5th King of Wales

4. Rhodri of Wales.jpg
King of Wales
House of Glyndwr
Reign 1st December 1545 - 7th June 1554
Coronation 5th March 1546 St Davids Cathedral
Predecessor Hywel II
Successor Elen
Spouse Sian of Crickhowel
Issue Elen ferch Rhodri ap Hywel
Full name
Rhodri ap Hywel ap Hywel
Posthumous name
Rhodri Llym (the Severe)
House House of Glyndwr
Father Hywel ap Owain ap Maredudd
Mother Eleanor Powell
Born 10th July 1504
Sycharth Manor
Died 7th June 1554 (Aged: 50)
Caerfilli Castle
Burial Llandaff Cathedral
Religion Roman Catholic
Rhodri as the younger son was not expected to become King, but this happened in 1545 with the death of his elder brother, Hywel. King at the age of 41, set in his ways, he was a harsh king, attempting to re-centralise the power of the throne after the almost 33 year rule of the Chancellor Prince Rhys of Powys.

Early Life

Rhodri was born on the 10th July 1504 in Sycharth Manor on the eastern fringes of Gwynedd. Both Rhodri and his elder brother Hywel were brought up in a court dominated by the Pembroke family. Queen Elenor was fiercely protective over her families rights and privileges and her brother was the only Dug (Duke) in the entire realm, and both he and her father were influential figures in the Prince's early years. The King was largely absent, prefering to hold his own court in Harlech, whilst the Queen resided in Caernarfon. That way his womanising could not impact too greatly on her or the Royal Children. The care and education of both young Princes was committed to a monk called Tomos Fychan, and he was the dominant educational and religious figure until Hywel's early rise to the throne. After this ascension of Hywel, Rhodri's tutorage was turned over to another monk, this time a continental French monk named, Bernard Du'Phone. This man was to have an influence over the prince until his death in 1520. Then at the age of 16 Rhodri was separated from both mother, brother the King and the North Walian court. Sent to the south to reside first with the Lord Archbishop of St Davids (Lord Cardinal Tomos Powell). The Prince stayed in the relative academic environment of St Davids for four years until his 20th birthday in 1524. During this time he also married the Lady Sian of Crickhowel on the 12th August 1520 in St Davids Cathedral, with the Lord Cardinal Archbishop himself officiating. The marriage was itself to be a lonely one for the young bride. The Prince was already displaying homosexual persuasions and it took until 1538 before the couple managed to produce their one and only heir. In 1524 the young couple left the closeted confines of St Davids for the court of the Prince of Glamorgan, Prince Dafydd I of Glamorgan. It was here that the Prince began his military training, something the more academic minded monks had failed to provide. Both Rhodri and Dafydd thought it necessary due to the death of his brothers first two heirs, Gruffud and Gwenlliian. It was also during this period that the prince's first male dalliance began with a young man in the Morgannwg court. It would be something which would follow the prince and King as he would become to his grave.

My Lord, the Prince Rhodri, Edling Gymraeg

With the death in 1528 of the last of Hywel's heirs, the Prince Dafydd, Rhodri was recognised as the Edling, or the heir to the Throne. He was also given the title of Drysor Neuadd (or Door Keeper of the Royal Hall) an honorific military rank. Rhodri however remained in the south during these years, building up support amongst the southern lords who had little to love Powys for in his role as Chancellor and Distain of Wales. Rhodri built strong relationships both with the Prince of Glamorgan, Dafydd, but also the lords of Brycheiniog, Gower, Kidwelly, Penfro, St Davids, Ergyng, Dean and Hereford. Only Gwent was outside his network of allies in the south, as the Duke there was the brother of Powys. Of course, Powys as Chancellor had access to the Welsh Levies and had control of his own Principality in Powys as well as the Royal Lands of Dehubarth and Gywnedd as well as the loyalty of the lords of Ynys Mon. Only the Duke of March stood apart from the growing system of personal alliances, but he was not known as a supporter of Powys.

During these years, up to the outbreak of the Anglo-Welsh War, Rhodri had to step carefully. His brother, whilst often closeted away in a monastery still had a grip of the reins of power and he stood firmly behind the man who had yet to fail him, Powys. He had little reason to favour his brother who was rapidly becoming very much "southified". Powys also, in spite of the personal alliance set against him held many of the same lords in his grip through careful planned patronage from the Court in Caernarfon. With his political person still inviolate, Powys was secure against any plans of the Edling in Caerphilly.

This changed in 1537 with the opening of hostilities in the 1st Anglo-Welsh War. Rhodri, served in the Army in North Somerset and generally lived the life of a soldier during the period of fighting. The end of the war however saw the star of Powys dimmed. Sensing his moment Rhodri moved back to the Court in Caernarfon, safe there with his brother ensconced in Sycharth to scheme against the Chancellor and Distain, Rhys. Now his alliance of southern support came home to play for Rhodri. Rhys found his political moves hampered by the increasing withdrawal of support by the other Welsh nobles. With the death of Hywel, Rhys made one more power move only to find himself countered at every move by Rhodri, who had moved lords loyal to him to court with their personal retinues. That coupled with the Royal Guard, under the control of men loyal to the Edling saw Rhys defeated and Rhodri free to claim the throne.

My Lord Rhodri, Brenin Gymraeg 

With his accession on the 1st December 1545 the planning for Rhodri's coronation began straight away. The date set for the 5th March 1546. Changes to the Royal Household however began immediately. Dafydd of Glamorgan was made Distain, leaving Rhodri with a diminished Chancellorship. This was then taken from Rhys in 1547 with Rhodri elevating the nephew of the monk Tomos Fychan to the post of Chancellor, beginning a period of monastic Chancellor's.

1547 also saw the removal of the Duke of March from the position as head of the Welsh Army (though this was the husband of the Duchess rather than a Duke in his own right). Rhodri shared one ambition with Rhys and that was to win a war with the English. To that end he reopened hostilities in late December 1547 and in 1548-49 led the Army on a campaign in Northern Somerset again. The war would see the king risk his position with another semi public homosexual relationship and would also see Powys attempt to have the king assassinated. The war again ends inconclusively in 1550 with neither side landing the deadly blow that was needed to finish the struggle, and as Powys before him, Rhodri found his personal power base diminished as a result of the needless and fruitless war.

The Beginings of the Protestant Rebellion 

The Prince of Powys, Rhys, had changed tack in recent years and had converted to Lutheranism and had begun to implement religious change within the Powys Principality. The attempt is a failure with Rhys betrayed by his Catholic knights and turned over to a vengeful Rhodri (the assassination attempt whilst not killing Rhodri did kill his homosexual lover)

Turned over to the King, the king in turn handed Powys to Parliament where he was tried and found guilty of treason and promptly executed on the 14th March 1551 in Parliament Square, Machynlleth.

The Death of a King

The trials and tribulations though of both his reign, war and now religious unrest had taken their toll on Rhodri. A vigorous man when he had ascended the throne he was now a shadow of his former self. The last three years of his reign was a continued attempt to regain the central control that his father had enjoyed. He also needed to ensure that his daughter Elen would not only inherit the throne but be able to rule as well. To that end he arranged the marriage of his daughter to a Scottish nobleman, Lennox MacGregor, though the marriage did not take place until after Elen's ascension to the throne.

In 1553 Rhodri moved the Royal Court to South Wales and the Royal Fortress of Caerphilly. Rhodri was now feeling age catch up with him even though he was only 49 but illness and fatigue were rapidly reducing his days on earth.

In the summer of 1554 Rhodri died (7th June) in Caerphilly Castle. His lasting legacy to Wales was a stable succession, with Elen ascending the Welsh throne with no trouble. His other lasting legacy was the beginnings of religious instability which would explode under the machinations of another Prince of Powys

Preceded by:
Hywel II
King of Wales
Succeeded by:

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