Rhys ap Gruffydd

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Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132–97), king of Deheubarth (1155–97), known as ‘the Lord Rhys’. The younger son of Gruffydd ap Rhys, king of Deheubarth, and Gwenllian, daughter of Gruffydd ap Cynan, king of Gwynedd, he married Gwenllian, daughter of Madog ap Maredudd, king of Powys. He did not unite the three kingdoms, but after Owain Gwynedd's death (1170) he was regarded as ‘the unconquered head of all Wales’. He helped his brother Maredudd to combat the Anglo-Normans and when Maredudd died (1155) he became king. He acknowledged the overlordship of Henry II (1158), who tried to limit his dominion; but Rhys rebelled and in 1164–5 seized Cardigan and surrounding territory. Henry II respected his power and after Anglo-Norman lords were diverted to Ireland (1169) they came to terms, and Rhys was receptive to Anglo-Norman culture and organization. He rebuilt Cardigan and Dinefwr castles, extended his power in Dyfed, exploited his resources effectively, and encouraged the new religious orders; he even held an eisteddfod at Cardigan (1176) and may have codified Welsh law. Richard I was less sympathetic and hostilities marred the years before Rhys's death on 28 April 1197 (and burial in St David's cathedral). In the hands of his quarrelsome sons, his kingdom disintegrated.

Ralph Alan Griffiths