Skip to main content

THE DESTRUCTION OF GRUFFUDD AP LLYWELYN AMONG the eleventh-century Welsh princes, few reigns were so triumphant and ended so obscurely as that of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn. His accession to the throne of Gwynedd in 1039 was followed, in 1055, by the union of the various Welsh principalities in one kingdom under his rule. Added to that kingdom were English lands which Gruffudd won or was granted. Domesday Book notes that the English king, Edward the Confessor, ceded to Gruffudd all the lands in Cheshire west of the River Dee.2 It has been proposed that he actually acquired a much larger strip of English lands extending from Cheshire to Herefordshire, and was responsible for the extensive colonization by the Welsh of lands which had been controlled by the English.3 Despite these triumphs, Gruffudd's reign ended ingloriously and mysteriously; forced to flee his castle at Rhuddlan, he lived the life of an outlaw and was murdered by his own people, dolo suorum suis.A Medieval assessments of Gruffudd's reign vary. To the Welsh he was the great unifier of Wales; in the Book ofLlandaffhc has the title [rex] Britanniae et totius Gualiae de fine adfinem.5 The price for such an honour was high; the afore-mentioned passage in the Book of Llandaff goes on to say that he was continually harassed by his enemies, English, Irish and Viking. To the English, however, he was seen as the instigator of turmoil on the Welsh marches; the author of the Vita of Edward the Confessor accuses Gruffudd of constantly plotting war.6 The legends collected by the twelfth-century civil servant from Herefordshire, Walter Map, paint a picture of Gruffudd Good general discussions of Gruffudd's reign are: J. E. Lloyd, History of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian Conquest (London, 1911), n, 360-70; David Walker, 'A Note on Gruffudd ap Llewelyn (1039-1063)', ante, 1 (1961), 83-94; Wendy Davies, Wales in the Early Middle Ages (Leicester, 1982), pp. 106-7. For an assessment of how Gruffudd's reign influenced the later history of Wales, see R. R. Davies, Conquest, Coexistence and Change: Wales, 1063-1415 (Oxford, 1987), pp. 24-27. 2 John Morris (ed.), Domesday Book; Cheshire (Leicester, 1978), f.263a[B-7]. 3 A. N. Palmer, 'Welsh Settlements, east of Offa's Dyke, during the eleventh century', Y Cymmrodor, 10 (1889), 42, and, more recently, M. Richards, 'Population of the Welsh border', Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1970), pp. 81-82. 4 The most accessible edition is Annates Cambriae, ed. J. W. Ab Ithel (London, Rolls Series 20, 1860); the entries pertaining to Gruffudd begin on p. 23 of the Rolls Series edition (the editor's sub anno 1039) and end on p. 25 (the editor's sub anno 1063). For this study, the prefered edition is that by J. E. Lloyd appended to 'Wales and the coming of the Normans' in Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1899-1900), pp. 168-71. 5 Printed in A. W. Haddan and W. Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical documents re Britain and Ireland (Oxford, 1869-78), I. 294. The charter is discussed by W. Davie* £ a*Arw>V Microcosm (London, 1978), pp. 187-88, no. 269. 6 Life of King Edward the Confessor ed. and trans. Frank Barlow (London, 1962