Rhodri Mawr ruled until AD878 and is often considered the greatest of all the kings. The renowned historian, Nora Chadwick, was one of these. In his book, Seiri Cenedl / Nation Builders (Gwasg Gomer, 1986), the late Gwynfor Evans writes that Chadwick was one of the most important historians to bring the history of Cymru to the attention of the world. Rhodri is the only king to have earned the title Mawr (the Great).
During his reign, he brought the three largest regions of the country — Gwynedd, Powys and Deheubarth including Gŵyr (the Gower) — under his rule, without violence. Although his contemporary in Lloegr (England), Alfred the Great, unified his kingdom by conquest, Rhodri Mawr achieved the same success through a progression of political marriages, beginning with that of his father, Merfyn Frych when he married the daughter of Cynan, Nest, whose brother was king of Powys.
Nest and Merfyn’s son, Rhodri, married Angharad, the sister of Gwgon, king of Deheubarth and inherited the region when Gwgon drowned. Although there were three kings who established kingdoms in the 6th and 7th Centuries — Maelgwn Gwynedd, Cynan Garwyn and Cadwallon — Rhodri was the first to create a unified kingdom across the majority of the country.
On the map above, Rhodri’s kingdom covered the upper left (Gwynedd and Ynys Môn), middle right, (Powys) and lower left (Deheubarth and Gŵyr). Clwyd and Flint (upper right) were close to Mercia and remained separate. Rhodri’s legacy was passed on to his grandson, Hywel Dda, ruling until AD950, the son of Rhodri’s son, Cadell.
When Rhodri died in a battle against the English in 878, his kingdom was divided — according to the Welsh tradition — between his sons. Cadell inherited Ceredigion and Ystrad Tywi (including Gŵyr). When his father died, Hywel inherited this kingdom with his brother, Clydog. After his brother’s death in 920, Hywel added Clydog’s part to his and had already acquired the small kingdom of Dyfed, Caerfyrddin and Tŷ Ddewi (St. David’s City) through his marriage to Elen, the daughter of the king of Dyfed.
Hywel Dda (the Good) was responsible for the codifying of Celtic laws dating back to the earliest known Celtic societies, from northern France, Ireland to the highlands of Scotland. For this achievement, he is considered one of the five most important lawmakers of antiquity.
Nora Chadwick’s books, Celtic Britain, The Celts, The Colonization of Brittany from Celtic Britain, etc. are among the best histories about Cymru and its past written in English. Also worth reading are Peter Berresford Ellis’s Celtic Women and The Journey Through Wales by Gerald of Wales, grandson of the legendary beauty, Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr and wife of Gerald of Windsor.
My historical novels are set in the 9th and 10th Centuries in Cymru(Wales), between the reigns of Rhodri Mawr and Hywel Dda.