King of Gwynedd 814-825
Variously referred to as Hywel ap Rhodri or Hywel ap Caradog
Hywel was of uncertain parentage; he is believed either to have been a son of Rhodri ap Idwal but might just well have been the son of Caradog ap Meiriog. Such is the confusion over this period in Gwynedd's history that no one is certain one way or the other. But whoever he was he felt he had a valid claim on the throne of Gwynedd and challenged the incumbent Cynan ap Rhodri 1 defeating him in battle in the year 813. Hywel captured Anglesey in 814 probably leaving Cynan in possession of the mainland and effectively splitting the kingdom of Gwynedd in two.
Hywel promptly lost Anglesey 2 in 816. Fortunately for Hywel, Cynan died shortly afterwards in the same year, (although from what cause we do not know) leaving Hywel in sole possession of Gwynedd.
The English in the form of the Mercians however took advantage of the confusion and invaded Rhufoniog and Eryri. The Annales Cambriae also records that the battle of Llan-faes took place the following year in 817 but neglects to tell us between who and who won, but the obvious candidate would be the aforementioned English. If Hywel was the victor, his victory failed to prevent the English from returning in 822 and destroying the fortress of Degannwy 3 as well as taking the neighbouring kingdom of Powys into their own control. 4
Bearing in mind that in between times Ceolwulf of Mercia was busy ravaging Dyfed in 818, this shows that the fortunes of the Welsh in general and Gwynedd in particular were at a low ebb. Hywel does not seem to have been able to do much to reverse this trend.
Hywel died in 825 and appears to have left no heirs, leaving the way clear for the enigmatic figure of Merfyn Frych to take charge.
1 Who of course, might well have been his older brother.
2 The Annales Cambriae actually refer to Hywel losing Anglesey for the second time, implying that this particular dynastic struggle may have been going on for some time.
3 Degannwy being the former capital of Gwynedd in the days of Maelgwyn and one of the strongholds of the kingdom.
4 As per the Annales Cambriae.
5 Sourced from the Annales Cambriae and the The Welsh Kings by Kari Maund (Tempus 2000)