King of Powys (1116-1132)
Born about 1047, Died in 1132
The reign of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn
Maredudd was one of the many sons of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn and the younger brother of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn who was king of Powys in the years from 1093. Despite the fact that it was Cadwgan, as the senior of the three surviving brothers, who was recognised as king, they shared the power in the kingdom.
In particular the three brothers appear to have co-operated in the business of re-establishing the kingdom of Powys in the years following the Anti-Norman rebellion of 1093 as well as providing support for the rebellion of Robert of Belleme against the newly crowned Henry I in 1102.
Until that is Iorwerth ap Bleddyn was persuaded to transfer his support Henry I in return for promises, later unkept, of land and power in Wales. Iorwerth had Maredudd captured and shut way in an English royal prison, only to suffer the same fate himself once Robert of Belleme had abandoned his revolt and retired to Normandy.
The reign of Owain ap Cadwagan
Maredudd escaped from prison in 1107, and re-joined his brother in Powys but Cadwgan died in the year 1111, ambushed by his kinsman Madog ap Rhirid2 near Welshpool. This might have been the perfect opportunity for Maredudd to have taken control of Powys for himself, but he remained loyal to his brother and in particular his nephew Owain ap Cadwgan.
Maredudd acted as an intermediary between Owain and Henry I to patch up the argument that had existed between the two and ensure the recognition by Henry of Owain's inheritance of Powys. He also arranged for the arrest of Madog ap Rhirid and delivered him to Owain who enacted the usual penalty Madog was blinded and castrated in the traditional fashion.
The Brut says that Owain and Maredudd ap Bleddyn divided his portion of Powys between them, implying that Maredudd was given a considerable share of the authority in Powys.
Maredudd continued to support Owain until his death at the hands of Gerald of Windsor in the year 1116, but despite the fact that Owain's brother Einion ap Cadwgan was his recognised heir it was Maredudd that became king. Given that Maredudd already enjoyed considerable authority within Powys built up as a result of his support of both Owain and his father Cadwgan, this was not all that surprising, and in any event does not appear to have discomforted Einion in any way.
Maredudd as king
At the time Maredudd became king in 1116, the reach of Powys extended to both Merionydd and Cyfeiliog as well as the Perfeddwlad, and as always the change in ruler was seen as an opportunity for others to test the mettle of the new ruler and some of the more sub-ordinate rulers of Wales felt sufficiently emboldened to try their hand.
Uchdryd ab Edwin 1 made a bid for independence in Cyfeiliog but his rebellion was ruthlessly crushed and he fled east to Tegeingl in the Perfeddwlad. Indeed it was in the Perfeddwlad that a more serious challenge arose where the sons of Owain ab Edwin ap Goronwy, Rhirid and Meilir launched an attack on Hywel ab Ithel1 in 1118. The attack was beaten off but as the Brut explains "Hywel was wounded and on the fortieth day after coming home he died" and Hywel's seems to have led to Powys losing control of the Perfeddwlad; it is quite possibly from this time that Gruffudd ap Cynan of Gwynedd began to take control of Rhos and Rhufoniog for himself.
But despite this setback Powys still remained the leading native power in Wales and from the perspective of the English king therefore still appeared to be the main threat to his authority. Consequently it was against Powys that Henry I directed his invasion of 1121. Maredudd sent a raiding party to harass the royal column and one particularly skilful or lucky Welsh archer managed to hit Henry himself. Henry was unhurt but sufficiently shaken to retreat and agree a truce with Maredudd subject to the payment of the usual tribute.
Einion ap Cadwgan died in 1124 and his younger brother Maredudd ap Cadwgan stepped forward to claim Einion's lands, whilst
king Henry attempted to forment further trouble by releasing another nephew Ithel ap Rhirid2 who also felt he had a claim. Marededd ap Bleddyn would have none of this and took Einion's lands expelling both of his troublesome kinsmen.
In 1124 the sons of Gruffudd ap Cynan, acting in alliance with Llywarch ap Trahaern of Arwystli, began moving against Meirionydd probably restricting themselves to raiding and looting at this time but by 1125 Gwynedd had taken Dyffryn Clwyd through the simple expedient of killing the sons of Owain ab Edwin; further evidence that the power of Gwynedd was growing.
The hegemony that Cadwgan had constructed was beginning to unravel, and one of the central factors in the unravelling was the incessant feuding between the many desdendants of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn.
In 1125 Maredudd's son Gruffudd killed Ithel ap Rhirid; his two nephews, Maredudd ap Cadwgan and Morgan ap Cadwgan quaralled, the latter killed the former and went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and died in Cyprus on his way home in 1128.
Another relation Llywellyn ab Owain ap Cadwgan was seized and sent as captive to England, but escaped and indulged himself in an extreme campaign of violence in an attempt to seize control of Arwystli. Maredudd dealt with Llywelyn by seizing hold of him and having him blinded and castrated.
Maredudd presided over a period of relative decline for Powys, from the high point achieved under the reign of his brother Cadwgan the kingdom gradually lost influence over areas such as the Perfeddwlad and Ceredigion.
But then Cadwgan faced an easier situation in a sense; he was the only native leader of any note during the beginning of the revolt of 1093 and was faced with a comparatively weak English king in William II.
Maredudd was placed in a more difficult position, facing pressure from a far more capable ruler in Henry I and the slowly resurgent Gwynedd to the north-west, it was therefore perhaps inevitable that Powys would have to surrender some of its territorial gains.
Of course it did not help that the unruly brood of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn's descendants spent much of their time fighting against each other and Maredudd as well; in such circumstances simply keeping a firm grip on the heartlands of Powys was probably as much as could be expected.
The Brut y Tywysogion recorded his death in the year 1132 describing him as;
the splendour and defence of the men of Powys, died having done penance on his soul and body and worthily receiving the Body of Christ.
His eldest son and heir, Gruffudd ap Maredudd predeceased him in 1128 and it was his younger son Madog ap Maredudd who succeeded him as king of Powys.3
1 Both Uchdryd ab Edwin and Hywel ab Ithel were essentially local lords who owed theoretical allegiance to the king of Powys. This was the way that Welsh kingship worked - a king installed a network of local lords to control each area.
2 Both sons of Rhirid ap Bleddyn, brother of Maredudd who had died earlier in 1088.
3 Maredudd ap Bleddyn is known to have married Hunydd, the daughter of Efnydd ap Gwerny; unusually he does not appear to have any other relationships.
Brut y Tywysogion
John Davies A History of Wales (Allen Lane, 1993)
Kari Mundi The Welsh Kings (Tempus, 2000)