The Powysian lineage

Understanding the descent of the kings of Powys poses considerable problems. These can be resolved when it is realised that the sons attributed to Vortigern (Gwrtheyrn Gwrtheneu) are the offsprings of Cadell Ddyrnllug. The reason behind this intentionally incorrect attribution is given in HB 32-35. It tells how the royals of Powys were descendants of Cadell whose origins were humble. HB 34 tells us Cadell had nine sons. The Harleian manuscript gives the names of five of them, although they are incorrectly listed not as siblings but as sons of each other:

Gen. HG 22
2 Selyf Sarffgadau
1 Cynan Garwyn
0 Brochwel Ysgithrog
-1 Cyngen Mawgan Pasgen Cateyrn
-2 Cadell Ddyrnllug
Gen. HG 23
5 [H?]esselis
4 Gwrhaearn
3 Elfoddw
2 Cynin
1 Millo
0 Camuir
-1 Brydw Cateyrn
-2 Cadell Ddyrnllug
Gen. HG 27    
9 Cyngen
8 Cadell
7 Brochwel
6 Elise
5 Gwylog
4 Beli
3 Eiludd
2 Selyf Sarffgadau
1 Cynan Garwyn
0 Brochwel Ysgithrog
-1 Cyngen Glodrydd Mawgan Pasgen Cateyrn
-2 Cadell Ddyrnllug
-3 Selevan

The Pillar of Eliseg mentions four of the sons:


The third and fourth elements of this part of the inscription is a reference to a single name, i.e. Mawgan. The PE states they were the sons of Gwrtheyrn. It follows that the name Vortigern was used as an alias for Cadell. Following the above text the inscription reads:


HB 48 tells us that Gwrtheyrn’s son, Faustus, by his incestuous relation with his daughter, was brought up by Germanus. So, the first word in the above text may be a reference to Faustus. This interpretation is supported by the use of the singular form ‘filius’.

ABT 6k makes no sense as it stands since it suggests Cadell was the son of Pasgen. However, if viewed as two lists, ABT 6k1 and 6k2 as shown below, it illustrates the equivalence of the names Cadell and Vortigern.

Gen. ABT 6k1
ABT 6k2
10 Rhodri Mawr
9 Merfyn Frych  Nest
8 Cadell
7 Brochwel
6 Elise
5 Gwylog
4 Beli
3 Eiludd
2 Selyf Sarffgadau
1 Cynan Garwyn
0 Brochwel Ysgithrog
-1 Cyngen Glodrydd Pasgen Brydw Rhuddfedel Frych Cyndeyrn
-2 Cadell Ddyrnllug Gwrtheyrn Gwrtheneu

Although the manuscript states Nest was the mother of Merfyn Frych the above table shows her as his wife. This is indicated as being the case in JC 18.

As noted by Phillimore the name Cateyrn has been ‘tortured’ into the form Cyndeyrn by later genealogies.[1] Vermaat explains the presence in the list of Rhuddfedel as a reference to the battle at Rithergabail where Cateyrn died.[2]

[1] Cy IX, 179 n. 5
[2] Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Family of Vortigern > Catigern, son of Vortigern

The king list of Gwynedd

The pedigree of the Venedotian kings is given in HG 1. However, this list poses a problem in terms of chronology until it is treated as two separate lines of descent, labelled HG 1a and HG 1b:

Gen. HG 1a
ChB a HG 1b seg.
ByA 28c
13 Owain
12 Hywel D.
11 Cadell
10 Rhodri M.
9 Merfyn F.
8 Esyllt
7 Cynan D.
6 Rhodri M.
5 Idwal I.
4 Cadwaladr F. Alain II
3 Cadwallon Salomon II
2 Cadfan Hoel III (Beli m. Rhun)
1 Iago Alain I Rhun Hir Perweur
0 Beli Hoel II Maelgwn Gwynedd Rhun R.
-1 Rhun [Einion] Hoel I Cadwallon L. Einion
-2 Budic Einion Y. Mar
-3 Aldwr Cunedda W. Ceneu
-4 Salomon I Edern Coel
-5 Gradlon Padarn B.
-6 Conan M. Tegid

Although later sources show Merfyn Frych as the husband of Esyllt, a viewpoint supported by Bartrum, this earlier document is correct in stating he was her son. As can be seen in the second column, the list states that Rhun was the father of Beli. This is correct but that individual was not Rhun Hir, the son of Maelgwn Gwynedd, who appears in the fifth column above.

Rhun Hir married Perweur ferch Rhun Ryfeddfawr, whose name appears in ByA 28c, and they both belonged to gen. 1 as shown in the table. Triad 79 tells us she was one of the Three Lively Ladies of Britain. ByA 28c errs when it says Perweur was the “Mam Beli m Rhun …”. As can be seen from the second column Beli ap Rhun belonged to the same generation as his supposed parents. Brut y Brenhinedd confirms that Rhun was the father of Beli. Historia Regum Britanniae wrongly asserts that Einion was the father whereas in fact Einion Yrth was a grandfather. It was Rhun ap Einion Yrth and not Rhun Hir who fled to Armorica. His daughter, Tymyr, married Hoel II who appears in Chronicon Briocense, see above table.

Both HRB and ByB correctly assert that Einion was Rhun’s brother. This allows us to solve a 1500 year old murder mystery which is not a whodunit but a “who was it dun to”, as we know the identity of the murderer but it is unclear who the victim was. Gildas wrote of Maelgwn:

In the first years of thy youth, accompanied by soldiers of the bravest, whose countenance in battle appeared not very unlike that of young lions, didst thou not most bitterly crush thy uncle the king with sword, and spear, and fire?[1]

The Latin text uses the word “avunculus” where the above passage reads “uncle”. Strictly speaking, that term means mother’s brother. However, in this context I believe this can be linked to the fact, given in JC 23, that an Einion was half-brother to Cadwallon Lawhir, Maelgwn’s father, through their father Einion Yrth. Their mothers were sisters, daughters of king Didlet.

Although HRB states Rhun escaped to Armorica after the death of Einion because he was driven out by the Saxons, it would seem that Maelgwn had a hand in it as well. After Maelgwn’s death his son successfully thwarted challenges to his kingship. However, it would seem that the rightful lineage to the throne was reestablished when Iago became king. As can be seen in the above table, Cadwallon ap Cadfan is correct when he tells Salomon II  in the ByB that their two fathers were two second cousins.

[1] Williams, H., 1899, 77