Hywel Dda

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Hywel Dda (c. 880 – 950), (English: Hywel the Good, sometimes anglicized to Howell the Good) was a well-thought-of king[1] of Deheubarth in south-west Wales, who, using his cunning, eventually came to rule Wales from Prestatyn to Pembroke.[2] As a descendant of Rhodri Mawr through his father Cadell, Hywel was a member of the Dinefwr branch of the dynasty and is also named Hywel ap Cadell. He was recorded as King of the Britons in the Annales Cambriae and the Annals of Ulster.

He is remembered as one of the most responsible native Welsh rulers of all time. His name is particularly linked with the development of the Welsh laws, generally known as the Laws of Hywel Dda. The latter part of his name ('Dda' or '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.[1]

Hywel Dda was certainly a well-educated man, even by modern standards, having a good knowledge of Welsh, Latin, and English.[1]

In April 2008 a merger of Pembrokeshire & Derwen, Ceredigion and Mid Wales, and Carmarthenshire NHS Trusts was named the Hywel Dda NHS Trust in his honour.

Contents

Early life

Hywel was born around 880, the son of Cadell, King of Seisyllwg. He had a brother, Clydog, who was probably the younger of the two. At some point he married Elen, daughter and heir of Llywarch ap Hyfaidd of Dyfed, giving him firm ties to that kingdom.[3]

Cadell had been installed as King of Seisyllwg by his father, Rhodri the Great of Gwynedd, following the accidental drowning of the last king in the traditional line, Gwgon, in 872.[4] Following 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 in 911, and Seisyllwg appears to have been divided between his two sons according to Welsh custom.[3]

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