Hywel ap Rhodri Molwynog

Hywel ap Rhodri Molwynog (English: Hywel, son of Rhodri the Bald and Grey) was King of Gwynedd (reigned 816–825). He rose to power following a destructive dynastic struggle in which he deposed his brother, King Cynan Dindaethwy ap Rhodri (reigned 798–816). During Hywel's reign Gwynedd's power was largely confined to Anglesey. It was a time of substantial territorial loss to Mercia.

A general map of Gwynedd showing the cantrefi.

Hywel is said to be the son of Rhodri Molwynog on the assumption that he was Cynan's brother, for example as stated in Lloyd's History of Wales, which does not cite its source.[1] Sources such as the Annales Cambriae mention him by name only.[2] The genealogy of Jesus College MS. 20 gives him as the son of Caradog ap Meirion,[3] while it gives Cynan as the son of Rhodri Molwynog.[4]

A destructive war between King Cynan and Hywel raged on Anglesey between 812 and 816, ultimately ending with Cynan's defeat and banishment, and Hywel's rise to the throne.[5] Coenwulf of Mercia took advantage of Gwynedd's weakness in 817, occupying Rhufoniog (see map) and laying waste to the mountains of Eryri (English: Snowdonia), the defensive stronghold of Gwynedd. In 818 there was a notable battle at Llanfaes on Anglesey. The combatants are not identified, but the site had been the llys (English: royal court) of King Cynan.[6][note 1]

Coastal Wales along the Dee Estuary was still in Mercian hands in 821, as it is known that Coenwulf died peacefully at Basingwerk in that year. In 823 Mercia laid waste to Powys and returned to Gwynedd to burn down Deganwy.

Hywel was the last King of Gwynedd in the male line of Maelgwn Gwynedd. He would be succeeded by his sister's son Merfyn Frych.

See also


  1. Various historical works assume it was an invasion by the Mercians, by Ecgberht of Wessex, or by the Vikings, but there is no authority for those claims. As it took place at Cynan's llys, it could as easily have been a consequence of the dynastic struggle won by Hywel, but now between Hywel and Cynan's supporters.


  1. Lloyd 1911:231, A History of Wales
  2. Phillimore 1888:163164, Annales Cambriae
  3. Phillimore 1887:89 his pedigree is given as: Howel. M. Crada6c. M. meircha6n. M. Howel. M. Runya6n. M. Einya6n. M. Idwm. M. Cadwall. M. meic. M. Ewein. M. Cenlas. M. Ewein danwyn. M. Einya6n yrth. M. Cuneda Wledic.
  4. Phillimore 1887:87 his pedigree is given as: ... Cynan tintaeth6y. M. Rodri mol6yna6c. M. Idwal I6rch. M. Kadwaladyr vendigeit. M. Katwalla6n. M. Kad6ga6n. M. Iago. M. Beli. M. Run hir. M. Maelg6n g6yned ..., and from there back to Cunedda.
  5. Parry 1829:63, Brut y Saeson
  6. Lloyd 1911:232, A History of Wales, Vol I


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Cynan Dindaethwy ap Rhodri
King of Gwynedd
Succeeded by
Merfyn Frych
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