Rhys "Fychan" AP GRUFFUDD, Prince of Deheubarth 1 2
- Born: Abt 1127, Dynevor Castle, Llandilo, Carmarthenshire, Wales
- Died: 28 Apr 1197
- Buried: St David's, Pebidiog, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Compiler's 23/26 x great-grandfather
Prince of Deheubarth 1153-1197
In south Wales a major development in the 12th century was the establishment of Rhys ap Gruffydd - known as The Lord Rhys - as the ruler of a reinvigorated kingdom of Deheubarth. After Gruffydd's death in 1137 his four sons worked closely together to defend and consolidate their territory. Each son, Anarawd, Cadell, Maredudd and Rhys took the lead in succession, and there seems to have been no discord between them. Their raids extended from west Wales to the lordship of Glamorgan. Anarawd was assassinated by men from north Wales in 1143; Cadell and his younger brothers achieved the reconquest of Ceredigion, making it once more part of Deheubarth, before Cadell was wounded so severely by Normans from Tenby that he was effectively removed from the political scene. Maredudd died in 1155, leaving Rhys as ruler of the southern kingdom.
It was a remarkably peaceful and bloodless succession. Between 1158 and 1165 Rhys was under heavy pressure from Henry II. He was persuaded to submit, despite the loss of territory involved when Ceredigion and Cantref Bychan were restored to their Norman lords. Immediate retaliation by Rhys and his kinsmen, an attempt to take Carmarthen in 1159, and a successful attack on Llandovery in 1162 pointed for Henry II a recurrent danger: the Welsh prince would not accept an enhanced Anglo-Norman presence in West Wales. For Rhys, submission and defiance were part of the dynamic border conflict. In the late 1160s the political climate in south Wales changed and Henry had to reassess the place of the Welsh prince and the marcher lords in his polity.
The change sprang from Richard Strongbow's interest in Ireland. Ireland was a magnet for men from west Wales, and in particular for the sons and grandsons of Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr. To check their independence in Ireland, Henry embarked on his own expedition in 1171; he and his successors retained a close interest in the Irish lands conquered by Anglo-Norman settlers, and royal officials played an important part in their affairs. In Wales, it was a valuable expedient for the king and the prince of Deheubarth to make common cause; how soon this was mooted is hard to say, but by the autumn of 1171 the terms of their rapprochement had been agreed. For Rhys, the first and most important result was the confirmation of his tenure of the lands he had conquered, Ceredigion, Cantref Bychan, Emlyn, and two commotes near Carmarthen. The final confirmation on his standing came with the style justiciar for south Wales; an English title which carried the clear delegation of royal authority was used to cover jurisdiction over Welsh leaders and communities which looked to Rhys from the lordships of Gwynllwg, Usk, Caerleon, Glamorgan, Elfael and Maelienydd.
While Henry lived, Rhys was a trusted agent and ally. For his part, Rhys was content to make the most of his relationship with the king, but he continued to think and act as an independent Welsh prince. He rebuilt Cardigan Castle for his own use, and he used marriage alliances to consolidate his position. As the 12th century drew to a close, Rhys was once again engaged in campaigning against the crown and the greater lords of the southern march, and at the same time he was deeply implicated in internal feuds among his kindred. These struggles presaged the decline of his dynasty and the eclipse of his kingdom. By the time of his death in 1197 he had been an active participant in war and politics for sixty years, and he had been the dominate ruling prince in Wales for more than forty years. 3
RHYS ap GRUFFYDD (1132-97), lord of Deheubarth, known in history as 'Yr Arglwydd Rhys' ('The Lord Rhys'), younger son of Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Tewdwr by Gwenllian, daughter of Gruffudd ap Cynan. He was only 4 years old when his father died and leadership of the revolt against Norman rule in South Wales passed to his half-brother—Anarawd and Cadell. As a youth of 13 he appears with his elder brother, Maredudd, fighting under Cadell's direction in 1146. The next ten years saw the old kingdom of Deheubarth reconstituted with the expulsion of the Clares from Ceredigion and the Cliffords from Cantref Bychan and Llandovery, and to this dominion Rhys succeeded as sole ruler in 1155 on the death of Maredudd, Cadell having been permanently incapacitated four years earlier. He assumed the mantle of the old kings of Deheubarth at a moment when the political situation in England had been transformed by the accession of Henry II, and this proved the dominant factor in Rhys' career throughout the next three decades. After some show of truculence he submitted to Henry in 1158, was deprived of Ceredigion and a large part of Ystrad Tywi, and was obliged to acknowledge the overlordship of the Crown over the ancestral territory in Cantref Mawr. The act of homage, it would appear, was accompanied by an agreement whereby Rhys finally dropped the title of king, for henceforth he is always referred to in the chronicles as 'the lord Rhys'—see Owain Gwynedd and Madog ap Maredudd.
For the next seven years intermittent revolts and truces reveal his restlessness and suppressed ambitions which once again found an outlet in the great rising of 1164-5 when, Henry being preoccupied at home, Rhys seized Ceredigion and Emlyn (including the fortresses of Cardigan and Kilgerran) and very soon re-established himself in the position from which he had been ousted in 1158. For the remainder of his life he was able to maintain unquestioned control of these territories, and, indeed, to add to them portions of Dyfed: that he was able to do so was due to a combination of favourable circumstances. There was little to fear from Powys or Gwynedd after 1170 in which year Owain Gwynedd died; at about the same time troublesome elements among the Norman settlers of Dyfed withdrew to take part in the Irish Conquest, a development which so alarmed Henry, whose prestige following Beckett's murder had fallen very low, that he sought Rhys' friendship. Confirmed in his tenure of Deheubarth, created justice of South Wales, and recognized as the leading native magnate of the time, Rhys laid aside all pretensions to the regal status of his ancestors, contented himself with the reality of power, co-operated loyally with Henry, and proceeded to set the fashion among Welsh rulers of adopting Norman ways in dress and domestic manners, as well as in matters of State. At Dinefwr, the ancient capital, a castle in the new style was begun, and at Cardigan there appeared another fortress of the same kind in which the renowned 'eisteddfod' of 1176 was held under his auspices. He lent his patronage to the new religious order of the time, showing his concern for the spiritual welfare of his people: Whitland enjoyed his protection, Strata Florida was virtually his creation, and Talley was his special and unique foundation.
His last years were darkened by the animosities of his sons, and by the indifference of the new administration under Richard I to the special position which he had hitherto held. Believing attack to be the surest means of defence, the old warrior resumed hostilities against his Norman neighbours, which continued to the end of his life. He d on 28 April 1197 and was buried in the cathedral church of S. Davids. He had m Gwenllian, daughter of Madog ap Maredudd, by whom he had eight sons...and a daughter, Gwenllian, who m Ednyfed Fychan. 4
[The Gwentian Chronicle names "Gwenllian daughter of Grufudd son of Cynan" as the mother of "Rhys" son of "Grufudd son of Rhys".
He succeeded his half-brother in 1153 as King of Deheubarth, jointly with his brother. The Annales Cambrić record that "Resus…iunior eius frater" succeeded after "Maredut filius Grifini" was killed in 1156. The Chronicle of the Princes of Wales records that "Rhys son of Tewdwr began to reign" in 1077. Gerald of Wales´s Descriptio Kambrić names “descendientes...a Theodoro...Resus filius Theodori, Griphinus filius Resi, et Resus filius Griphini qui hodie praest” as successive rulers in South Wales.
The Annales Cambrić record the death "IV Kal Mai" in 1195 of "Resus Grifini filius Sudwallić princeps" and his burial "apud Sanctum David". 5
Rhys married Gwenllian FERCH MADOG, daughter of Madog AP MAREDYDD and Susanna FERCH GRUFFYDD. (Gwenllian FERCH MADOG was born about 1135 in Overton-Madoc, Flintshire, Wales.)