He was the second son of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn. He is first heard of in 1088, when, with his brothers, Madog and Rhiryd, he attacked Deheubarth and drove Rhys ap Tewdwr into exile. Later in the year, Rhys returned with a fleet from Ireland and met the men of Powys in a battle, in which Madog and Rhiryd fell, but from which Cadwgan escaped. The death of Rhys in 1093 seemed to offer an opportunity for renewing the foiled attempt upon the South, but a few weeks sufficed to show that it was the Normans who were to profit, and this on a grand scale, by the untoward event. It was about this time that Cadwgan, as a measure of defence, married the daughter of his Norman neighbour, Picot de Sai, whom Domesday shows as the lord of Clun and the surrounding area. He took an active part in the Welsh upheaval of the reign of William Rufus, defeating the Normans in 1094 at the battle of Coed Yspwys (its site is unknown) and joining Gruffudd ap Cynan in the defence of Anglesey and the flight to Ireland of 1098. When better conditions enabled the two to return to Wales in 1099, Cadwgan received from earl Robert of Shrewsbury in vassalage his share of Powys and, therewith, Ceredigion. He allowed himself to be drawn into the revolt of the Montgomery family against Henry I in 1102, but escaped the ruin which befell the earl in 1103 and retained his dominions.
The last years of his life were disturbed by the violence and family feuds of the line of Powys. His son Owain was an outstanding offender. The shameless abduction of Nest (fl. 1120) by Owain in 1109 imperilled the position of his father, who was at first left with nothing more than the vill he had received in frank marriage with his wife, but later received Ceredigion. This he lost in 1110, as the result of further misdeeds of Owain; Ceredigion was given to Gilbert Fitz Richard (see under Clare) and became a Norman lordship, while Cadwgan sank into a landless royal pensioner. Again there was a turn of fortune, when his brother Iorwerth was murdered in 1111 by his nephew, Madog ap Rhiryd; the king restored him to southern Powys. But in the same year he also fell a victim to the same unnatural assailant; while planning to build a castle at Trallwng Llywelyn (Welshpool) he was treacherously attacked and, with little resistance, slain.
Cadwgan is described by the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ in 1097 as the ‘worthiest’ of the Welsh leaders in that year, and his record as a ruler is not discreditable. Besides the two sons, Henry and Gruffydd, born to his Norman wife, he left Owain (died 1116), Madog, Einion (died 1123), Morgan (died 1128), and Maredudd (died 1124).
Published date: 1959
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