As promised….

A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe posted an adapted meme last year, appealing to certain bloggers – The Attic was mentioned – rather than tagging them, to take part. The rules:

  1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
  2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself. My variant is that rather than say 7 random/weird things about yourself, say them about a historical figure of your choice. (Let’s be generous, semi-historical, for all those interested in more or less mythical figures).
  3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
  4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

As I, too, am loath to tag, I leave the continuation of this meme to anyone interested in taking part.

My historical figure of choice is Gruffydd ap Cynan/Gryffydd ap Cynan (c. 1055 – 1137) King of Gwynedd. What a hero! ….according to his biographer.

1. Gruffydd was the great great grandfather of Llywelyn the Great. His direct descendants ruled Gwynedd without interruption for about 150 years after his death.

2. He is the only mediaeval Welsh prince whose near contemporary biography has survived – Hanes Gruffydd ap Cynan. The existing source – Peniarth MS 17 (Hengwrt 406) – in Welsh, greatly extols its subject and is rather vague in its chronology. The original, from which the extant copy is a likely translation, is thought to have been written in Latin in the late 12th century.

3. Gruffydd could claim descent from the Scandinavian Kings of Dublin and Leinster through his mother, who appears in the list of the fair women of Ireland in the Book of Leinster:

The King of Denmark (unnamed)
Harald Haarfager
Olaf Cuaran
Sitriuc (Silkenbeard)
Ragnaillt (Ragnhildir/Radnaillt of Dublin/Ranult of Dublin ingen Olaf) (daughter) = Cynan, son of Iago

His father had lived in exile in Ireland and Gruffydd was brought up in Swords, near Dublin. He had Norse and Irish mercenaries in his army, could call upon a Viking fleet for aid, in battle he wielded a double-edged axe and during his campaigns to re-claim the throne of Gwynedd, frequently sought refuge in Ireland.

4. He was, also, a descendant of Rhodri Mawr and was therefore a prime member of the royal house of Aberffraw (Anglesey).

5. He became a significant leader in Welsh resistance to Norman rule – ‘he liberated Gwynedd from its castles’.
Gruffydd was enticed to a meeting with Hugh Earl of Chester and Hugh Earl of Shrewsbury at Rug, near Corwen. Betrayed, Gruffydd was seized and taken prisoner. He was imprisoned in Earl Hugh’s castle at Chester The Hanes is contradictory in places about the length of his imprisonment, maintaining that it was for twelve years, but in another place that he was a prisoner for sixteen years. However, it is his escape that is extraordinary. Gruffydd was shackled in the market place at Chester when Cynwrig the Tall, visiting the city, hoisted Gruffydd onto his shoulders, chains and all, and carried him away.
6. Gruffydd had a remarkably long life. He was laid to rest at Bangor Cathedral, which he had helped to build, in a vault at the left side of the high altar. There are some fragments of particularly Viking-style sculpture preserved within the present cathedral.
7. He bequeathed the harbour of Abermenai to his wife, Angharad, great-great-granddaughter of Lady Godiva (Godgifu/Godgyfu), the naturist. Abermenai, Anglesey, today, is a small bay surrounded by high sand dunes and still a welcome sheltered anchorage for a few yachts off The Menai Strait. Gruffydd also left a bequest to the church at Penmon, Anglesey, where there is still a low-relief interlace dragon tympanum over the south nave doorway which dates to the twelfth century.

Further reading and links:

R.R.Davies (1991) The Age of Conquest: Wales 1063-1415. O.U.P.
K.L. Maund (ed.) (1996) Gruffudd ap Cynan : a collaborative biography. Boydell Press.
A. Jones (ed.) (1910) The History of Gruffydd ap Cynan, (Manchester) – English translation.
The History of Gruffydd ap Cynan
Welsh Biography Online: GRUFFUDD ap CYNAN

Other characters from this meme are listed by Michelle of Heavenfield


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