 but was killed in a civil broil at Cefn Digoll in Powys".
It is only in early pedigree manuscripts where we learn a man named Elystan and called Glodrydd was a son of Cuhelyn ap Ifor ap Seferus ap Cadwr and descended from Tegonwy ap Teon. His father apparently held the cantref of Buellt; it is only men descended from Elystan who we find holding the former Fferlys lands later called Radnor (comprising Ceri, Maelienydd and Elfael)....
.... It was [the] identification of Elystan's mother as only child and heiress of Gronwy ap Tudor Trefor, which gave rise to the false claims that Elystan was born in Hereford and became "king" of Hereford and Gloucester.... [The] notion that Tudor Trevor's lands extended south to Hereford and Gloucester came from misidentifying the mother of Tudor Trefor as a lady from that region. His mother was Rienigar ferch Lluddoca ap Caradog Freich Fras of Rhos, not the 6th century Caradog Freich Fras of southeast Wales. Not only did Tudor Trefor not own any lands south of the Severn, his son Gronwy predeceased him and thus never held any of his father's lands. The tale that Tudor's "Hereford lands" went to his granddaughter was concocted to explain why no such lands were found in possession of his surviving sons. But if Rienigar inherited any land from her father, it was in Rhos....not near Hereford.
Accordingly, the "biography" of Elystan Glodrydd falsely places him in Hereford and Gloucester. It is also untrue that he was born during the reign of Saxon king Athelstan, who died in 942 and could not have been his godfather. This tale owes its origin to the similarity between the names "Elystan" and "Athelstan"...the men were wholly unconnected. The territory called Fferlys had been owned by Elystan's paternal ancestors for over 500 years. If it were in the hands of the Brecknock kings at Elystan's birth, he did no more than recover a part of his patrimony which had been seized earlier by outsiders. But no early sources confirm this tale.
The claim that Elystan was killed in 1010 in a civil broil is found in a footnote in Dwnn i, 139 written by it's editor, Sir Samuel Meyrick. He gave no source for the claim, but other late manuscripts say he lived until 1067. We would reject the 1010 obit outright (although some man named Elystan may have been killed then) since his son and heir, Cadwgan, was not born until c. 1020. While the 1067 obit sounds reasonable, it is little more than a medieval writer's guess.
What we can say with some certainty is that we don't know of a single event in the life of Elystan Glodrydd. Evidence that he once existed is confined to the pedigree manuscripts. Even there, we find evidence of two men called Elystan, each having a son named Cadwgan. One was born c. 955 in Powys, the other born c. 990 in south Wales...probably in Buellt. The latter is probably the one who was given the nickname "Glodrydd" or "the illustrous" for unknown reasons.
That two men were conflated by the genealogists can be seen by the wives assigned to Elystan and his son Cadwgan. Numerous Dwnn citations say Elystan married Gwenllian ferch Einion ap Owain ap Hywel Dda, while two of those same sources say he also married Gwladys ferch Rhun ap Ednowain. Gwenllian was born c. 970, while we date Gwladys to c. 1005. Also, two separate coats of arms are assigned to a father-son pair named Elystan and Cadwgan: Argent 3 boar's heads couped sable, and Gules a lion rampant reguardent or. The first coat is very similar to the arms of Ednowain Bendew of Tegeingl, which inserts a chevron between the boar's heads. We suggest the Elystan and Cadwgan who are assigned these arms shared common ancestors with Ednowain Bendew. The other coat, we think, belongs to the Buellt/Fferlys men who lived a generation later than the Powys men with the same names. 7