If you have accessed this page via web search, it is an incomplete draft of research still in progress and is subject
to much revision. It cannot be accessed from our website, but web search engines are unable to distinguish between "published"
pages and those "off-site" notes stored by the site author for possible future use.
CYNDDYLAN AP CYNDRWYN
By Darrell Wolcott
Known to us only through a collection
of heroic poetry, Cynddylan is described as the son of an equally shadowy man called Cyndrwyn and supposedly resided at Llys
Pengwern until he and most of his brothers and sisters were slain in an attack by the Saxons. The actual location of Cynddylan's
Llys Pengwern has been debated for years. Some have conjectured Pengwern was the name of a sizeable kingdom over which
Cynddylan ruled as king. Others say it was only a manor within Powys and held by a prince related to the royal family.
We have seen no evidence which would support the oft-repeated claim that Pengwern was identical to either Viriconium or Shrewsbury,
nor that Cynddylan was a king.
Manors called Pengwern were also located in Dogfeiling near Ruthin and just
outside Llangollen in Nanhuedwy but, from the description of Cynddylan's manor given in the poetry, his manor was located
in the present Shropshire. Perhaps within sight of Viriconium, we would suggest an area near Whittington. Most
scholars would assign the floruit of Cynddylan as c. 600x650 which is consistent with the poem which says he fought as an
ally of "the son of Pyd". This is thought to refer to Penda, son of Pybba, the king of Mercia c. 625x655. Some
believe Cynddylan and his brothers joined Penda at the 642 battle of Maserfield where Oswald of Northumbria was slain.
In 655, Oswi the brother of Oswald met Penda's army at Winwaed where Penda fell. Many assume Cynddylan was also killed
in that battle, and that Oswi then laid waste to Llys Pengwern where all of Cynddylan's siblings, except for a sister Heledd,
A pedigree from the Bonedd yr
Arwyr section of Hengwrt Ms 33 contains a section called "Plant Cyndrwyn" which lists 12 sons and 9 daughters.
The list includes the names of 3 men and 3 ladies which also appear in the heroic poetry as brothers and sisters
of Cynddylan: Elfan, Cynwraith, Cynon, Ffeur, Medlan and Heledd. Oddly however, the name of Cynddylan is missing.
One copy of that now-lost manuscript
bears a pencilled gloss above the Plant Cyndrwyn pedigree saying "Kyndrwyn ap Ywain ap Urien ap Kynvarch". It is not
know by whom, nor when, this gloss was added and there are reasons to question its claim. The poetry uniformly
places the family in "Pengwern" near the Tren River and not far from Uriconium. This, then, was a part of the kingdom
ruled by descendants of Cadell Ddrynllwg and of Brochwel Ysgithrog. The lands of Rheged, the kingdom of Urien ap Cynfarch,
lay north of Chester between the west coast of Britain and the Pennines. If Cyndrwyn was an historical man dwelling
in northwest Shropshire, we should expect him to represent a branch of the Powys family. Indeed, one of his sons is
called Elfan Powys in the poetry. As with other men whose early citations list 20 or more children, we believe the list
includes the children of more than one man named Cyndrwyn. The one who was father to Cynddylan would have been born
c. 580/585 and would fit chronologically as a younger son of Powys king Cynan Garwin ap Brochwel Ysgithrog. According
to traditional lore, Cyndrwyn was present at the 616 Battle of Chester and survived it; the king of Powys, Selyf
ap Cynan, was killed there as well as a "king Cadell" whom we would identify as another brother of Cyndrwyn.
While this scenerio appears
to be consistent with the heroic poetry, other more modern claims are not. Much appears on the internet identifying
Cynddylan as "King of Dogfeiliog" and "Oppressor of the Cadelling". This, we believe, comes from a poor translation
of a poem which some scholars date as late as c. 1100. Known as "Marwnad Cynddylan" (A Lament for Cynddylan), it expresses
affection for those who welcomed the author to travel through their lands and ends each stanza with the refrain "I shall lament
until (various phrases meaning "my death") for the slaying of Cynddylan". Written in Welsh, some unattributed
translator identifies those welcomers as "the king of Dogfeiling, terror to the Cadelling". Even if the translation
was accurate, the phrase applies not to Cynddylan but to the people who welcomed the author to their lands. But the
Welsh phrase is "gwerling Dogfeiling, Cadelling ffaw" (in another stanza, "Cadelling trais"). We would render it something
more like "the people (gwerin) of Dogfeiling, in the den (ffau) of the Cadelling" and "oppressed by (trais) the Cadelling".
Although the author seems to thereby suggest Cynddylan as a man who would have been revered by the men of Dofgeiling
(perhaps a traditional belief in the 12th century), we believe his association with that area to be no more than flawed conjecture.
This description of the folk
of Dogfeiling (oppressed by the men of Powys) probably refers to the history of that territory long before the era of
Cynddylan. In the ancient pedigrees, we find reference to a family descended from Dogfael ap Cunedda which relocated
to Glastening c. 540. A son of Elno ap Dogfael born c. 480 is called "Glast" in the pedigrees, and is said to have been
invited to resettle in Glastonbury in Somerset by the aid of the See of Lichfield in Staffordshire. The man called
Glast, one tradition holds, allied his warband with that of Arthur to defeat a Saxon force which had attacked Lichfield.
Now if the kingdom of Powys (the Cadelling) had been encroaching on his paternal lands around Denbigh, "Glast" may have jumped
at an offer of new lands far from Powys which a grateful bishop at Lichfield arranged for him. (Lichfield itself was too far
east to have been an attractive home for a Welshman, but the church lands at Glastonbury likely would have been seen
as safe to Glast).
So what does Glast have to do
with Cynddylan? In fact, nothing except for two similiarities: (a) the lands near Denbigh also contained a manor called
Pengwern, and (b) the birthname of Glast was probably Cyndrwyn. A pedigree from Hengwrt Ms 33 cites a "Morfael ap Glas
ap Elno ap Dogfael ap Cunedda", while Plant Cyndrwyn of the same manuscript lists one son of Cyndrwyn
as Morfael. The statements of our contemporary scholar David Nash Ford to the contrary, Morfael is not called a brother
of Cynddylan in Marwnad Cynddlan nor any of the other heroic poetry. Other ancient pedigrees mention
an "Elud" or "Elgud" as a second son of Glas ap Elno; modern suggestions that this man is the same person as "Elfan, brother
of Cynddylan" have little to recommend them. Glast was a man of the early 6th century, while Cynddylan belongs to the
mid-7th. Thus, we believe that some of the persons named in this list
were children of the c. 485 Cyndrwyn Glast of Dogfeiliog, some were children of the c. 585 Cyndrwyn of Pengwern in Powys,
and others may have been fictional and taken from 9th century or later heroic poetry.
The family of "Cyndrwyn" Glast can be dated by this chart:
515 Morfael** 520
*Said to have fought beside Arthur at Lichfield, consistent
with a man born c. 485
** The inclusion of his name in the list of sons of
Cyndrwyn suggests that was his father's birth name, and that "Glast" was a nickname received after his relocation to Glastenbury.
Born 100 years earlier than Cynddylan, his father must have been a different Cyndrwyn than the one that fathered Cynddylan.
After rereading all the
poems of the Heledd collection, we would limit her siblings to 6: Cynddylan, Elfan, Cynwraith, and Cynon as brothers with
Ffeuer and Medlan as sisters of Heledd. And would reject any connection between Cynddylan and Dogfeiling.