Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Wales (d. 1246) - Sarah Woodbury

Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Wales (d. 1246)

Dafydd, the only legitimate son of Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn ap Iowerth) was stuck between a rock and a hard place.  His father was determined that he become the Prince of Wales and hold the country together upon Llywelyn’s death, but at the same time, his illegitimate older brother, Gruffydd, by Welsh law had an equal claim to the throne.  The possibility that Gruffydd was erratic and temperamental and perhaps not as suited to ruling a princedom as Dafydd was irrelevant.

Even had Gruffydd been all that Llywelyn wanted in a son, he was not legitimate.  Among the Welsh, any child was reckoned legitimate if his father acknowledged him, which Llywelyn had.  But the Church did not and the powers-that-were in England believed that the Welsh were barbaric for allowing a illegitimate child to inherit anything.  Much less the crown of Wales.  So Gruffydd was out.

This conflict meant that when Llywelyn Fawr died in 1240, Dafydd was at an immediate disadvantage in his relationship with England.  On one hand, he hadn’t the personality of his father and was living proof that Wales had bowed to the English crown and church, and on the other, his own brother seethed with resentment and worked with allies to unseat him.

Dafydd proceeded to lock up his brother and his brother’s eldest son, Owain, in Criccieth Castle. Gruffydd had already spent four years imprisoned by the King of England (as a way to contain Llywelyn Fawr), and six more years in his own father’s prison for wreaking havoc on the lands his father had given him.   When Senana, Gruffydd’s wife, appealed to King Henry of England, he agreed to intervene.  Unfortunately for Gruffydd, it just meant trading Criccieth Castle for the Tower of London.  Ultimately, Gruffydd died in 1244, trying to escape from the tower on a rope that broke.  He fell to his death.  See my post on Senana: https://sarahwoodbury.com/senana-wife-of-gruffydd-ap-llywelyn/ 

With Gruffydd’s death, Dafydd was free to restart his father’s campaign to control all of Wales, which he did.  Unfortunately, just after a victory over King Henry and the potential start of a new era in Wales, he died on 25 February 1246 of an unknown illness.

(much of this comes from J. Beverly Smith’s definite work on Dafydd’s nephew Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, 1998).


–Born around 1215 to Llywelyn Fawr and his wife, Joanna, illegitimate daughter of King John of England.

–May have died from an illness that caused him to lose the nails on his hands and feet.

–Married Isabella de Braose, whose father David’s father had hung at Garth Celyn for having an affair with David’s mother.

–Had no children.

–Was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury for not bowing to the English crown.

–Under the terms of the Treaty of Gwerneigron (1241), he had to give up all his lands outside Gwynedd, and also to hand over to the King his half brother Gruffydd whom he had been keeping a prisoner.

–Reconciled with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Gruffydd second son, before he died.  Thus, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was on hand when Dafydd died unexpectedly in 1246 and assumed the throne of Gwynedd.

2 Replies to “Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Wales (d. 1246)”

  1. Your readers may be interested in Edith Pargeter’s Brothers of Gwynedd tetralogy from the 1970s, which I don’t think you’ve mentioned here. Edith Pargeter is the real name of Ellis Peters, the author of the Cadfael books. As they follow the history of Llywelyn the Last and his brothers from birth to death, they are inevitably much grimmer than the After Cilmeri series, but they are wonderfully written and tell a harsh story very well from the viewpoint of a witness rather than a protagonist. Here are the opening words of the first book:

    “My name is Samson. I tell what I know, what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. And if it should come to pass that I must tell also what I have not seen, that, too, shall be made plain, and how I came to know it so certainly that I tell it as though I had been present. And I say now that there is no man living has a better right to be my lord’s chronicler, for there is none ever knew him better than I, and God He knows there is none, man or woman, ever loved him better.”

    Amazon.com Kindle link.

Comments are closed.