Merfyn Frych was supposedly the son of Gwriad from the Isle of Man, and Esyllt the daughter of Cynan ap Rhodri, who was king of Gwynedd until 816. But whatever his exact descent, after the death of the enigmatic Hywel in 825, he was able to establish himself in Gwynedd and found a new dynasty of kings. Through his grandson Anarawd ap Rhodri his direct male descendents were still ruling Gwynedd four and a half centuries later. His great-grandson Hywel Dda was to found a dynasty that similarly dominated the south western kingdom of Deheubarth.

Set out below is a genealogical chart identifying the descendants of Merfyn Frych, with the legend 'ruled' identifying the individuals who became rulers of Gwynedd.


The House of Merfyn Frych

 

                               Merfyn Frych
                                ruled 825-844
                                    |
                                    |
                               Rhodri Fawr1
                               ruled 844-878
                                    |                                        
                                    |                                        
          |-------------------------|-----------------------------|                                        
          |                         |                             |
    Anarawd ap Rhodri      Cadell ap Rhodri2       Nest ferch Rhodri3
     ruled 878-916              died 910                  
          |                         | 
          |                         |
    Idwal Foel               Hywel Dda
  Idwal ab Anarawd            ruled 942-950
    ruled 916-942 
          |
          |-----------------------|-------------------|------------------|-------------------|
          |                       |                   |                  |                   | 
    Idwal ab Idwal       Meurig ab Idwal  Iago ab Idwal Foel4     Rhodri ab Idwal     Ieuaf ab Idwal4              
       died 980               blinded 974        ruled 950-974         died 968         ruled 950-969  
                                  |                   |                                      |       
                                  |           Custennin ab Iago                            |
                                  |                died 980                                  |   
                                  |                                                          |   
                                  |                    |---------------------|---------------|-------|
                                  |                    |                     |                       |  
                          Idwal ap Meurig       Maig ab Ieuaf     Cadwallon ab Ieuaf          Hywel ab Ieuaf
                               died 996             died 986          ruled 985-986            ruled 974-985
                                  |                                                                  |
                                  |                                                                  |
                        Iago ab Idwal ap Meurig                                               Cynan ap Hywel
                             ruled 1023-1039                                                  ruled 999-1005       
                                  | 
                                  | 
                           Cynan ab Iago
                              died ?   
                                  | 
                                  | 
                         Gruffudd ap Cynan  
                      ruled 1081 and 1099-1137
                 see the House of Gruffudd ap Cynan  


NOTES

1 Rhodri Fawr is variously credited in the Welsh Genealogies and other sources with sons numbering between four and eight. Of these only four Anarawd, Cadell, Merfyn and Gwriad can reasonably said to be historically attested and only Anarawd and Cadell were politically significant. Gwriad died with his father fighting the English in 878; Merfyn died fighting the Vikings in 904.

2 Cadell ap Rhodri ruled the territory of Seisyllwg, although whether this was in his own right or as agent of his brother is unclear, but he was described as king on his death in 910. His son Hywel Dda, was to unite Seisyllwg with Dyfed to create Deheubarth and who later killed Idwal Foel in 942 and brought Gwynedd under his control.

3 Nest ferch Rhodri married Owain ap Hywel who was ruler of Glywysing on south Wales. Their son Morgan Hen ab Owain was to become one of the most notable rulers of the south.

4 The sons of Idwal Foel were to initially co-operate in the business of recovering Gwynedd after the death of Hywel Dda in 950. The Annales Cambriae refers to Gwynedd as "the kingdom of the sons of Idwal", where Iago and Ieuaf were the leading lights. After the death of Rhodri, Iago imprisoned Ieuaf and established himself as sole ruler until his expulsion in 974.


SOURCES

Adapted from similar presentations and information contained in;

Ann Williams, Alfred P. Smyth and D. P. Kirby A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain (Seaby, 1991)
John Davies A History of Wales (Allen Lane, 1993)
Kari Mundi The Welsh Kings (Tempus, 2000)

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