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Grandson of Cadell ab Einion ab Owain ap Hywel Dda. In 1075 he took possession of Deheubarth on the death of his second-cousin, Rhys ab Owain ab Edwin. In 1081 he was dislodged by Caradog ap Gruffydd, but later in the year, with the help of Gruffudd ap Cynan, he was firmly reinstated after the historic battle of Mynydd Carn. In the same year William the Conqueror made a demonstration of power in South Wales, traversing the land as far as S. Davids; it is reasonably certain that during the visit the two kings came to an agreement as to their future good relations, which lasted to the end of William's reign. A few years later it is recorded that Rhys is paying the king £40 a year for Deheubarth, thereby becoming a vassal of the Norman Crown and establishing a precedent with lasting consequences on Anglo-Welsh relations.
Henceforth, with the exception of the closing tragedy of his career, Rhys had only to contend with the jealousies of his fellow princes. In 1088 he was attacked by the young rulers of Powys and was obliged to seek refuge in Ireland, but he soon returned and, with Danish help, decisively defeated his opponents Madog, Rhiryd, and Cadwgan ap Bleddyn. Again in 1091 he was opposed by a group of his own vassals in Dyfed, who sought to restore the kingship to the senior line of Hywel Dda in the person of Gruffydd ap Maredudd ab Owain. At Llandudoch (S. Dogmaels) on the Teifi the rebels were defeated and Gruffydd killed. Meanwhile the Norman conquest of the south had gathered a new momentum after William's death in 1087, and among the territories then being over-run was the old kingdom of Brycheiniog. It was while resisting the Norman advance in this all-important approach to his own dominions that Rhys was killed in uncertain circumstances near Aberhonddu (Brecon).
He was virtually the last of the ancient kings of Deheubarth, and it was in a different political setting that the power of the dynasty was eventually revived by his grandson — Rhys ap Gruffydd. He married Gwladus, daughter of Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn. He was survived by two sons, Gruffydd ap Rhys and Hywel, and by a daughter, Nest.
Published date: 1959
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