Revised 01/12/2019




Recommended reading includes: "Castles and Bishops Palaces of Pembrokeshire" (Lise Hull, 2005)

[RHYS331] Cadell (born c.985, ab [OWAI331] Einion ab Owain ap Hywel dda, see SEISYLLWG (2)).

[RHYS341] Tewdwr mawr [=the great] (born c.1010, ap Cadell) married Gwenllian ferch [TRYF312] Gwenllian (ferch Gwyn ap Rhydderch, see TRYFFIN FARFOG).

[RHYS351] Rhys (ap Tewdwr ap Cadell ab Einion ab Owain ap Hywel dda) married [RHIW352] Gwladys (ferch Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn, see POWYS (4)). Rhys was Prince of South Wales (1077-93), and Lord of Deheubarth (1078-93).

Rhys (together with Gruffydd II ap Cynan, see GWYNEDD KINGDOM (1)) killed Prince Caradog ap Gruffydd, a vigorous supporter of King William I against his own countrymen, at the Battle of Mynydd Carn (1081). Possibly as a result of this, Rhys met King William I at St. David's (1081), when Rhys paid homage to the king and established a sort of truce. This held until 1093, when he attempted to stop Norman incursions in Wales led by the Marcher Lord of Brecknock, Bernard of Nova Mercato (see NOVA MERCATO). Rhys headed for Brecon, but was captured and beheaded at nearby Aberhonddu (1093), whilst fleeing from the Normans after the Battle of Hirwaun Common (near Aberdare). His sons were either mutilated or like Gruffudd (see below) exiled. His daughter Nest (see below) was taken to the Norman Court, where she was seduced by King Henry I. The ensuing internal power struggle was an opportunity for the Normans to press further into Wales.

[RHYS369] Nest (ferch Rhys) married [WIND341] Gerald FitzWalter (see WINDSOR). After Gerald's death she had further affairs, including Hait the Fleming (later Sheriff of Pembroke) and Stephen de Ceredigion (Constable of Cardigan).

[RHYS361] Gruffudd (born c.1090, ap Lord Rhys) married 1. ---; then 2. [GWYN363] Gwenllian (ferch Gruffydd ap Cynan, see GWYNEDD KINGDOM (1)).

The Welsh rebelled against the Anglo-Normans in 1094, and over the next four years managed to destroy all the Anglo-Norman castles in Dyfed except those at Pembroke and Rhyd-y-Gors (near Carmarthen). But by 1098 Welsh support for the uprising was flagging. Rhys ap Tewdyr's heirs to Deheubarth scattered, and Gruffudd fled to Ireland. He returned to Wales (1113), to claim his rightful inheritance, where Gruffydd II ap Cynan (see GWYNEDD KINGDOM (2)) attempted to capture him and hand him over to the Normans, but he managed to flee. He succeeding in making significant gains against the Anglo-Norman army (1115-16), but failed to reclaim his inheritance. He attacked Llandovery and Swansea, torched Carmarthen, and destroyed Narberth Castle.


Narberth Castle ruins
(9 May 2009)

He then agreed terms with King Henry I, but only managed to regain control of Cantref Mawr, a small portion of Ceredigion in north-east Deheubarth. He then remained quietly in the background while King Henry I remained on the throne.

After King Henry I's death (December 1135), civil war broke out in England. On 1st January 1136 there was a remarkable victory over the Anglo-Norman near LLwchwr (Loughor, west of Swansea), by forces from Brycheiniog led by Hywel ap Maredudd (son of Maredudd II ap Bleddyn, see POWYS KINGDOM (2)). In the Spring of 1136, Gruffudd joined his fellow Welshmen in another revolt against the Anglo-Normans in Ceredigion and Carmarthen. They defeated a force of Anglo-Normans and Flemings at Crug Mawr, near Cardigan, and seized Cardigan Castle. He was now Lord of Deheubarth (1136-37). In 1136 Gruffudd went to Gwynedd to enlist the help of Gruffydd ap Cynan (see GWYNEDD KINGDOM (1)). During Gruffudd's absence, his wife Gwenllian and sons Morgan and Maelgwn appear to have attacked Kidwelly's earth-and-timber castle [though this fact is not stated as such]. Maurice de Londres, feudal Lord of Kidwelly (see LONDRES), assisted by Geoffrey, Constable of the Castle, led a counter-attack. At a site close to where the later stone castle was built, Gwenllian and Morgan were both slain, and Maelgwn taken prisoner.

The site near the present castle is still known as Maes Gwenllian (Gwenllian's Field). A modern stone memorial near the castle main gate reads simply:



Maes Gwenllian
(22 July 2004)


The following year Gruffudd was slain by the Anglo-Normans (1137). Afterwards his youngest sons destroyed several castles in Ceredigion and the one at Carmarthen. This caused the Anglo-Normans to start strengthening with stone the remaining timber framed castles in Wales.

[RHYS371] Rhys (youngest son, born in Ireland, 1132, ap Gruffudd, by Gwenllian) married [MADO373] Gwenllian (ferch Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, see POWYS KINGDOM (2), and also had an unnamed mistress. He was Lord of Deheubarth (1153-97), sole ruler of Deheubarth (by 1155), and afterwards Prince of South Wales. In 1147 Rhys and his two brothers, Cadell and Maredudd, attacked the Fleming motte and bailey stronghold at Wiston (i.e. Wizo's town, near Haverfordwest) but needed the help of Hywel ab Owain to bring down the walls. The castle was captured together with its Fleming owner Walter FitzWizo. In 1153 Rhys and his brother Maredudd captured Tenby Castle, also from the Flemings, in retaliation for the earlier wounding of their brother Cadell, but Anglo-Norman forces regained control shortly afterwards. (The castle was next stormed in 1193, when Rhys' son Hywel ap Rhys captured it together with its owner, the Fleming Philip FitzWizo and his family. On this occasion it took Anglo-Norman forces two years to recover it.)

Rhys met King Henry II (probably in 1158), when he agreed to relinquish most of Deheubarth, but retain control over Cantref Mawr and a few minor pieces of land. Behind Henry's back, Rhys made an incursion into West Wales (1159), destroying castles in Dyfed and besieging Carmarthen Castle. When the Anglo-Norman appeared on the scene, he retreated to Cantref Mawr. He did not surrender but accepted a truce, which he kept for three years.

In 1162 Rhys attacked Cantref Bychan, and seized Llandovery Castle, which had been built (1100-16) by Richard FitzPonce (see CLIFFORD). This action prompted the king to return from France (1163) to personally lead a counter-attack in South Wales. Rhys promptly surrendered rather than face a large army, and by July 1163 was paying homage to the king at Woodstock. He returned to Cantref Mawr, and began further assaults against the Anglo-Normans in that area, and claimed Ceredigion for the Welsh. In 1165 he torched Cardigan, and then seized nearby Cilgerran Castle which he retained. After his death, squabbles between his sons enabled Earl William Marshal (see PEMBROKE (MARSHAL) EARLDOM) to recapture Cilgerran (1204).

By 1167 Rhys controlled Ceredigion, Ystrad Tywi and part of Dyfed. In 1168 he expanded into Powys, and destroyed Rhuddlan and Builth Castles. When Owain ap Gruffydd (see GWYNEDD KINGDOM (1)) died in November 1170, Rhys seized the opportunity and afterwards effectively ruled all Welsh Wales. By September 1171 Rhys had completed his consolidation of Welsh Wales, by defeating his last rival, Owain Cyfeiliog. He then met King Henry II at Newnham, in the Forest of Dean, to affirm his allegiance to the Crown. About ten days later they met again, at Pembroke Castle, and Rhys was effectively given complete control over Deheubarth, and also made Justiciar on the King's behalf in South Wales. Shortly after, King Henry II, on his way to Ireland, stopped at Pembroke and confirmed on Rhys the lands of Ceredigion, Efelffre, Ystlwyf and Ystrad Tywi, which Rhys had already secured in 1167. According to the CADW Guide to "Laugharne Castle" (Richard Avent, 1995), Rhys and Henry also met at Laugharne for negotiations (c.1171-72).Thereafter they remained on good terms, and even during the Barons' Rebellion (1173) Rhys led a group of Welsh soldiers to fight alongside their king.


This plaque, mounted on a stone, adjacent to the
ruins of Cardigan Castle, proclaims in Welsh
and in English:

Here in 1176 the tradition of the
Welsh Eisteddfod began.  In Cardigan Castle
a grand feast of poetry and music was sponsored and
hosted by the Lord Rhys, a generous patron of the Arts



Eisteddfod plaque
(9 May 2009)


The king died (1189) and his successor, King Richard I, ignored Rhys' special status. Rhys immediately launched a massive and successful re-conquest in Wales, recapturing the Carmarthenshire castles at Laugharne, Llansteffan and St. Clears.

  Llansteffan Castle
(26 August 2016)

 In the July of that year he received a letter from Richard requesting a meeting to discuss peace terms, which he ignored. Two months later Rhys received a fresh plea (through Prince John) for him to meet Richard. Rhys agreed, but this time Richard refused to meet him. Rhys carried on marauding the Anglo-Normans wherever he could. About this time Rhys built the present stone castle at Kidwelly (1190). In 1191 he captured Nanhyfer (Nevern) Castle (east of Cardigan), evicting his son-in-law William FitzMartin (see MARTIN BARONY), replacing him by his eldest son Gruffydd ap Rhys as custodian. Ironically, three years later Rhys himself was imprisoned in this castle by two of his other sons, Maelgwyn (who had in the meantime acquired the castle from his older brother) and Hywel. Shortly after, Hywel regretted his part in the business, took Nevern Castle and freed his father. Hywel later dismantled the castle so it would never fall into the hands of the Anglo-Normans. However, William FitzMartin returned to the castle (1196), but the cost of repairs were too much, and he vacated it.

Rhys beat Marcher Lord Robert (see WIGMORE (MORTIMER) BARONY) heading a well-equipped force of cavalry and foot, near Radnor (1196), with much slaughter, but Pembroke alone remained in Norman hands. He is commonly referred to today as "Yr Arglwydd Rhys", or "The Lord Rhys", but the titles he himself used were Prince of Deheubarth, Prince of South Wales, Prince of Wales or Prince of the Welsh. Rhys died (thought to be of the plague) the following year (28th April 1197).

Plaque with reputed effigy at St. David's Cathedral
(18 March 2008)
Reputed effigy of Lord Rhys Head of reputed effigy of Lord Rhys

[RHYS382] Ankaret (ferch Rhys, by his unnamed mistress) married [MART381] William (son of Robert Martin, see MARTIN BARONY).