Cunedda, founder of Gwynedd - Sarah Woodbury

Cunedda, founder of Gwynedd

The medieval Welsh kingdoms are marked with a cultural beginning, that of the coming of Cunedda.

“Historically, Cunedda became king of Gwynedd in North Wales during the first half of the 5th century A.D. and founded a dynastic clan from which Welsh nobility has claimed their ancestry for centuries afterward. Tradition holds that Cunedda originated from the territory of Manau Gododdin, the region around what is now modern Edinburgh in southeast Scotland, and later migrated to North Wales. This movement was apparently at the behest of a higher authority and designed to offer Cunedda land in return for ousting Irish raiders who had invaded and settled along the Welsh coastline in the late 4th century, near the end of the Roman occupation.”

The name of Gwynedd either derives from the Latin Venedotia, or more probably from Cunedda (=Weneda =Gwynedd).

Early British Kingdoms states:

Cunedda or Cunedag Wledig (the Imperator) was a northern British chieftain, a sub-King of Gododdin who ruled Manau Gododdin on the Firth of Forth around Clackmannan. Not much is known about his life in the North, though an ancient poem generally known as the Marwnad Cunedda records his wars against the kingdoms of  Coel Hen and his descendants, when “the forts will tremble… Caer Weir [supposedly Durham]and Caer Liwelydd [Carlisle]. Cunedda’s paternal ancestors bore Roman names for three generations, including Paternus of the Red Robe, a name which has brought suggestions that the family ruled North of Hadrian’s Wall in some sort of official Roman capacity. His maternal grandmother was supposedly the grandaughter of Conan Meriadoc, male heir of the legendary Welsh King, Eudaf Hen. He was therefore chosen by the northern Welsh to help them in their fight against the invading Irish. Nennius reports:

Maelgwn, the great king, was reigning among the Britons in the region of Gwynedd, for his ancester Cunedag, with his sons, whose number was eight, had come previously from the northern part, that is from the region which is called Manau Gododdin, one hundred and forty-six years before Maelgwn reigned. And with great slaughter they drove out from those regions the Scotti who never returned again to inhabit them.

These are the names of the sons of Cunedda, whose number was nine: Tybion, the first-born, who died in the region called Manau Gododdin and did not come hither with his father and his aforesaid brothers. Meirion, his son, divided the possessions among his [Tybion’s] brothers. 2. Ysfael, 3. Rhufon, 4. Dunod, 5. Ceredig, 6. Afloeg, 7. Einion Yrth, 8.Dogfael, 9. Edern. This is their boundary: from the river which is called Dyfrdwy [the Dee] , to another river, the Teifi; and they held very many districts in the western part of Britain.

Other sons, generally considered more legendary, may have included Gwron, Mael, Coel and Arwystl. Daughters were Tegeingl and Gwen, the wife of Amlawdd Wledig.”

There isn’t much else in the way of historical consensus about Cunedda, except that likely he was invited into North Wales because he had Welsh ancestry.  Not even the dates of his settlement are clear, though the BBC puts his birth at 386 AD:

“Cunedda ap Edern was born in about 386AD, and was a lord of the Celtic people who lived in Wales, South West England and the North of England, south of the Pictish area of Scotland.

A traditional account has his grandfather, Padarn Beisrudd as a Romano-British offical of high rank who was charged with fighting the Picts in Scotland. He may have been given, like other native frontier lords, a Roman rank. Cunedda is thought to have travelled to North Wales to defend the area against the Irish; an area which became Gwynedd.

The period was one of political chaos in Europe, as Rome was sacked by the Goths, and the previously mighty empire crumbled. Romano-British natives were left in something of a power vaccuum when the Roman state slipped out of Britain in 410AD.

Lords like Cunedda were left to keep something of a working state going, and he himself is thought to have been effective in repelling incursions into the area of which he had control. His family line, the royal family of Gwynedd, continued his military skills and set up a powerful kingdom within Wales.”

The following is a list and a link to a map of the inheritance of Cunedda’s sons.

c.445 – c.470 Einion Yrth (the Impetuous) Brother. Leaves Rhos to his youngest son, Owain Ddantgwyn.
c.445 Afloyg ap Cunedag King of Afflogion.
c.445 Dynod ap Cunedag King of Dunoding.
c.445 Edeyrn ap Cunedag King of Edeyrnion.
c.445 Rhwfon ap Cunedag King of Rhufoniog.
c.445 Osfael ap Cunedag King of Osmaeliog.
c.445 Dogfael ap Cunedag King of Dogfeilion.
c.445 Meirchion ap Typaun ap Cunedag King of Meirionydd.

This is a family tree of Wales and England, deriving from Cunedda:

13 Replies to “Cunedda, founder of Gwynedd”

  1. Hi, Sarah — This has been an eye opener. I did two DNA tests last year and found there’s a connection to Rhodri Mawr through a Powell (Howell) relative, who has done the genealogy. My family comes through the American South from the earliest days of Virginia & North Carolina where there were Joneses who attended Eton, were Royal Governors of the Bahamas, estate agents for Earl Grenville and early planters. From what I can tell there was a family John ap Howell living in proximity to Windsor Castle in the 1500s, leading me to believe many Welsh families moved to England during the reign of the Welsh Tudors, who also descend from House Gwenydd. Even more interesting, Martha Washington’s mother, Francis Orlando Jones, is connected to my family somehow & that’s more research. But, is it a fair assumption to suspect that the Welsh, especially the elite, intermarried to an extraordinary degree, even after coming to the New World? That name Jones is a Welsh tribal affiliation, especially given my Howell/Powell connection? There’s a Powell documented coming to Virginia in 1607. I am Black American, very glad to have my father’s name, but shocked by the knowledge of my documented Welsh ancestry, though there are probably millions of us in the line of descent. Also, it seems the White Jones Welshman married a free woman of color in Texas in the 1840s before interracial was outlawed. Texas under Mexican rule did not bar such marriages as slavery was outlawed. I do suspect, my ancestor lost his patent to a part of the 3,500 acre land grant in Alabama. But lots of things to find out. Thanks for your work!

    1. Oh that’s wonderful! I’m so glad you wrote me. It is pretty amazing how many branches of our family we have as we go back further and further. I do agree that the Welsh have always been particularly willing to adventure to new places, which I suppose is one way of ensuring that the culture stays alive! But yes, Howell/Powell (comes from the Welsh name ap Hywel, meaning ‘son of Hywel’) is very Welsh. Jones is from the Welsh Ieuan, Iowan, Ioan, Iwan, or even Siôn (note how the letter ‘J’ was originally being pronounced as ‘i’, akin to how J is pronounced in the Latin alphabet). Possibly the ‘s’ on the end is a result of the converstion to English, like adding an apostrophe: “Ioan’s”. Wikipedia has a great entry on it:

      It’s always so exciting to discover a new wing. I also love the fact that the more we look, the more we see that everyone is related to everyone else. I remember being in a restaurant where a patron proudly proclaimed that her brother had told her they were descended from Charlemagne. I didn’t tell her that anyone with any European ancestry is likely descended from him, as he had at least 18 children from at least 10 wives and concubines.

    2. Lovely so you belong too to the big Howell family which are direct decendants to Constantin the great and Vortigern(Arthur) but they are many all Howell ,Hywl,Howells,Tudor,Gruffudd,Rhys,Gwynne,Wynne ,Powell but we cant get big headed because
      In Wales they were 18 Kindoms and married in saxon kingdoms ,wiking danelags etc.
      Welcome to my Family William George Robert (Läderach)Bourbon de Brissac Howell Ry da Gwynedd y Powys i am from Owain David Howell line which made a deal with edward longshanks he gave us Lincolnshire,Surrey,Swindon &Guildford my cousins still ostent their titles
      I for my part have rejected all worldy titles & possesions because i got john 17vers 3 and good relation with Jehova God which soon brings end to the satanic world and protect everybody
      Which puts faith in his son jesus john3vers16 wish gods ?&wisdom greetings willy?

  2. I am a direct descendant of Cunedda and am trying to go back further in his tree. Wiki goes back to 20 AD with Prydein.
    Any other suggestions.

  3. In may research of my Lewis family heritage has a disconnect when it comes to Cunedda Wledig ap Edern. All family trees listed in my search when I come to Cunedda’s offspring have Casner Wledig ap Llud listed as one of his son….from which the Lewis family tree then progresses. All of Cunedda’s other sons have names followed by “ap Cunedda”. Could you help me resolve this issue? Thanks

    1. Hmm. Ap Cunedda means ‘son of Cunedda’. I’m not sure where ap Llud (son of Llud) would fit into that. It should be Casner Wledig ap Cunedda if he was directly his son. These are Cunedda’s known sons:

      But so much of this is mythical anyway, that I don’t know if anyone can really trace ancestry back to Cunedda. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  4. I was brought up in North Wales, and have family roots in Northumberland, where I now live.
    Although the Welsh language has long disappeared from “Yr Hen Ogledd” I can imagine that “the forts did tremble… Caer Weir {Durham] and Caer Liwelydd [Carlisle]“.
    The Hill forts at Yeavering Bell in Northumberland, Traprain Law in Lothian (Gododdin) and The Eilden Hills near Monrose, were strongholds for the Votadini who may have been paid off by Rome, as the hoard of silver coins found on Traprain Law suggests.
    Paternus of the Red Robe, may have been from a family that ruled North of Hadrian’s Wall in some sort of official Roman capacity.
    I often find myself following the route taken by Cunedda, from the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, back to the kingdom of Gwynedd and Ynys Mon.

  5. wow his line lasted a whole 8 centuries in our world as a ruling power, i’m guessing it’s going to last a LOT longer in the after cilmeri series, isn’t it ,”wink”.

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