Rhodri the Great

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Rhodri the Great (in Welsh, Rhodri Mawr; occasionally in English, Roderick the Great) (c. 820 – 878) was King of Gwynedd from 844 until his death. He was the first Welsh ruler to be called 'Great', and the first to rule most of present-day Wales. He is referred to as "King of the Britons" by the Annals of Ulster. In some later histories, he is referred to as "King of Wales" but he did not rule all of Wales nor was this term used contemporaneously to describe him.


Lineage and inheritance

The son of Merfyn Frych, King of Gwynedd, and Nest ferch Cadell of the Royal line of Powys, he inherited the Kingdom of Gwynedd on his father's death in 844.

When his maternal uncle Cyngen ap Cadell ruler of Powys died on a pilgrimage to Rome in 855 Rhodri inherited Powys. In 872 Gwgon, ruler of Seisyllwg in southern Wales, was accidentally drowned, and Rhodri added his Kingdom to his domains by virtue of his marriage to Angharad of Seisyllwg, Gwgon's sister and heiress. These peaceful inheritances made him the ruler of the larger part of Wales.

Resistance against Danes

Rhodri faced pressure both from the English and increasingly from the Danes, who were recorded as ravaging Anglesey in 854. In 856 Rhodri won a notable victory over the Danes, killing their leader Gorm (sometimes given as Horm).

In 876 Rhodri fought another battle against the Norse invaders on Anglesey, after which he had to flee to Ireland.

Defeat and death

On his return the following year, he and his son Gwriad were said to have been killed by the English under Alfred the Great, though the precise manner of his death is unknown. When his son, Anarawd ap Rhodri won a victory over the Mercians a few years later, it was hailed in the annals as "God's vengeance for Rhodri".


Rhodri died leaving three sons:

His heir, Anarawd ap Rhodri, who became the king of Gwynedd;

His son Cadell ap Rhodri, who conquered Dyfed, which was later joined with Seisyllwg by Rhodri's grandson Hywel Dda to become Deheubarth. Like his grandfather, Hywel would come to rule most of Wales; and

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