Cynllibiwg was a Welsh medieval kingdom whose territory corresponded roughly to modern Radnorshire. Its existence is attested to by references to in the Domesday Book of 1086 to `Calcebuef' and in the Red Book of the Exchequer to `Kenthlebiac' in the 1070s.
The kingdom's core appears to have been the cantrefi of Maelienydd and Elfael, the former located in the area around the modern town of Llandrindod Wells, the latter lying to the south east between modern Radnor and Hay-on-Wye. The capital, at least in the twelfth century, was situated at the castle of Cymaron, located half way between modern Llandrindod Wells and Knighton.
The pre-Conquest evidence for the existence of the kingdom is scant apart from the odd reference in the Historia Brittonum to `Cinloipiauc', and there no record now of the kings who ruled or of exact extent of their kingdom. What we do know of the history of Cynllibiwg relates to the period after the Norman Conquest and in particular the struggle between the native Welsh rulers and the Norman Mortimer family.
- Under Norman rule 1093-1135?
- Under Norman rule 1142?-1148
After the death of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn in 1063 and the dismemberment of his brief hegemony over all Wales the sons of one Cadwgan ab Elystan Glodrydd took the opportunity to re-establish their family as rulers and the eldest, Llywelyn ap Cadwgan 1 became recognised as an underking of William Rufus. However in 1093 the Norman forces over-ran virtually the whole of Wales and Cynllibiwg was no exception and occupied by Ralph Mortimer of Wigmore.
The First Anti-Norman Rebellion of 1094 seems to have done little to shake the hold of the Mortimer family over Cynllibiwg, but it was a different story in the later rebellion of 1135 that followed the death of Henry I. England at that time was thrown into a period of confusion with the struggle between Henry's successor Stephen and those who supported the Angevin succession to the throne. The Mortimers sided with Stephen and so the sons of one Madog ab Idnerth2, a descendent of Llywelyn ap Cadwgan, naturally established an alliance with the Angevin opponents of Stephen. Taking advantage of the temporary anarchy in England, Maredudd ap Madog ab Idnerth succeeded in dislodging the Mortimers from Cynllibiwg. In 1141 he and his brother Cadwgan ap Madog joined the earl Ranulf of Chester and were part of the force that defeated Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln.
Despite this setback to the royalist cause Hugh Mortimer's reaction was to continue his private war with the rulers of central Wales and in 1142 he succeeded in arranging the deaths of both Cadwgan and another brother by the name of Hywel and, according to the Brut y Tywysogion, Mortimer then "repaired the castle of Cymaron, and a second time gained possession of Maelienydd". In 1146 Mortimer followed this up by killing Maredudd ap Madog ab Idnerth himself.
Hugh Mortimer was himself however defeated by the Angevins in 1148, two further sons of Cadwallon ap Madog and Einion Clud ap Madog received their reward for their families support and were recognised by Henry II as rulers of Maelienydd and Elfael respectively. Einion Clud died in 1176 and his brother Cadwallon simply annexed Elfael.
When Cadwallon ap Madog attended Henry II at Geddington in Oxfordshire in the year 1177 with his fellow rulers from Wales, he was ranked third in order of precedence, behind only Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth and Dafydd ab Owain of Gwynedd and recorded as Rex Delwain or king of Elfael.
Unfortunately for Cadwallon it was not to last; he was assasinated in 1179 on the orders of Roger Mortimer. The king, Henry II took offence to this action and, unsusually for the time, imprisoned Roger Mortimer for two years in Winchester Castle. Cynllibiwg was divided between Cadwallon's sons and Ranulf Poer, the Sheriff of Hereford who seized the castle of Cymaron on behalf of the crown. Eventually Roger Mortimer made his peace with the king and returned to Cynllibiwg in 1195 to finish what he had started in 1179; driving away both Maelgwyn and Hywel and bringing to an end the kingdom of Cynllibiwg.
It didn't however quite mark the end of Welsh rule, as various expansionist minded rulers of Gwynedd continued to dispute the territory with the Mortimers and anyone else that got in their way during the thirteenth century until the bitter end in 1284.
1 Llywelyn ap Cadwgan was one
of the select few Welsh rulers who issued coins,
struck at the mint at Rhydygors and bearing the
legend, Llywelyn ap Cadwgan, Rex.
2 Madog ab Idnerth was probably
the son of the Idnerth ap Cadwgan who defeated the
Normans in Brycheiniog in 1095 according
to the Brut; Idnerth was very likely a younger brother of
Llywelyn ap Cadwgan.
3 Maredudd ap Madog ab Idnerth is known as such in order to avoid confusion with any similarly named rulers of Powys.
4 According to the chronicle of the Monk of Peterborough
5 Unusual in the sense that Norman Kings did not usually get upset when their Norman vassals killed Welshmen
6 Ralph Mortimer being the father of Roger Mortimer, and Hugh the son of Roger Mortimer.
Taken from an article by Paul Renfrew Discovering the lost kingdom of Radnor in British Archaeology Issue no 34, May 1998 at http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba34/ba34feat.html plus a further article by the same author at http://www.marches-guides.co.uk/ , which is in turn based on the work of the historian Bruce Coplestone-Crow.