King of Gwynedd (916-942)
Born circa 0857 Died 0916
Idwal Foel that is Idwal 'the Bald', succeeded his father Anarawd ap Rhodri as king of Gwynedd on the latter's death in the year 916.
Anarawd had previously submitted to king Alfred of England1 and Idwal followed his father's lead in 918 when he submitted in turn to Edward the Elder. Also in attendance at that time where Hywel and Clydog ap Cadell from Deheubarth, but unlike these kings of the south Idwal displayed less enthusiasm for alliances with the old enemy and paid little attention to Edward afterwards.
In the year 924 Athelstan succeeded his father Edward. Athelstan turned out to be the most powerful English king to date who effectively established his authority across the whole of Britain2. Very probably in deference to this power, in 928 and 937 Idwal was back attending the court of Athelstan where he was recorded as witness to charters issued.
William of Malmesbury even claimed that Athelstan drove Iago from his kingdom and only restored him on condition that he pay tribute although there is no contemporary record of this and the veracity of the account is doubted.
In any case Athelstan was himself dead in 939 and replaced by his half-brother Edmund.
It is possible that Idwal felt that the change of management signalled an opportunity to be exploited, or at least that Edmund was sufficiently distracted by matters in the north, for in the year 942 he launched an attack on the English. If his intention was to demonstrate his independence he did not succeed; And Idwal and his brother Elisedd are killed by the Saxons is how the Annales Cambriae laconically records the result.
Hywel Dda of Deheubarth was quick to seize the opportunity and invaded Gwynedd, driving Idwals's sons from the kingdom. For the next eight years Hywel Dda was to rule Gwynedd and Deheubarth together, establishing a wider hegemony over Wales than even Anarawd or Rhodri had achieved.
1 And from which he derived military assistance to support his ambitions within Wales
2 And arguably the most powerful in history, since all the other contenders were Danish, Norman etc etc.
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)