Kings and Princes of Wales

by Ben Johnson

Although the Romans invaded Wales in the first century AD, only South Wales ever became part of the Roman world as North and Mid-Wales is largely mountainous making communications difficult and presenting obstacles to any invader.

After the Roman period the Welsh kingdoms that emerged were the ones that commanded stretches of useful lowland, especially Gwynedd in the north, Ceredigion in the south-west, Dyfed (Deheubarth) in the south and Powys in the east. Powys would always be at a disadvantage however, due to its close proximity to England.

The great princes of medieval Wales were all westerners, mainly from Gwynedd. Their authority was such that they could wield authority well beyond the borders of their kingdoms, enabling many to claim to rule all Wales.

Below is a list of the kings and princes of Wales from Rhodri the Great to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, followed by the English Princes of Wales. After the Conquest of Wales, Edward I created his son ‘Prince of Wales’ and since then, the title ‘Prince of Wales’ has been given to the heir apparent to the English and British throne. HRH Prince Charles currently holds the title.

Sovereigns and Princes of Wales 844 – 1283


844-78 Rhodri Mawr the Great. King of Gwynedd. The first Welsh ruler to be called ‘Great’ and the first, by virtue of peaceful inheritance and marriage, to rule most of present-day Wales. Much of Rhodri’s reign was spent fighting, especially against Viking marauders. He was killed in battle alongside his brother fighting Ceolwulf of Mericia.
878-916 Anarawd ap Rhodri, Prince of Gwynedd. Following the death of his father, Rhodri Mawr’s lands were divided with Anarawd receiving part of Gwynedd, including Anglesey. In campaigns against his brother Cadell ap Rhodri who ruled Ceredigion, Anarawd sought help from Alfred of Wessex. He was well received, with the king even acting as his godfather at Anarawd’s confirmation. Acknowledging Alfred as his overlord, he gained equality with Ethelred of Mercia. With English help he ravaged Ceredigion in 895.
904-50 Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good), King of Deheubarth. The son of Cadell ap Rhodri, Hywel Dda inherited Credigion from his father, gained Dyfed by marriage and acquired Gwynedd following the death of his cousin. Thus, most of Wales was united during his reign. A frequent visitor to the House of Wessex, he even made a pilgrimage to Rome in 928. A scholar, Hywel was the only Welsh ruler to issue his own coins and compile a code of law for the country.
916-42 Idwal Foel ‘the Bald’, King of Gwynedd. Idwal inherited the throne from his father Anarawd. Although he intially allied himself with the Saxon court, he rebelled against the English fearing they would usurp him in favour of Hywel Dda. Idwal was killed in the battle that followed. The throne should have passed to his sons Iago and Ieuaf, however Hywel invaded and expelled them.
950-79 Iago ab Idwal, King of Gwynedd. Excluded from the kingdom by his uncle Hywel Dda after his father was killed in battle, Iago together with his brother Ieuaf returned to reclaim their throne. In 969 following some brotherly banter, Iago imprisoned Ieuaf. Iago ruled for another ten years before Iehaf’s son Hywel usurped him. Iago was one of the Welsh princes that paid homage to the English king, Edgar, at Chester in 973.
979-85 Hywel ap Ieuaf (Hywel the Bad), King of Gwynedd. In 979 assisted by English troops, Hywel defeated his uncle Iago in battle. That very same year Iago was captured by a force of Vikings and mysteriously disappears, leaving Hywel as the sole ruler of Gwynedd. In 980 Hywel defeated an invading force led by Iago’s son , Custennin ab Iago, in Anglesey. Custennin was killed in the battle. Hywel was killed by his English allies in 985 and was succeeded by his brother Cadwallon ap Ieuaf.
985-86 Cadwallon ap Ieuaf, King of Gwynedd. Succeeded to the throne following the death of his brother Hywel, he ruled for just one year before Maredudd ab Owain of Deheubarth invaded Gwynedd. Cadwallon was killed in the battle.
986-99 Maredudd ab Owain ap Hywel Dda, King of Deheubarth. After defeating Cadwallon and adding Gwynedd to his kingdom, Maredudd effectively united north and south Wales. During his reign Viking raids were a constant problem with many of his subjects being slaughtered or taken as captives. Maredudd was said to have then paid a considerable ransom for the freedom of the hostages.
999-1005 Cynan ap Hywel ab Ieuaf, Prince of Gwynedd. The son of Hywell ap Ieuaf, he inherited the throne of Gwynedd after the death of Maredudd.
1005-18 Aeddan ap Blegywryd, Prince of Gwynedd. Although of noble blood, it is unclear how Aeddan siezed the throne of Gwynedd following the death of Cynan as he was not in the direct line of royal succession. In 1018 his leadership was challenged by Llywelyn ap Seisyll, Aeddan and his four sons were killed in the battle.
1018-23 Llywelyn ap Seisyll, King of Deheubarth, Powys and Gwynedd. Llywelyn gained the throne of Gwynedd and Powys by defeating Aeddan ap Blegywryd, he then went on to take control of Deheubarth by killing the Irish pretender, Rhain. Llywelyn died in 1023 leaving behind his son Gruffudd, who perhaps too young to succeed his father, would become the first and only true King of Wales.
1023-39 Iago ab Idwal ap Meurig, King of Gwynedd. The great-grandson of Idwal ab Anarawd, the rule of Gwynedd returned to the ancient bloodline with the accession of Iago. His reign of six years ended when he was murdered and replaced with Gruffydd ap Llywelyn ap Seisyll. His son Cynan was exiled to Dublin for his own safety.
1039-63 Gruffudd ap Llywelyn ap Seisyll, King of Gwynedd 1039-63 and overlord of all the Welsh 1055-63. Gruffudd seized control of Gwynedd and Powys after he had killed Iago ab Idwal. Following earlier attempts, Deheubarth finally came into his possession in 1055. A few years later Gruffudd seized Glamorgan, driving out its ruler. And so, from about 1057 Wales was one, under one ruler. Gruffud’s rise in power obviously attracted the attention of the English and when he defeated the forces of Leofric, earl of Mercia, he perhaps took a step too far. Earl Harold Godwinson of Wessex was despatched to take revenge. Leading forces over land and sea Harold pursued Gruffud from place to place until he was killed somewhere in Snowdonia on 5 August 1063, possibly by Cyan ap Iago, whose father Iago had been murdered by Gruffud in 1039.
1063-75 Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, King of Powys, and together with his brother Rhiwallon, they were installed as co-rulers of Gwynedd following the death of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn. Having submitted to Earl Harold Godwinson of Wessex, they swore allegiance to the then king of England, Edward the Confessor. Following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, the brothers joined the Saxon resistance to William the Conqueror. In 1070, Gruffud’s sons challenged Bleddyn and Rhiwallon in an attempt to win back part of their fathers kingdom. Both son’s were killed at the Battle of Mechain. Rhiwallon also lost his life in the battle, leaving Bleddyn to rule Gwynedd and Powys alone. Bleddyn was killed in 1075 by King Rhys ab Owain of Deheubarth.
1075-81 Trahaern ap Caradog, King of Gwynedd. Following the death of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, it appears that none of his sons were old enough to claim the throne and Bleddyn’s cousin Trahaearn, seized power. In the same year that he seized the throne, he briefly lost it again when an Irish force landed in Anglesey led by Gruffydd ap Cynan. Following tensions between Gruffydd’s Danish-Irish bodyguard and local Welsh folk, a rebellion in Llyn gave Trahaern the opportunity to counterattack, he defeated Gruffydd at the Battle of Bron yr erw. Gruffydd was forced back into exile in Ireland. Trahaern met his end at the fierce and bloody Battle of Mynydd Carn in 1081, after Gruffydd had once again invaded with an army of Danes and Irish.
1081-1137 Gruffydd ap Cynan ab Iago, King of Gwynedd. Born in Ireland of the royal line of Gwynedd, following several failed attempts Gruffydd finally siezed power after defeating Trahaern at the Battle of Mynydd Carn. With much of his kingdom now overrun by Normans, Gruffydd was invited to a meeting with Hugh, Earl of Chester, where he was seized and taken prisoner. Imprisoned for several years, he was said to be being held in chains in the market-place when Cynwrig the Tall visited the city. The story continues that seizing his opportunity Cynwrig picked up Gruffydd and carried him out of the city on his shoulders, chains an all. Joining the anti-Norman rebellion of 1094, Gruffydd was driven out yet again, retiring once more to the safety of Ireland. Through the constant threat of Viking attacks, Gruffydd returned once more as ruler of Anglesey, swearing allegiance to King Henry l of England
1137-70 Owain Gwynedd, King of Gwynedd. During his father’s old age, Owain together with his brother Cadwaladr had already led three succesful expeditions against against the English between 1136-37. Benefitting from the anarchy in England, Owain signicantly extended the boundaries of his kingdom. After Henry II succeeded to the English throne however, he challenged Owain, who recognising the need for prudence, swore allegiance and changed his own title from king to prince. Owain maintained the agreement until 1165 when he joined a general rebellion of the Welsh against Henry. Thwarted by bad weather, Henry was forced to retreat in disorder. Infuriated by the rebellion, Henry murdered a number of hostages including two of Owain’s sons. Henry did not invade again and Owain was able to push the borders of Gwynedd to the banks of the River Dee.
1170-94 Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd. After the death of Owain, his sons argued over the lordship of Gwynedd. In the years that followed and in the ‘brothery love’ that ensued, one after another of Owain’s sons were either killed, exciled or imprisoned, until only Dafydd was left standing. By 1174, Owain was the sole ruler of Gwynedd and later that year he married Emme, the half-sister of King Henry II of England. In 1194, he was challenged by his nephew Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, ‘the Great’, who defeated him at the Battle of Aberconwy. Dafydd was catured and imprisoned, he later retired to England, where he died in 1203.
1194-1240 Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great), King of Gwynedd and eventually ruler of all Wales. The grandson of Owain Gwynedd, the early years of Llywelyn’s reign was spent eliminating any likely rivals to the throne of Gwynedd. In 1200, he made a treaty with King John of England and married John’s illegitimate daughter Joan, a few years later. In 1208, following the arrest Gwenwynwyn ap Owain of Powys by John, Llywelyn took the opportunity to sieze Powys. Friendship with England was never going to last and John invaded Gwynedd in 1211. Although Llywelyn lost some lands as a result of the invasion, he quickly recovered them the following year as John became embroiled with his revolting barons. In the famous Magna Carta reluctantly signed by John in 1215, special clauses secured the rights of Llywelyn to issues relating to Wales, including the release of his illegitimate son Gruffydd, who had been taken hostage in 1211. Following King John’s death in 1218, Llywelyn agreed the Treaty of Worcester with his successor Henry III. The treaty confirmed all of Llywelyn’s recent conquests and from then until his death in 1240, he remained the dominant force in Wales. In his latter years Llywelyn planned to adopt primogeniture to secure his princedom and legacy for future generations.
1240-46 Dafydd ap Llywelyn, the first ruler to claim the title Prince of Wales. Although his older half-brother Gruffydd also had claim to the throne, Llywelyn had taken exceptional steps to have Dafydd accepted as his sole heir. One of these steps included having Daffydd’s mother Joan (daughter of King John), declared legitimate by the Pope in 1220. Following his fathers death in 1240, Henry III accepted Daffydd’s claim to rule Gwynedd, he was however, not prepared to allow him to retain his father’s other conquests. In August 1241, the king invaded, and after a short campaign Dafydd was forced to give up his lands, as well as his half-brother, Gruffydd, as hostage. In March 1244, Gruffydd fell to his death while trying to escape from the Tower of London by climbing down a knotted sheet. Daffydd died young and without an heir, his dominion was once more divided.
1246-82 Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, ‘Llywelyn the Last’, Prince of Wales. The second of the four sons of Gruffydd, the eldest son of Llywelyn the Great, Llywelyn defeated his brothers at the Battle of Bryn Derwin to become the sole ruler of Gwynedd. Making the most of the barons’ revolt against Henry III in England, Llywelyn was able to regain almost as much territory as his esteemed grandfather had ruled over. He was officially recognised as the Prince of Wales by King Henry in the Treaty of Mongomery in 1267. The succession of Edward I to the Crown of England would prove his downfall. Llywelyn had made an enemy of King Edward by continuing to ally himself with the family of Simon de Montfort, one of the leaders of the baron’s revolt. In 1276, Edward declared Llywelyn a rebel and gathered an enormous army to march against him. Llywelyn was forced to seek terms, which included confining his authority to part of western Gwynedd once again. Renewing his rebellion in 1282, Llywelyn left Dafydd to defend Gwynedd and took a force south, trying to rally support in mid and south Wales, he was killed in a skirmish near Builth.
1282-83 Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales. Following the death of his brother Llywelyn, a year earlier , the four hundred year dominance in Wales by the House of Gwynedd is brought to an end. Condemned to death for high treason against the king, Dafydd would be first prominent person in recorded history to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The last independent Welsh kingdom falls and the English gain control of the country.

Prince of Wales Feathers - Sodacan WKC

The Prince of Wales’ Feathers
(“Ich Dien” = “I serve”)

English Princes of Wales From 1301


1301 Edward (II). The son of Edward I, Edward was was born in Caernarfon Castle in North Wales on 25th April, just a year after his father had conquered the region.
1343 Edward the Black Prince. The eldest son of King Edward III, the Black Prince was an exceptional military leader and fought alongside his father at the Battle of Crécy aged just sixteen.
1376 Richard (II)
1399 Henry of Monmouth (V)
1454 Edward of Westminster
1471 Edward of Westminster (V)
1483 Edward
1489 Arthur Tudor
1504 Henry Tudor (VIII)
1610 Henry Stuart
1616 Charles Stuart (I)
1638 Charles (II)
1688 James Francis Edward (Old Pretender)
1714 George Augustus (II)
1729 Fredrick Lewis
1751 George William Fredrick (III)
1762 George Augustus Fredrick (IV)
1841 Albert Edward (Edward VII)
1901 George (V)
1910 Edward (VII)
1958 Charles Philip Arthur George

Next article