Tudor family, forebears of (per. c.1215–1404), administrators and landholders
by A. D. Carr

Tudor family, forebears of (per. c.1215–1404), administrators and landholders, were prominent in Wales from at least the thirteenth century. Ednyfed Fychan (d. 1246), dynast and administrator, was the son of Cynwrig ab Iorwerth ap Gwrgant; the family came from the cantref of Rhos in north-east Wales and still had lands there in the fourteenth century.

Princely service and rewards

Ednyfed (whose epithet means ‘little’) is said to have become the steward or distain of , about 1215, when he first appeared as witness to a charter, although the earliest reference to him as holder of that office was when he witnessed a grant by Llywelyn in 1225. He appeared on a number of occasions as witness, arbitrator, and diplomatic representative of the prince; his last appearance was in 1245, when he led a delegation sent by Llywelyn's son and successor to meet Henry III and his council at Deganwy. In 1235 he had been granted a safe conduct by the king to travel through England on his way to the Holy Land and Henry gave instructions for a silver cup to be presented to him during his stay in London, although the gift does not seem to have been made. At his death, almost certainly in 1246, he was described by the Chester annals as justiciar of Wales, although one of his sons, Tudur, may already have taken over the post of steward from him in 1241. Ednyfed's elegy was sung by the poet Elidir Sais.

Ednyfed was the leading servant and adviser of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth and Dafydd ap Llywelyn. The distain had originally been responsible for the domestic organization and economy of the royal court, but by the thirteenth century he had come to be the prince's chief counsellor. The value of Ednyfed's service was reflected in the lands and privileges granted to him by Llywelyn. His descendants held these lands by a tenure described as that of wyrion Eden (‘the grandsons of Ednyfed’), which involved exemption from all rents and obligations except suit to the prince's court and military service. In the cantrefs of Rhos and Rhufoniog these privileges were enjoyed by all the descendants of his grandfather; it has been suggested that here the tenure was connected with the defence of one of the main routes into Snowdonia. Lands, including Penmynydd in Anglesey, which came to be regarded as the traditional seat of the family, were also granted to him in other parts of Gwynedd.

Founder of a dynasty

According to the pedigrees Ednyfed was twice married, his first wife being a daughter of the Anglesey nobleman Llywarch ap Bran and his second Gwenllian, a daughter of , the ruler of Deheubarth; she died in 1236. Through Gwenllian the family acquired some small lordships in the later counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen. He had several sons and daughters; one son, Iorwerth, is said to have been a leper, one may have been one of the Welsh prisoners killed by Henry III's invading army in 1245, and one, Hywel, was bishop of St Asaph from 1240 to 1247. Three other sons, Tudur, Gruffudd, and Goronwy, and their descendants, continued the tradition of service, both before and after the conquest of 1282, while his nephew Goronwy ap Heilin served both the crown and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (d. 1282) at different times and died in action in 1283 as the steward of the last native prince, Dafydd ap Gruffudd (d. 1283).

Tudur ab Ednyfed and his descendants, 1241–1431

Tudur ab Ednyfed (d. 1278), administrator, was described as Dafydd ap Llywelyn's steward in 1241. In 1245–6 he was a prisoner in England and on his release he had to hand over two sons as hostages. For several years he seems to have been in the service of Henry III and in 1259 and 1260 he represented the king in negotiations with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd about a truce. It has been suggested that it was after the release of his son Heilin by the king in 1263 that he joined Llywelyn; he appeared subsequently as witness and arbitrator and he was one of the prince's sureties under the treaty of Montgomery in 1267. In 1268 he succeeded his brother Goronwy as steward and he is described on a number of occasions as steward or justiciar. In November 1277 he and his cousin Goronwy ap Heilin were Llywelyn's plenipotentiaries in the negotiations that led to the treaty of Aberconwy. He died in the following year. Tudur's descendants had lands at Nant near Prestatyn in Flintshire; his great-great-grandson Gruffudd ap Gwilym ap Gruffudd ap Heilin (d. 1405) married a descendant of Goronwy ab Ednyfed and inherited extensive lands in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire from his maternal uncle. Two of Gruffudd's sons, Gwilym and Robin, were the ancestors of the Caernarvonshire families of Penrhyn and Cochwillan. The well-timed submission of Gwilym ap Gruffudd (d. 1431), landholder, during the Glyn Dŵr revolt enabled him to add substantially to his lands at the expense of some of his kinsmen and to become the most powerful figure in the principality of north Wales, where his family, the Griffiths of Penrhyn, were to dominate until 1540.

Gruffudd ab Ednyfed and sons, 1246–1284

Gruffudd ab Ednyfed (fl. 1246–1256), administrator, is traditionally said to have been obliged to seek temporary refuge in Ireland because of a slander about Joan, the wife of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth. He may have been the steward of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, probably between 1246 and 1255, when Gwynedd west of the Conwy was divided between Llywelyn and his brother Owain; he appeared for the last time in 1256, when he led a delegation to England for talks with Henry III. The date of his death is unknown; his elegy was sung by Dafydd Benfras. It is possible that his relations with Llywelyn had deteriorated; certainly the loyalty of two of his sons, Rhys ap Gruffudd and Hywel ap Gruffudd [see below], was less than wholehearted, and they fought for Edward I in the war of 1282. Rhys ap Gruffudd ab Ednyfed (d. 1284), landholder, had been in the service of the prince but in May 1277, during the first Anglo-Welsh war, he and Hywel came into the king's peace and a third brother, Llywelyn, the prior of the Dominican friary at Bangor, acted as an intermediary. The treaty of Aberconwy stipulated that Llywelyn should restore Rhys to the position he had occupied before his submission, and in 1281 he undertook to pay the prince £100 because of his disobedience and contempt to him. The fact that Rhys was married to Margaret Lestrange, whose sister was the wife of Llywelyn's opponent Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn (d. 1286) of Powys, may have contributed to the breakdown of relations. In 1278 he had been a member of the mixed Anglo-Welsh commission appointed by Edward to deal with pleas in Wales and the marches.

Leaders of native Wales: Sir Gruffudd Llwyd and Sir Rhys ap Gruffudd

The English conquest of Wales made no difference to the influence and authority of the descendants of Ednyfed Fychan. Rhys's son Gruffudd, known as , spent many years in the service of the crown. By 1301 he had been knighted and between 1302 and 1317 he was, at different times, sheriff of Caernarvonshire, Anglesey, and Merioneth. During the troubles of Edward II's reign he was the leader of the royalist party in north Wales; after Edward's deposition in 1327 he was one of several prominent Welshmen imprisoned for a time. But his loyalty was not unquestioned; during Edward Bruce's invasion of Ireland, which began in 1315, he was in correspondence with the Scottish leader, promising him support in the event of a landing in Wales. It may have been a memory of his dealings with Bruce that gave rise to the story that he had led an unsuccessful revolt and had been executed. He died in 1335, leaving several daughters and one surviving son, Ieuan (d. c.1352), who became archdeacon of Anglesey.

Hywel ap Gruffudd ab Ednyfed (d. 1282), landholder, was killed at the abortive crossing of the Menai Strait on 6 November 1282. His son Gruffudd (d. 1308) had two sons, Rhys and Robert. Like his kinsman Sir Gruffudd Llwyd, had a long career in royal service. His first appointment was as steward of Cardiganshire in 1308 and this was followed by a succession of offices, culminating in two terms as deputy justiciar of south Wales. He also built up a substantial estate in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. Rhys was frequently summoned for military service; in 1315 he was leading troops against the Glamorgan rebel Llywelyn Bren (d. 1317) and he led Welsh troops to Scotland and France, serving at Crécy in 1346. Like Sir Gruffudd Llwyd he remained loyal to Edward II until the end. The failure of his attempt to rescue Edward from captivity in 1327 forced him to flee for a time to Scotland and in 1330 he fled abroad after the failure of the earl of Kent's plot against Mortimer. The fall of Mortimer later the same year restored him to favour and for the rest of his life he was the effective ruler of the principality of south Wales. He had been knighted by 1330. He married an English heiress, Joan Somerville, and through her acquired lands in five English counties; he died on 17 May 1356. An elegy, according to which he was buried at Carmarthen, was composed by Iolo Goch (fl. 1345–1397); he was related, through his mother, to the leading poet of the time, Dafydd ap Gwilym (fl. 1330–1350). Not long before his death he inherited the lands in south Wales of Sir Gruffudd Llwyd; most of his lands and those of his wife passed to his eldest son, Sir Rhys the younger (d. 1380), but those held by Welsh tenure passed to a younger son, Henry.

Alleged oppression and opposition to the English king

The activities of Sir Rhys's brother Robert and Robert's son Rhys were mainly in the north-east. Rhys ap Roppert (d. 1377), administrator, held various local offices and from 1349 to 1351 he was joint sheriff of Flintshire. From 1357 to 1360 he was sole sheriff; his term of office was marked by complaints about his oppressive behaviour and in September 1358 the men of the cantref of Tegeingl submitted a massive and detailed petition complaining about the extortionate and oppressive activities of Rhys and his former colleague in the shrievalty, Ithel ap Cynwrig Sais. This misrule was the result of the widespread practice of farming offices to the highest bidder. There were also more serious accusations. On 20 January 1372 a jury at Flint stated that Rhys's son Ieuan was a traitor and that he was in the company of Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri (Owen of Wales, d. 1378) in the service of the king of France. Rhys knew this and had sent him substantial sums of money. A further inquisition on 25 September 1374 stated that Rhys and his son Madog were adherents of Owain Lawgoch (Owen of Wales) and Ieuan ap Rhys ap Roppert, traitors, that they had received treasonable letters from them, and that Rhys had sent them gold and silver on various occasions. Madog had subsequently gone to France to join Owain and Ieuan. Although no further action was taken against Rhys, these indictments are particularly interesting because they suggest that Owen of Wales could have depended on influential support had either of his two abortive expeditions been successful. The sons were certainly in French service; Ieuan was probably the Ieuan Wyn who was Owen's lieutenant and who took over his company after his assassination in 1378, while Madog was still serving the French crown in 1392. Rhys married Gwladus, the daughter of Madog Llwyd ab Iorwerth Foel of Nanheudwy. He died in 1377.

The line of Tudur Hen ap Goronwy ab Ednyfed, 1258–1411

Goronwy ab Ednyfed (d. 1268), administrator, like his brothers, was in the service of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. He may have become steward about 1258 and he appears on various occasions as an arbitrator and a witness. In 1258 he was one of the Welsh leaders who made an agreement with a faction of Scottish lords and in 1263 he led a military campaign in Gwent. He died in 1268 and his elegy was sung by Bleddyn Fardd (fl. 1268–1284) and Y Prydydd Bychan (fl. 1222–1268). He had at least three sons, Tudur, known as Tudur Hen (Tudur the Old), Hywel, and Goronwy Fychan. Tudur Hen ap Goronwy ab Ednyfed (d. 1311), administrator, was probably in the service of Llywelyn before 1282; in 1294–5 he and Goronwy Fychan were involved in the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn and in one document he is described as Madog's steward. But he was soon back in favour and in 1296 he was a member of a deputation from north Wales which expressed the community's concern to Edward I about rumours that the Welsh were disloyal. In 1301 he did homage to the new Prince Edward of Caernarfon and in 1305 he submitted several petitions to that prince. He died in 1311 and was buried in the Dominican friary at Bangor, a house with which the family had a close relationship.

Tudur's son Goronwy ap Tudur (d. 1331), administrator, held local offices in Anglesey and served in Scotland; he may have fought at Bannockburn in 1314. In 1318 he followed Sir Gruffudd Llwyd as forester of Snowdon and like him he stood by Edward II at the end of his reign. When an action was brought in 1331 against the former deputy justiciar of north Wales, William Shalford, accusing him of having encompassed the king's murder, Goronwy and Sir Gruffudd were among the sureties. He died in 1331 and was buried at Bangor; he had three sons, Hywel, Tudur, and Gruffudd (d. c.1344).

Hywel ap Goronwy (d. 1366?), cleric, and Tudur ap Goronwy (d. 1367?), landholder, were among the leading figures in the principality of north Wales in the mid-fourteenth century. Hywel became archdeacon of Anglesey. An apocryphal story related how Tudur called himself Sir Tudur; on being summoned by Edward III to explain himself, he answered with such spirit that the king immediately knighted him. The story, attributed to the antiquary Robert Vaughan (1592–1667), may have originated in the sixteenth century, the implication being that Tudur foresaw that his descendants would have the power to confer knighthood. Hywel and Tudur were involved in an episode in 1345 which probably reflected contemporary unrest among the leaders of the community. On 14 February Henry Shalford, the prince's newly appointed attorney, was travelling from Denbigh to Caernarfon when he was attacked and killed near the house of Hywel in Bangor by a band of men led by Tudur. The result was panic among the English burgesses in north Wales, the more so since many leading Welshmen appear to have been implicated, and it was suggested that Shalford had died because ‘he had more knowledge than any other man of those who have disinherited my lord’ (J. G. Edwards, ed., Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales, 1935, 233). Hywel was imprisoned for a time at Launceston in Cornwall, and Tudur in Chester, but they do not seem to have suffered any further punishment; in 1352 they were both in possession of their ancestral lands in Anglesey.

Hywel probably died in 1366 and Tudur probably in 1367. Tudur's wife and mother were sisters; this relationship was to prove significant during the revolt. Tudur had five sons, Goronwy, Ednyfed, Gwilym, Rhys, and Maredudd. Goronwy ap Tudur (d. 1382), soldier and administrator, lived at Penmynydd, the traditional seat of the Tudors, as they can now be called; he served in France with Edward, the Black Prince, and in 1368–9 he was at Northampton in the prince's retinue. He was forester of Snowdon and steward of the bishop of Bangor's Anglesey lands and in 1382 he was appointed constable of Beaumaris Castle, one of the very few occasions on which a Welshman was appointed to such an office; four days later he died, apparently by drowning, in Kent. His death was mourned by several poets and he was buried in the Franciscan friary at Llan-faes in Anglesey; his impressive alabaster tomb was moved to Penmynydd church at the dissolution of that house. His wife was Myfanwy, the daughter of Iorwerth Ddu of Pengwern, near Llangollen. His son Tudur was dead by 1400; his daughter Morfudd married Gwilym ap Gruffudd and his lands therefore passed to the Penrhyn family, although they were eventually to be recovered by Morfudd's descendants, the Owen Tudors of Penmynydd.

Ednyfed ap Tudur died around the same time as Goronwy; Gwilym ap Tudur (d. after 1401) and Rhys ap Tudur (d. 1411), administrators, were both in the service of Richard II; the latter held the offices of sheriff and escheator of Anglesey and forester of Snowdon. Both brothers were involved in the revolt of their cousin Owain Glyn Dŵr, possibly from the beginning; their exclusion from the pardon granted at the end of the first phase of the revolt may have led to their capture of Conwy Castle on Good Friday 1401, when the garrison was in church. They withdrew after negotiations and were pardoned, but they seem to have continued in rebellion until the end and Rhys was eventually captured and executed in Chester in 1411. Their lands passed to their kinsman Gwilym ap Gruffudd.

The Tudor dynasty and its Welsh ancestors

Maredudd ap Tudur (fl. 1388–1404), administrator, was escheator of Anglesey between 1388 and 1391 and was a burgess of the town of Newborough in the same county. He took part in the Glyn Dŵr revolt, but nothing is known of his fate. Maredudd, however, was the ancestor of the Tudor dynasty; his son married , the widow of Henry V, and was the grandfather of .

The descendants of Ednyfed Fychan were, without a doubt, the most powerful family in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Wales. They were the leading servants of the princes of Gwynedd and played a key part in the attempt of those princes to create a single Welsh principality. Some were prescient enough to transfer their allegiance to Edward I before 1282; the rest made their peace very soon after and continued to enjoy a significant role in all the royal lands in Wales; at the local level they were often the ones who exercised effective power in the name of the king of England. But there remained an awareness of their Welshness, with its concomitant loyalties, which surfaced from time to time in the fourteenth century and which led them to the side of Owain Glyn Dŵr and to the end of that predominance which had lasted since the early thirteenth century. And it was a descendant of one of those rebels against the English crown who won that crown in 1485.



G. Roberts, ‘“Wyrion Eden”: the Anglesey descendants of Ednyfed Fychan in the fourteenth century’, Transactions of the Anglesey Antiquarian Society and Field Club (1951), 34–72; repr. in G. Roberts, Aspects of Welsh history (1969) · R. R. Davies, The revolt of Owain Glyn Dŵr (1995) · G. Roberts, ‘Teulu Penmynydd’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1959), 9–37; repr. in G. Roberts, Aspects of Welsh history (1969) · R. A. Griffiths and R. S. Thomas, The making of the Tudor dynasty (1985) · A. D. Carr, Medieval Anglesey (1982) · D. Stephenson, The governance of Gwynedd (1984) · A. D. Carr, ‘Gwilym ap Gruffydd and the rise of the Penrhyn estate’, Welsh History Review / Cylchgrawn Hanes Cymru, 15 (1990–91), 1–20 · J. G. Edwards, ‘Sir Gruffydd Llwyd’, EngHR, 30 (1915), 589–601 · J. B. Smith, ‘Gruffydd Llwyd and the Celtic alliance, 1315–1318’, BBCS, 26 (1974–6), 463–78


U. Wales, Bangor, Penrhyn MSS; Penrhyn further additional MSS

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forebears of Tudor family, (c.1215–1404): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60238
Ednyfed Fychan (d. 1246): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8509
Tudur ab Ednyfed (d. 1278): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60226
Gwilym ap Gruffudd (d. 1431): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60227
Gruffudd ab Ednyfed (1246–1256): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60228
Rhys ap Gruffudd ab Ednyfed (d. 1284): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60229
Hywel ap Gruffudd ab Ednyfed (d. 1282): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60230
Rhys ap Roppert (d. 1377): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60231
Goronwy ab Ednyfed (d. 1268): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60232
Tudur Hen ap Goronwy ab Ednyfed (d. 1311): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60233
Goronwy ap Tudur (d. 1331): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60234
Hywel ap Goronwy (d. 1366?): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60235
Tudur ap Goronwy (d. 1367?): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60236
Goronwy ap Tudur (d. 1382): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60237
Gwilym ap Tudur (d. after 1401): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60238
Rhys ap Tudur (d. 1411): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60239
Maredudd ap Tudur (1388–1404): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60240