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Llwyd, Humphreylocked

  • R. Brinley Jones

Humphrey Llwyd (1527–1568)

by unknown artist, 1561

by courtesy of the National Library of Wales

Llwyd, Humphrey (1527–1568), antiquary and map maker, was born in Denbigh, the only child of Robert Lloyd and Joan, daughter of Lewis Piggott. He could claim descent through his father from Harry Rossendale, a henchman and grantee of the earl of Lincoln in the late thirteenth century. Llwyd was educated at Oxford, graduating BA in 1547–8 and proceeding MA from Brasenose College in 1551. In 1553 he entered the service of Henry Fitzalan, twelfth earl of Arundel, remaining as a member of his household for the rest of his life. (One tradition, probably dating from Anthony Wood, maintained that Llwyd was physician to Arundel: this is now disputed.) Probably through the earl's influence, he represented East Grinstead in Elizabeth's first parliament of 1559 and sat for the Denbigh boroughs from 1563 to 1567. Llwyd married Barbara (d. 1609?), sister to John, the last Lord Lumley, Arundel's son-in-law, a man of wealth and culture, and had with her four sons and two daughters.

By 1563 Llwyd was probably living most of the time in Denbigh, within the walls of the castle, and was elected one of the two borough aldermen. For a year between early spring 1566 and late spring 1567 he was with Arundel in Italy, having travelled via Antwerp, Brussels, Augsburg, and Milan to Padua, with a visit to Venice. It was in Antwerp, on the return journey, that Richard Clough of Denbigh, Sir Thomas Gresham's agent in Antwerp, introduced Llwyd to Abraham Ortelius, the map maker, who invited him to assist in examining old place names and who sought Llwyd's advice on a map of Britain: it was a propitious meeting.

Llwyd inherited a respect for the distinguished literary traditions of his native locality together with the humanist thinking and antiquarian interests that had penetrated there. Oxford had brought him into firsthand contact with new modes of thought and, although his religious persuasion remains uncertain, the protestant theory of the distinction of the early British church was certainly to his liking: John Bale, William Salesbury, and Llwyd were among the first to elaborate upon this. His close association with Arundel and Lumley opened up the world of books and manuscripts to him. Llwyd was the possessor of an impressive library of broad interest, representing the most up-to-date and best continental scholarship: together with the collections of Arundel and Lumley it was to be bought by James I for his son Henry and was to form the basis of the Royal Collection now in the British Library.

No copy exists of the earliest of Llwyd's works: it is known only from a reference in a letter written by Robert Davies to Anthony Wood (Bodl. Oxf., MS Wood F41, fol. 46), in 1690, 'An Almanacke and Kalender, conteynynge, the daye houre, and mynute of the change of the Moone for ever, and the sygne that she is in for these thre yeares, with the natures of the sygnes and Planetes'. No copy exists, either, of Llwyd's translation into English of De auguriis by the Italian Renaissance author Agostino Nifo: it was in manuscript in Lumley's library in 1609. Of greater impact was the Cronica Walliae a Rege Cadwalader ad annum 1294 which Llwyd completed on 17 July 1559. This was an English adaptation of Brut y tywysogyon ('The chronicle of the princes'), the consummation of medieval Welsh historiography based on the annales kept by ecclesiastics and religious since the eighth century. Llwyd's work opens with a description of Wales by Sir John Price: this work and the rest of the Cronica are amplified by Llwyd from manuscript and printed sources (among them Matthew Paris and Nicholas Trevet) together with oral traditions and Llwyd's own glosses. Sir Henry Sidney, lord president of the council in the marches of Wales, encouraged his chaplain Dr David Powel of Ruabon to prepare an adaptation of the Cronica which existed in manuscript. Powel's work appeared in 1584 under the title Historie of Cambria, now Called Wales and although he recognized in his introduction that Llwyd's text contained 'imperfections, not onelie in the phrase, but also in the matter and substance of the historie', it remained the standard work on the history of Wales down to 1282 until Sir John Edward Lloyd's History was published in 1911.

Llwyd published a number of other significant works. De Mona druidum insula … epistola was the letter sent by Llwyd to Ortelius, dated 5 April 1568, and published by Ortelius in his atlas Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570). The work, according to Llwyd, was derived from reading, experience, travel and a knowledge of the Welsh tongue. Llwyd also wrote the Commentarioli Britannicae descriptionis fragmentum, a short historical and geographical description of Britain which he dispatched to Ortelius on 3 August 1568; it was published in Cologne in 1572 and is dedicated to Ortelius. It was translated by Thomas Twyne under the title The Breviary of Britayne and published in 1573. It was the first attempt to compile a chorographia of Britain as a whole. Central themes of Llwyd's work are his defence of Geoffrey of Monmouth (particularly countering the attacks of Polydore Vergil), and his belief in the integrity of the early British church.

Llwyd was also noted as a map maker. Cambriae typus was the map of Wales that Llwyd sent to Ortelius with the Commentarioli … fragmentum, acknowledging that it was 'not beutifully set forth in all poynctes, yet truly depeinted'; it was printed for Ortelius as a supplement to the 1573 edition of his Theatrum orbis terrarum. Cambriae typus has many inaccuracies but it was a great improvement on earlier maps. Llwyd's map was printed fifty times between 1573 and George Horn's Accuratissima orbis delineatio of 1741. At the same time Llwyd had dispatched to Ortelius his map of England and Wales, and this too was published by Ortelius in the Additamentum of 1573 under the title Angliae regni florentissimi nova descriptio. Here, despite inaccuracies, the main features are extremely well delineated.

In addition, Llwyd left two works in Welsh. One was a copy made by the poet Gruffudd Hiraethog of a pedigree of Llwyd's kinsman Foulk Lloyd of Foxhall, tracing him back to Harry Rossendale and declaring with pride: 'nid wyf yn kredv vod llawer yngwynedd allan ddangos mor vath sikrwydd am i bonedd ir yr amser hwnnw' ('I do not believe that many in Gwynedd can declare such certainty of their gentility since that time'). The other was a treatise on heraldry in the hand of Hiraethog's pupil Wiliam Llŷn who claims that Llwyd had compiled it 'o gymvlliad [sic] wmffre llwyd o dref ddinbych ai Tynnodd o ffrangec ac ieithoedd eraill' ('from the compilation of Humphrey Llwyd of Denbigh town who translated it from French and other languages').

Llwyd died on 21 August 1568, having contracted a fever before returning home from the continent, and was buried in the north aisle of Llanfarchell, Denbigh's old parish church. He had made his will on 5 August 1568: in it, he expresses deep concern for the well-being of his children. His books were to be kept safe 'tyll they or some one of theim come to yeares of discretion to Judge what a treasure they have lefte theym …'; but there is no evidence that his children were to pursue their father's scholarly interests. Llwyd's widow married William Williams of Cochwillan, Caernarvonshire: they had five children. Later, a monument of alabaster was placed in Llanfarchell bearing an epitaph 'of Humfrey Lloid Mr of arte. A famus worthy wight'. He is portrayed kneeling; there is a prayer desk covered with a carpet and a book before him and a sword at his side with three lines of musical notation below.

The poet Gruffudd Hiraethog composed a Welsh eulogy noting Llwyd's industry, his learning, and the essential part he played in easing the passage through the parliament of 1563 of the act that enabled the translation of the Bible into Welsh. Elegies were composed by two of Hiraethog's pupils, Lewis ab Edward and Wiliam Cynwal. Early in 1566 the Welsh humanist scholar and translator William Salesbury spoke of Llwyd as being 'the most famous Antiquarius of all our countrey'. On the basis of information collected for his Athenae Oxonienses of 1691–2, Anthony Wood describes him as 'a well bred Gentleman. He was a passing right Antiquary, and a Person of great skill and knowledge in British affairs'. A portrait of Llwyd at the age of thirty-four, dated 1561, shows him to be a handsome man with a pointed beard wearing a black doublet, with a gold chain around his neck and holding a prayer book. It includes his coat of arms and his motto, which reads (Hwy pery klod na golyd'Fame lasts longer than wealth').

A near relative of Llwyd, according to Wood, was John Lloyd (c. 1558–1603), classical scholar, born in Denbigh and educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, of which he was admitted perpetual fellow in 1579. He graduated BA (1581), MA (1584–5), BTh (1592), and DTh (1595). He married Isabell, daughter of Richard King of the parish of St Sepulchre, London. He became vicar of Writtle in Essex, a New College living, and died there in 1603. He was distinguished on account of the quality of his preaching and the distinction of his scholarship. He published Interpretatio Latina, cum scholiis in fluv. Josephum de Maccabaeis, seu, De rationis imperio at Oxford in 1590 and also Barlaamus de papae Principatu, Graecè & Latinè, again at Oxford, in 1592. He was brother of Hugh Lloyd, headmaster of Winchester College from 1580 to 1587.


  • R. G. Gruffydd, ‘Humphrey Llwyd of Denbigh: some documents and a catalogue’, Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society, 17 (1968), 54–107
  • R. G. Gruffydd, ‘Humphrey Llwyd: dyneiddiwr’, Efrydiau Athronyddol, 33 (1970), 57–74
  • I. M. Williams, ‘Ysgolheictod hanesyddol yr unfed ganrif ar bymtheg’, Llên Cymru, 2 (1952–3), 111–24, 209–23
  • D. J. Bowen, ‘Cywyddau Gruffudd Hiraethog i dri o awduron y dadeni’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1974–5), 103–31
  • S. Lewis, ‘Damcaniaeth eglwysig Brotestannaidd’, Efrydiau Catholig, 2 (1947), 36–55
  • D. H. Owen, Early printed maps of Wales (1996)
  • F. J. North, ‘Humphrey Lhuyd's maps of England and of Wales’, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 92 (1937), 11–63
  • G. Williams, The Welsh and their religion (1991)
  • J. Steegman, North Wales (1957), vol. 1 of Portraits in Welsh houses
  • Clwyd, Pevsner (1986)
  • Foster, Alum. Oxon., 1500–1714 [Humfry Lloyd]
  • I. Roberts and M. Roberts, ‘De Mona druidum insula’, Abraham Ortelius and the first atlas: essays commemorating the quadricentennial of his death, 1598–1998, ed. M. van den Broecke, P. van der Krogt, and P. Meurer (1998), 347–61
  • I. M. Williams, ed., Cronica Walliae, Humphrey Llwyd (2002)


  • NL Wales, letter to Otelius, MS 13187


  • Rhiwlas, portrait, 1561, NMG Wales
  • portrait, 1561, NL Wales [see illus.]
  • R. Clamp, stipple, BM, NPG; repro. in S. Harding, The biographical mirrour (1795)
  • J. Faber, mezzotint, BM, NPG

Wealth at Death

see will, NL Wales, St Asaph register of wills, 1565–8, p. 116

A. Wood, , 2 vols. (1691–2); 2nd edn (1721); new edn, ed. P. Bliss, 4 vols. (1813–20); repr. (1967) and (1969)
N. Pevsner & others, Buildings of England series
J. Foster, ed., , 4 vols. (1887–8), later edn (1891); , 4 vols. (1891–2); 8 vol. repr. (1968) and (2000)