Hywel Dda

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Hywel Dda
King of Dyfed, Powys and Gwynedd
Prince of Seisyllwg and Deheubarth
Laws of Hywel Dda (f.1.v) King Hywel cropped.jpg
Mid-13th-century depiction of Hywel Dda in a Latin copy of the Laws of Hywel Dda.
Reign942–948
Predecessor Idwal Foel ap Anarawd
Bornc. 880
Died948
SpouseElen ferch Llywarch
Issue Owain ap Hywel
Rhodri ap Hywel
Edwin ap Hywel
House House of Dinefwr
Father Cadell ap Rhodri
Map of the extent of Hywel Dda's power
Deheubarth, Hywel Dda's principality
Combine to form Morgannwg Wales 900-950 (Hywel the Good).svg
Map of the extent of Hywel Dda's power
  Deheubarth, Hywel Dda's principality
  Combine to form Morgannwg

Hywel Dda (English: Hywel the Good) or Hywel ap Cadell (c.880 – 950) was a King of Deheubarth who eventually came to rule most of Wales. He became the sole king of Seisyllwg in 920 and shortly thereafter established Deheubarth, and proceeded to gain control over the entire country from Prestatyn to Pembroke. [1] As a descendant of Rhodri Mawr through his father Cadell, Hywel was a member of the Dinefwr branch of the dynasty. He was recorded as King of the Britons in the Annales Cambriae and the Annals of Ulster .

Deheubarth kingdom in west Britain

Deheubarth was a regional name for the realms of south Wales, particularly as opposed to Gwynedd. It is now used as a shorthand for the various realms united under the House of Dinefwr, but that Deheubarth itself was not considered a proper kingdom on the model of Gwynedd, Powys, or Dyfed is shown by its rendering in Latin as dextralis pars or as Britonnes dexterales and not as a named land. In the oldest British writers, Deheubarth was used for all of modern Wales to distinguish it from Hen Ogledd, the northern lands whence Cunedda and the Cymry originated.

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Seisyllwg kingdom in west Britain

Seisyllwg was a petty kingdom of medieval Wales. It is unclear when it emerged as a distinct unit, but according to later sources it consisted of the former Kingdom of Ceredigion plus the region known as Ystrad Tywi. Thus it covered the modern county of Ceredigion, part of Carmarthenshire, and the Gower Peninsula. It is evidently named after Seisyll, king of Ceredigion in the 7th or early 8th century, but it is unknown if he was directly responsible for its establishment. In the 10th century Seisyllwg became the center of power for Hywel Dda, who came to rule most of Wales. In 920 Hywel merged Seisyllwg with the Kingdom of Dyfed to form the new kingdom of Deheubarth.

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Hywel is highly esteemed among other medieval Welsh rulers. [2] His name is particularly linked with the codification of traditional Welsh law, which were thenceforth known as the Laws of Hywel Dda. The latter part of his name (Dda, lit. “Good”) refers to the fact that his laws were just and good. The historian Dafydd Jenkins sees in them compassion rather than punishment, plenty of common sense and recognition of the rights of women. [2] Hywel Dda was a well-educated man even by modern standards, having a good knowledge of Welsh, Latin, and English. [2]

Welsh law Primary and secondary legislation generated by the National Assembly for Wales

Welsh law is the primary and secondary legislation generated by the National Assembly for Wales, using devolved authority granted in the Government of Wales Act 2006 and in effect since May 2007. Each piece of Welsh legislation is known as an Act of the Assembly. The first Assembly legislation to be proposed was the NHS Redress (Wales) Measure 2008. This was the first time in almost 500 years that Wales has had its own laws, since Cyfraith Hywel, a version of Celtic law, was abolished and replaced by English law through the Laws in Wales Acts, enacted between 1535 and 1542 during the reign of King Henry VIII.

<i>Cyfraith Hywel</i> former law code applied in Wales and ancient Britain

Cyfraith Hywel, also known as Welsh law, was the system of law practised in medieval Wales before its final conquest by England. Subsequently, the Welsh law's criminal codes were superseded by the Statute of Rhuddlan in AD 1284 and its civil codes by Henry VIII's series of Laws in Wales Acts between 1535 and 1542.

The office building and original home of the National Assembly for Wales is named Tŷ Hywel (“Hywel House” or “Hywel's House”) in honour of Hywel Dda. The original Assembly chamber, now known as Siambr Hywel (“Hywel's Chamber”), is used for educational courses and for children and young people's debates. The local health board of south-west Wales also bears his name.

National Assembly for Wales legislature of Wales

The National Assembly for Wales is the devolved parliament of Wales, with power to make legislation, vary taxes and scrutinise the Welsh Government. The Assembly comprises 60 members, who are known as Assembly Members, or AMs. Since 2011, Members are elected for five-year terms under an additional members system, in which 40 AMs represent geographical constituencies elected by the plurality system, and 20 AMs represent five electoral regions using the D'Hondt method of proportional representation. Typically the largest party in the Assembly forms the Welsh Government.

Tŷ Hywel Home of the National Assembly for Wales, in Cardiff

Tŷ Hywel is named after Hywel Dda and is used by the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff, Wales. Previously it was known as Crickhowell House and was named after Lord Crickhowell. It is also informally known as the Assembly Office and houses Assembly Members of the National Assembly for Wales and their staff, and staff of the Assembly Commission. The Welsh Government also operates from the building and occupies one floor. It is leased by the National Assembly for Wales under the Government of Wales Act 1998.

Early life

Hywel was the son of King Cadell of Seisyllwg. He had a brother, Clydog, who was probably the younger of the two. Hywel was later reputed to have married Elen, the supposed heiress of King Llywarch of Dyfed, which connection was subsequently used to justify his family's reign over that kingdom. [3]

Cadell ap Rhodri (854–909) was King of Seisyllwg, a minor kingdom in southwestern Wales, from about 872 until his death.

Llywarch ap Hyfaidd was a king of Dyfed from c. 893 until its conquest around 904 by King Cadell of Ceredigion / Seisyllwg and his son Hywel.

Kingdom of Dyfed kingdom in west of Wales

The Kingdom of Dyfed is one of several Welsh petty kingdoms that emerged in 5th-century sub-Roman Britain in southwest Wales based on the former territory of the Demetae. Following the Norman invasion of Wales between 1067–1100, the region was conquered by the Normans and by 1138 incorporated into a new shire called Pembrokeshire after the Norman castle built in the Cantref of Penfro and under the rule of the Marcher Earl of Pembroke.

Hywel's father Cadell had been installed as King of Seisyllwg by his father, Rhodri the Great of Gwynedd, following the drowning of the last king in the traditional line, Gwgon, in 872. [4] After Gwgon's death, Rhodri, husband to the dead king's sister Angharad, became steward of his kingdom. This gave Rhodri no standing to claim the kingship of Seisyllwg himself, but he was able to install his son Cadell as a subject king. [4] Cadell died around 911, and his lands in Seisyllwg appears to have been divided between his two sons Hywel and Clydog. [3]

Rhodri the Great King of Gwynedd who unified the whole of Wales  (c. 820–878)

Rhodri ap Merfyn, later known as Rhodri the Great, succeeded his father, Merfyn Frych, as King of Gwynedd in 844. Rhodri annexed Powys c. 856 and Seisyllwg c. 871. He is called "King of the Britons" by the Annals of Ulster. In some later histories, he is referred to as "King of Wales", although the title is anachronistic and his realm did not include southern Wales.

Kingdom of Gwynedd Kingdom in north Wales

The Kingdom of Gwynedd was a Roman Empire successor state that emerged in sub-Roman Britain in the 5th century during the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain.

Gwgon ap Meurig was a 9th-century king of Ceredigion and Ystrad Tywi in southwest Wales.

Reign

Hywel probably already controlled Dyfed by the time he assumed his father's lands in Ceredigion. No king is recorded after the death of Llywarch in 904, and Hywel's marriage to Llywarch's only surviving heir probably ensured that the kingdom came into his hands. [5] Hywel and Clydog seem to have ruled Seisyllwg together following their father's death and jointly submitted to Edward the Elder of England in 918. [5] However, Clydog died in 920, evidently leaving the whole realm to Hywel. Hywel soon joined Seisyllwg and Dyfed into a single realm known as Deheubarth. [5] This became the first significant event of his reign. [6]

Ceredigion County

Ceredigion is a county in Wales, known prior to 1974 as Cardiganshire. During the second half of the first millennium Ceredigion was a minor kingdom. It has been administered as a county since 1282. Welsh is spoken by more than half the population. Ceredigion is considered to be a centre of Welsh culture. The county is mainly rural with over 50 miles (80 km) of coastline and a mountainous hinterland. The numerous sandy beaches, together with the long-distance Ceredigion Coast Path provide excellent views of Cardigan Bay.

Edward the Elder English king, son of Alfred the Great

Edward the Elder was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 899 until his death. He was the elder son of Alfred the Great and his wife Ealhswith. When Edward succeeded to the throne, he had to defeat a challenge from his cousin Æthelwold, who had a strong claim to the throne as the son of Alfred's elder brother and predecessor, Æthelred.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

In 926 or 928 Hywel made a pilgrimage to Rome, becoming the first Welsh prince to undertake such a trip and return. [7] [8] Upon his return he forged very close relations with Athelstan of England. From the outset Athelstan's intention was to secure the submission of all other kings in Britain; unusually, Hywel embraced submission to England and used it to his advantage whenever possible. [9] Later in his reign, he was able to leverage his close association with Athelstan and the English crown to great effect in his ambitions within Wales. [10]

In 942 Hywel's cousin Idwal Foel, King of Gwynedd, determined to cast off English overlordship and took up arms against the new English king, Edmund. Idwal and his brother Elisedd were both killed in battle against Edwin's forces. By normal custom Idwal's crown should have passed to his sons, but Hywel intervened. He sent Iago and Ieuaf into exile and established himself as ruler over Gwynedd, which also likely placed him in control of the Kingdom of Powys, which was under the authority of Gwynedd. As such Hywel became king of nearly all of Wales except for Morgannwg and Gwent in the south. [11]

In 943 Hywel's wife Elen died. [7]

Hywel's reign was a violent one, but he achieved an understanding with Athelstan of England whereby Athelstan and Hywel ruled part of Wales jointly. Such was the relationship between the neighbouring countries that Hywel was able to use Athelstan's mint at Chester to produce his own silver pennies.

Legacy

Statue of Hywel Dda at Cardiff City Hall Hywel Dda at Cardiff City Hall.jpg
Statue of Hywel Dda at Cardiff City Hall

Following Hywel's death in 948 [7] , his kingdom was soon split into three. Gwynedd was reclaimed by the sons of Idwal Foel, while Deheubarth was divided between Hywel's sons.

A Welsh text of the Laws of Hywel Dda from 14th century F. 65r. Dragon.jpg
A Welsh text of the Laws of Hywel Dda from 14th century
An Artists impression of Hywel Dda. 1909 Hywell Dda (PB02300).jpg
An Artists impression of Hywel Dda. 1909

Hywel’s name is associated with the laws of Medieval wales, which are commonly known as the Laws of Hywel Dda (Welsh: Cyfraith Hywel). None of the law manuscripts can be dated to Hywel’s time, but Hywel’s name is mentioned in the prologues to the laws. These describe how Hywel gathered expert lawyers and priests from each commote in Wales together in Tŷ Gwyn ar Daf (which is thought to have been close to Whitland, Carmarthenshire) in order to revise and codify the Laws of Wales. The story in the prologues lengthens with time, with more details in the later versions of the prologue. It seems highly unlikely that this meeting actually took place, with the purpose of the prologues being to emphasize the royal and Christian origin and background to the laws, and that in the face of criticism of the laws from outside Wales especially during John Peckham’s period as Archbishop of Canterbury. Nevertheless, his name continued to be associated with Welsh law which remained in active use throughout Wales until the appointed date of implementation of the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 of Henry VIII of England who asserted his royal descent by blood-line from Rhodri Mawr via Hywel Dda. [12]

Opinions vary as to the motives for Hywel's close association with the court of Athelstan. J.E. Lloyd claimed Hywel was an admirer of Wessex, [13] while D.P. Kirby suggests that it may have been the action of a pragmatist who recognized the realities of power in mid-10th century Britain. [14] It is notable that he gave one of his sons an Anglo-Saxon name, Edwin. His policies with regard to England were evidently not to the taste of all his subjects. Athelstan and Hywel had similar interests. They both developed a coinage; they both had a kingdom; both were attributed a Law book. Hywel was aware of the greater power and acceded to it.

A Welsh language poem entitled Armes Prydein , considered by Sir Ifor Williams to have been written in Deheubarth during Hywel's reign, called for the Welsh to join a confederation of all the non-English peoples of Britain and Ireland to fight the Saxons. The poem may be linked to the alliance of Norse and Celtic kingdoms which challenged Athelstan at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937. No Welsh forces joined this alliance, and this may well have been because of the influence of Hywel. On the other hand, neither did he send troops to support Athelstan.


Children

See also

Related Research Articles

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Idwal Foel or Idwal ab Anarawd was a 10th-century King of Gwynedd in Wales. A member of the House of Aberffraw, he inherited the throne from his father, Anarawd ap Rhodri. William of Malmesbury credited him as "King of the Britons" in the manner of his father.

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Rhodri ap Hyfaidd (?-905) was briefly the king of Dyfed. After his brother Llywarch was killed by Hywel Dda and his father Cadell, Rhodri reigned briefly before he himself was killed and the throne was usurped by Hywel, under whom the kingdom then merged with Seisyllwg to form Deheubarth).

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House of Dinefwr

The House of Dinefwr was a royal house of Wales and refers to the descendants of Cadell ap Rhodri, King of Seisyllwg, son of Rhodri the Great.

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References

Citations

  1. Hanes Cymru by John Davies, Penguin Books; Page 85
  2. 1 2 3 Hanes Cymru by John Davies, Penguin Books; Page 86
  3. 1 2 Koch, p. 945.
  4. 1 2 Lloyd, p. 325.
  5. 1 2 3 Lloyd, p. 333.
  6. Lloyd, pp. 333–334.
  7. 1 2 3 "Chronicle of the Princes". Archaeologia Cambrensis. 3. W. Pickering. X: 20–25. 1864 via Google Books.
  8. Lloyd, p. 334.
  9. Lloyd, p. 335–336.
  10. Lloyd, p. 336.
  11. Lloyd, pp. 337–338.
  12. Hanes Cymru by John Davies, Penguin Books
  13. John Edward Lloyd (1911). A history of Wales: from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest. Longmans, Green & Co.
  14. D. P. Kirby, Hywel Dda: Anglophile?, Welsh Historical Review, 8 (1976-7)

Sources

Hywel Dda
Dinefwr Dynasty
Born: 880? Died: 950
Preceded by
Idwal Foel
King of the Britons
942–950
Succeeded by
Dyfnwal ab Owain
Preceded by
Idwal Foel
Prince of Gwynedd
920–950
Succeeded by
Iago ab Idwal
Ieuaf ab Idwal
Preceded by
Llywarch ap Hyfaidd
King of Dyfed
905–909
Kingdoms merged
Preceded by
Cadell ap Rhodri
Prince of Seisyllwg
909
New title
Created out of Dyfed and Seisyllwg
Prince of Deheubarth
909–950
Succeeded by
Owain ap Hywel
Rhodri ap Hywel
Edwin ap Hywel
Preceded by
Llywelyn ap Merfyn
King of Powys
942–950