Hywel Dda

Hywel Dda
King of Dyfed, Powys and Gwynedd
Prince of Seisyllwg and Deheubarth
Laws of Hywel Dda (f.1.v) King Hywel cropped.jpg
Mid-13th-century depiction of Hywel Dda in a Latin copy of the Laws of Hywel Dda.
PredecessorIdwal Foel ap Anarawd
Bornc. 880
SpouseElen ferch Llywarch
IssueOwain ap Hywel
Rhodri ap Hywel
Edwin ap Hywel
HouseHouse of Dinefwr
FatherCadell ap Rhodri
Map of the extent of Hywel Dda's power
  Deheubarth, Hywel Dda's Kingdom
  Combine to form Morgannwg

Hywel Dda (English: Hywel the Good) or Hywel ap Cadell (c.880 – 950) was a King of Deheubarth who eventually came to rule most of Wales. He became the sole king of Seisyllwg in 920 and shortly thereafter established Deheubarth, and proceeded to gain control over the entire country from Prestatyn to Pembroke.[1] As a descendant of Rhodri Mawr through his father Cadell, Hywel was a member of the Dinefwr branch of the dynasty. He was recorded as King of the Britons in the Annales Cambriae and the Annals of Ulster.

Hywel is highly esteemed among other medieval Welsh rulers.[2] His name is particularly linked with the codification of traditional Welsh law, which were thenceforth known as the Laws of Hywel Dda. The latter part of his name (Dda, lit. “Good”) refers to the fact that his laws were just and good. The historian Dafydd Jenkins sees in them compassion rather than punishment, plenty of common sense and recognition of the rights of women.[2] Hywel Dda was a well-educated man even by modern standards, having a good knowledge of Welsh, Latin, and English.[2]

The office building and original home of the National Assembly for Wales is named Tŷ Hywel (“Hywel House” or “Hywel's House”) in honour of Hywel Dda. The original Assembly chamber, now known as Siambr Hywel (“Hywel's Chamber”), is used for educational courses and for children and young people's debates. The local health board of south-west Wales also bears his name.

Early life

Hywel was the son of King Cadell of Seisyllwg. He had a brother, Clydog, who was probably the younger of the two. Hywel was later reputed to have married Elen, the supposed heiress of King Llywarch of Dyfed, which connection was subsequently used to justify his family's reign over that kingdom.[3]

Hywel's father Cadell had been installed as King of Seisyllwg by his father, Rhodri the Great of Gwynedd, following the drowning of the last king in the traditional line, Gwgon, in 872.[4] After Gwgon's death, Rhodri, husband to the dead king's sister Angharad, became steward of his kingdom. This gave Rhodri no standing to claim the kingship of Seisyllwg himself, but he was able to install his son Cadell as a subject king.[4] Cadell died around 911, and his lands in Seisyllwg appear to have been divided between his two sons Hywel and Clydog.[3]