Gruffydd ap Llywelyn

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Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (c. 1007 – 1063/1064) was the ruler of all Wales from 1055 until his death, the only Welsh monarch able to make this boast. Called King of the Britons in the Annals of Ulster and Brut y Tywysogion, he was great-great-grandson to Hywel Dda and King Anarawd ap Rhodri of Gwynedd.


Genealogy and early life

Gruffydd was the elder of two sons of Llywelyn ap Seisyll, who had been able to rule both Gwynedd and Powys. On Llywelyn's death in 1023, a member of the Aberffraw dynasty, Iago ab Idwal ap Meurig, became ruler of Gwynedd. According to an early story Gruffydd had been a lazy youth, but one New Year's Eve, he was driven out of the house by his exasperated sister. Leaning against the wall of another house, he heard a cook who was boiling pieces of beef in a cauldron complain that there was one piece of meat which kept coming to the top of the cauldron, however often it was thrust down. Gruffydd took the comment to apply to himself, and began his rise to power in Powys.

King of Gwynedd and Powys 1039–1055

In 1039 Iago ab Idwal was killed by his own men (his son Cynan ap Iago, who may have been as young as four, was taken into exile in Dublin) and Gruffydd, already the usurper-king of Powys, was able to become king of Gwynedd. Soon after gaining power he surprised a Mercian army at Rhyd y Groes near Welshpool and totally defeated it, killing its leader, Edwin, the brother of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. He then attacked the neighbouring principality of Deheubarth which was now ruled by Hywel ab Edwin. Gruffydd defeated Hywel in a battle at Pencader in 1041 and carried off Hywel's wife. Gruffydd seems to have been able to drive Hywel out of Deheubarth in about 1043, for in 1044 Hywel is recorded as returning with a Danish fleet to the mouth of the River Tywi to try to reclaim his kingdom. Gruffydd however defeated and killed him in a close fought fight.

Gruffydd ap Rhydderch of Gwent was able to expel Gruffydd ap Llywelyn from Deheubarth in 1047 and became king of Deheubarth himself after the nobles of Ystrad Tywi had attacked and killed 140 of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's household guard. He was able to resist several attacks by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn in the following years. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn was active on the Welsh border in 1052, when he attacked Herefordshire and defeated a mixed force of Normans and English near Leominster.

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