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Introduction ~ Owain ap Gruffudd ~ Rhys ap Gruffudd ~ Llywelyn ap Iorwerth ~ Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ~ Owain Glyndwr
 The Lord Rhys ~ page two
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Although he frequently journeyed south east to return to the castle of Dinefwr, it was from Cardigan that Rhys set out for the mighty castle of Pembroke when summoned by Henry II. The occasion to attend Henry's embarkation for the invasion of Ireland. Having marched south protected by a large force of bowmen, Rhys was greeted by a magnificent sight on reaching Pembroke. From atop of the castle's ramparts he could see hundreds of ships of the king's fleet assembled in the estuary.

It proved to be a disastrous campaign among the peat bogs of Ireland for Henry, his army was almost totally destroyed. His return to Pembroke on Good Friday in 1172 was not much better, for his ship had been battered by mountainous seas and gale force winds in the Irish sea. When it finally docked in the king's dock below the castle, he came ashore and took to his bed, ill from sea sickness.

Rising from his bed on Easter Sunday Henry began planning his return to London. Within the day he was ready to march, but before doing so he sent a courier to Cardigan with orders that Rhys was to attend him at the castle of Laugharne. With mistrust of the king in his mind and thinking that it may be a trap, Rhys traveled south in the company of a considerable force of archers and fighting men. However, when he arrived he found Henry to be in a convivial mood and they met in the great hall on Easter Monday. Rhys was more than a little surprised, when Henry told him that he wished him to become the Justicar ( High Sheriff ) for the whole of west Wales.

With total support of Lord Rhys religion began to make important advances throughout Deheubarth too. He founded the Premonstratensian order and built Talley abbey, north east of the castle of Dinefwr.
Abbey remains from the South
Talley
Abbey remains from the North
Talley

He gave lands and helped the monks to build a Cistercian abbey at Strata Florida, and many of his family are buried there. He also gave funds to the Cistercian parent Abbey at Whitland. He established a community of nuns at Llanllyr and despite the fact that it was a Norman order he supported the Benedictine monks at their priory at Cardigan.

Rhys was soon involved in one more devious event, however it was never proved that he was involved but his men certainly were. Under the pretext of both hearing a royal ordinance as to the bearing of arms in Gwent and in answer to an invitation to a banquet given by William de Broase, the leading Welshmen of Gwent were lured to Abergavenny castle. Included in the company were Seisyll ap Dyfnwal and his son Geoffrey, brother-in-law and nephew of Lord Rhys. Disarmed and seated around the table in the great hall, all the assembled guests were murdered in cold blood when William de Broase men burst in and put them to the sword. Not content with this heinous crime, the followers of de Broase then mounted their swiftest horses and sped to the home of Seisyll ap Dyfnwal. Once there they captured his wife and slew his youngest son Cadwaladr in her arms.

Before the warm spring air caused the lush grass to grow in the meadows of the Twyi valley in the spring of 1176, warriors from the castle of Dinefwr crossed the mountainous region of the upper reaches of the river Usk, then marched the forty mile down the valley and visited Abergavenny castle. It was not a place to be when they broke out of the forest, overran it then torched it. Rhys sometime later was heard to say 'how unfortunate de Broase wasn't home'.

1176 however will be remembered not for the attack on Abergavenny, but for a far more salubrious occasion which occurred at Cardigan castle that year. The event, a National Eisteddfod (the forerunner of today's successful event ) had been proclaimed the previous year to which competitors from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales were invited. Such was the good time had by all that no one noticed when Lord Rhys presented a Welshman from the House of Gwynedd in north Wales with the chair for poetry, while the other for harpists went to a man in his own court. Nation building and diplomacy at its very best, then Rhys was rather good at that on times.

Once again however destiny had risen her head. The House of Gwynedd had fallen apart on the death of the great 'Owain Gwynedd'. in 1170 and a state of war existed between his wife and two of her sons, against the others. There was bloodshed and mayhem everywhere throughout the north. In a bid to settle the tensions and uncertainties in the north and throughout Wales the king ordered all the Princes in Wales to gather at Oxford to settle the issue. The sons of Owain Gwynedd however, were conspicuous by their absence.

During the time at Oxford all grievances were settled, lands and hostages were restored to their rightful families and Rhys was recognised as the prominent prince in Wales. Thereby earning himself the title Prince of Wales, for Henry was content to allow him to control the rebellious ways of some of the princes.

Or perhaps it was that Henry remembered the reply a wise old Welshman had given him during his expedition to Pencadder in west Wales during the year of 1163, when he asked him."what do you think of the royal campaign, will you rebel against me again?. The Welshman had replied thus:- " I doubt not that this race of mine will be brought low and broken by any might of English arms, for the wrath of man, if God's anger be not added, will never utterly destroy it. For I am persuaded that no race other than mine and no tongue other than mine, come what may, will answer on the Day of Judgment for this little corner of mother earth."

God bless that Welshman, for he spoke as a true son of this Nation of mine.

By 1188, as it does for all mortals, time was running out for Lord Rhys, even so he was again at war. However, this time it was against his own sons. Bloodshed and death were everywhere as time and again one son sided with his father, then against him. Carreg Cennen was captured and held against the forces of Lord Rhys, then Dinefwr was destroyed. It was a disastrous time as slowly but surely the House of Deheubarth fell apart at the seams.

For nine years until the 4th of May 1197 the blood letting continued, then the golden age of the House of Deheubarth came to an end. Lord Rhys, “Rhys the Great”, “Rhys the Good”, died in his sleep in the south tower of Cardigan castle. He was buried in St. Davids Cathedral Pembrokeshire with all the pomp and ceremony deserving of a king.

Soon after the House of Gwynedd rose again to became the ruling house of Wales, and full scale war was to rage throughout the land.

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