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Powys, kingdom of

Powys, kingdom of. A Welsh kingdom that survived the English conquest as part of the march of Wales. Although its origins are unclear, the name may come from pagus (or pagenses), the Roman term for the hinterland of the Cornovii; but the first reference to Powys dates from the 9th cent. Its kings claimed descent from northern Britons, a royal centre at ‘Pengwern’ (?Shrewsbury), and a role in resisting early English invaders. There does seem to have been a kingdom covering central Wales and modern Shropshire whose eastern part was overrun by Mercians from the mid-7th cent. Powys withstood encroachments from England and Gwynedd throughout its existence, although the Welsh custom of partible inheritance caused rivalries among the ruling family. The most powerful prince, Madog ap Maredudd, was the last to rule over all Powys. After his death (1160) it was divided, Powys Wenwynwyn (the south) being named after his nephew's son, with a centre at Welshpool, and Powys Fadog (the north) after his grandson, with its centre at Dinas Brân. By 1300 both were absorbed into the polity of the marcher lordships. The name survived in Welsh tradition and in the castle and barony of Powis; in the local government reorganization of 1972 it was given to the combined counties of Brecon, Radnor, and Montgomery, much of which had never been part of earlier Powys.

Ralph Alan Griffiths

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