year of young Rhys's twenty first was a particular good one, for
the Normans suffered humiliating
the princes of Deheubarth struck here, there, and everywhere.
It appeared that
slowly but surely that they were stemming the tide of Norman penetration
into their lands.
1152 was one of the major turning points in the life of Lord Rhys.
His eldest brother announced he was departing on a pilgrimage
to Rome and that he was entrusting his authority to rule the kingdom
to both Maredudd and Rhys jointly. In carrying out Cadell's wishes
the two brothers were hard but fair in their rule. They continued
to attack Norman installations and burn them, then to slip quietly
back to Dinefwr castle before setting out on the next raid. In
fact they were carrying out the same modus operandi that Cadell
had found so rewarding and they saw no need to change.
situation may have remained the status quo, had not destiny declared
her hand once again. First Maredudd was killed when he approached
poachers during the hours of darkness on his estate at Llanstephan,
then Cadell returned from his pilgrimage crippled by horrific
injuries: having been attacked by Norman forces in Normandy while
he and his companions were on their way to Rome.
After a few months following his return, because of his injuries,
Cadell renounced his rights to the Deheubarth throne. Rhys was
persuaded to take over his crown. It was a testing time, now with
all his brothers dead, he was left on his own to to defend south
Wales and Deheubarth in particular.
young Lord soon began to have major bloody encounters with the
invading Normans, no quarter was asked and certainly none was
being given. His tactics in the field were nothing short of brilliant,
however, he could also be stubborn and arrogant; it was these
last points that at times caused friction between him and his
own sons. Many times he went to war against them, as indeed did
they against him; again they were bloody encounters with brother
fighting brother and father fighting against his own sons.
Rhys became increasingly powerful, so twice did Henry II, King
of England invade Deheubarth in an attempt to curtail his ambitions.
Each time on leaving, Henry believed that Rhys would wage war
no more. How wrong the English monarch was to believe a man who
had a way with words. Each time, Henry had no sooner crossed the
Welsh/English border, than Rhys was once again exerting military
pressure upon his enemies.
the end of 1165, with one exception, that of the large and powerful
castle of Pembroke, the whole of west Wales and Ceridigion was
under the control of the Lord of Deheubarth. It had been a hard
and bitterly fought endeavour to achieve what many had considered
the unachievable. Never before had there been such a powerful
ruling house in the whole of south Wales. It was about this time
that Rhys turned his thoughts to the religious happenings in his
kingdom. He granted land to the monks of the Cistercian order
for the building of an abbey at Strata Florida, and many of his
relatives were to be buried there.
tide of change had swept over north Wales too. With the help of
the weather Rhys had combined his forces with those of his uncle
'Owain Gwynedd' at Corwen, before setting out to cause the English
King to abandon his attempt to defeat the Welsh force on the Berwyn
was this defeat that was to have serious consequences for those
Normans who resided in west Wales, for when Henry returned to
Shrewsbury castle, he had a hostage son of lord Rhys blinded by
his blacksmith, Rhys after his return to Dinefwr struck at Cardigan
castle and town with such fervour and hate that it was centauries
before people stopped talking of his feat.
castle and town ran red with blood as Rhys and his men took revenge
for his son and killed men, women and children. Then having torched
the town himself, the flames of the fire storm could be seen from
the little hamlets which dotted the coastline north across Cardigan
bay, Rhys observed that there was a sole survivor, blood soaked,
dazed and in a total state of shock. The survivor proved to be
a cousin, born on the Norman side, Rhys left him there to do what
Rhys again returned to Cardigan in the summer 1171, but this time
he set himself the task of rebuilding both the castle and town.
As the new castle rose stone by stone from the rubble of the past
on high ground overlooking the Tiefy estuary, so it became a visual
emblem of the power of Rhys. Relation with the English crown had
improved too, for Henry had apologised for the wrong doings to