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THE BRYCHAN DYNASTY
By Darrell Wolcott
Our earliest mention of Brychan, for
whom Brycheiniog was named, is in a manuscript called De Situ Brecheniauc which scholars date to the eleventh century. A
slightly later manuscript, Cognatio Brychan, tells much the same story. They begin with a king of Garthmadryn
called Tewdrig ap Teithfallt ap Tewdwr ap Tathal descended from Annhun, king of Greece. Tewdrig had a daughter, Marchell,
who married an Irish nobleman named Anlach ap Cormac.
These sources say Tewdrig took
his young daughter to Ireland to escape a frigid winter, was welcomed by King Cormac who soon arranged the marriage of his
son to Marchell; that this union produced a son, Brychan, and the family settled in Garthmadryn. Modern scholars think
it more likely that Anlach ap Cormac headed an Irish invasion of Wales about the time the Roman legions left Britain, and
that he moved easily through the southwest territory already held by the Irish Deisi tribes and attacked Garthmadryn.
Tewdrig offered his daughter in marriage to the Irish nobleman as an alternative to war, asking only that their firstborn
son be entitled to rule when he came of age. The marriage did occur and the son, Brychan, did become king of Garthmadryn.
Later, those lands were renamed Brycheiniog (belonging to Brychan).
No certain date can be
fixed for the birth of Brychan, but the "accepted" date is c. 400 AD. One might point to three separate reasons
for such an estimate:
1. A new Irish
incursion in Wales is more likely to have followed the pullout of the Roman Army, making a date earlier than 400 unlikely.
2. As a youngster,
Brychan was given as a hostage to a King of Powys called Benadel. If we credit Ninnius "Historia Brittonum",
Powys was ruled by Cadell Ddyrnllwg after 429, so the era of Benedel must have preceeded that.
3. The cited marriage
of Brychan's daughter, Meleri, to Ceredig ap Cunedda. Such a lady would occur c. 435/440 and Brychan a generation
We agree the birth of Brychan
should be assigned to c. 400/405 for all those reasons. Our first question concerns the children assigned to him in
these early manuscripts: 11 sons and 24 daughters by 3 wives. These numbers keep growing in medieval sources until the
number of offspring passes 60. Some of the names in these lists are obvious duplications arising from variant spellings,
others perhaps added by speculative genealogists. We shall limit our study to the original 35. Of those,
not more than 11 can be dated to any degree of approximation: The base son, Cynog, whose mother was Banadlinet ferch
Benadel; Rhein Dremrudd, the only son with a separate pedigree; and 9 daughters who married men known from other sources.
Of those daughters, only one
could have been the child of a man born at the start of the fifth century: Meleri, mentioned above. Of the rest, 6 clearly
date to c. 490/500, one to c. 550 and the final lady to c. 780 (if we accept the usual identification of her husband).
1. Gwladys married Gwynlliw
ap Glywys and was the mother of St. Cadoc. His pedigree dates him to c. 505 and his mother to c. 490.
2. Marchel married Gwrin
Farfdrwch ap Cadwaladr ap Merion ap Cunedda. A great-grandson of Cunedda should occur c. 485 and we would expect
his wife to have been born c. 495/500.
3. Nefyn married Cynfarch
Oer ap Meirchion Gul ap Gwrwst Ledlum ap Ceneu ap Coel Hen. She was the mother of Urien Rheged, dating her to c. 490/495.
4. Gwawr married Elidyr
Lydanwyn ap Merchion Gul, a first cousin of Cynfarch Oer, and was the mother of Llywarch Hen. Such a lady would occur
5. Tudglid married
Cyngen ap Maucant (or Mawn) and was the mother of Brochwel Ysgithrog. The latter was born c. 510 and requires
a mother born c. 490/495.
6. Lluan married Aeddon
ap Dyfnwal Hen at Cinuit ap Ceretic Wledig and was the mother of Gafran. The pedigree of Aeddon points to a birthdate
c. 480 and he would have married a lady born c. 490/495
These six ladies all belong
to the same generation and could be sisters. They occur two full generations later than Meleri and require a Brychan
born c. 460 as their father. Others have suggested the second Brychan was unrelated to the first and must have lived
in the far north of Britain since 3 of the above ladies married men living in that area. Yet the other 3 ladies
married men from Wales; should we conclude there were two other men named Brychan, both born about 460? Before
offering our best judgement, let's look at the next lady said to be a daughter of Brychan.
Gurycon ferch Brychan
married Cadrod Calchynidd ap Cynwyd ap Cynfelyn ap Arthwys ap Mar ap Ceneu ap Coel Hen. This man was born c. 540
which would date Gurycon to c. 550/555. She could not be a sister of the three ladies that married men who, like
Cadrod, lived in the far north of Britain. Her Brychan would occur two generations later than whichever Brychan fathered
Nefyn, Gwawr and Lluan. Those who suggest a far-north Brychan include Gurycon among his daughters; we believe their
position is considerably undermined by this obvious error. The eight ladies discussed above require 3 different
fathers. And should we believe a Welsh Brychan fathered Gladys, Marchel and Tudglid and a "Men of the North" Brychan
fathered Nefyn, Gwawr and Lluan, this requires 4 men named Brychan.
The final daughter is Aranwen
who married "Gereuerth regis de Powys, inde dicitur Ioreurthiaun". This man, identified in the early manuscripts
as a man of Powys but without a patronym, remained a mystery until the medieval genealogists decided he was "Iorwerth Hirfladd
ap Tegonwy ap Teon". That man almost certainly dates from c. 765 and lived over 200 years later than
any of the other Brychan daughters. It was probably this identification of Aranwen's husband which led some to
believe that "daughter of Brychan" meant no more than "a lady from Brychieniog". We see no good reason to equate
"Gereuerth" with Iorwerth Hirfladd; perhaps an "Iorwerth" was meant, but we suspect one from the 5th or 6th century,
not the 8th. While one scholar seems to think "Ioruerthiaun" referred to a tribe in Powys called "Iorwerthian" the
latin "inde dicitur" appears to tell us the "regis de Powys" was "from the root of Ioruerthiaun" and indicates the latter
may have been the name of a noted ancestor. If the medieval genealogists can make "Ior" out of "Ger"
in the name of Arenwen's husband, perhaps his ancestor was called "Geruerthiaun". From there, it isn't a big stretch
to render it as "Gwrtheyrn" or "Guortheyrn". And if we are looking from a king of Powys in the late 5th
century, a man descended from the Gwrtheyrn known to history as Vortigern and perhaps living in the cantref of Gwerthrynion
would certainly appear plausable. The family descended from Pasgen ap Vortigern ruled Buellt and Gwerthrynion for
300 years; he is given a grandson called "Idnerth" in one old pedigree who occurs c. 480. Perhaps he was
the "Gereuerth" who married Aranwen; that would date her contemporarily with the 6 Brychan daughters born 490/500 we identified
Rhein Dremrudd ap Brychan was the ancestor of Ceindrec ferch Rhiwallon who married a king of the Dyfed dynasty and
gave birth to Caten. We date the latter to c. 620 and Ceindrec to c. 600. Rhein occurs 5 generations earlier
or about 435/440 so we would see him as a son of the earliest Brychan and a brother of Meleri.
A chart of the family
which would accomodate all of these "children of Brychan" might look like this:
400 Brychan I
Meleri 418 St Cynog Rhein
460 Brychan II
l l l
Gwladys Marchel Arenwen Nefyn
Lluan Tudglid Gwawr Son
(8 children born 490/500)
The three wives assigned
to Brychan were called Eurbraust, Rybrawst and Proestri. None are further identified by naming their fathers, so dating
these ladies is not possible. But since a minimum of three men called Brychan fathered the 9 ladies and 2 sons named in
our chart, prehaps one wife belongs to each Brychan. And dividing the 35 claimed children among three different men
would produce a more believable number of offspring to perhaps a dozen for each man. How the remaining 24 might have
been distributed between the three Brychans is unknowable since none can be dated.