views updated

Hywel (d. 949/50), king of much of Wales (c.904–49/50), known as Hywel Dda (‘the Good’). The grandson of Rhodri Mawr, king of Gwynedd, he and his brother inherited Seisyllwg from their father Cadell. After his brother died (920), he became sole ruler. He extended his authority into Dyfed c.904, when he married Elen, probably the daughter of its last king; Gwynedd and Powys fell into his grasp when their king was killed by the English in 942. Faced with Viking threats, Hywel acknowledged the English kings Edward the Elder (918) and Athelstan (927) as his overlords; he visited their courts, witnessed their charters, and called his son Edwin. Like King Alfred he visited Rome (928), and Alfred's example may have inspired the codification of Welsh law which tradition attributes to Hywel. The earliest surviving texts of ‘The Laws of Hywel Dda’ date from the early 13th cent., but parts seem older and may have been codified by Hywel. A silver penny inscribed Rex Houel is said to have been minted by him; though if true, it would have been minted at Chester rather than in Wales. His dominion disintegrated after his death, but Hywel's reputation as ‘the head and glory of all the Britons’ flourished and in the early 12th cent. he was described as ‘the Good’.

Ralph Alan Griffiths