Ednyfed Fychan

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Ednyfed Fychan (c. 1170 – 1246), full name Ednyfed Fychan ap Cynwrig, was a Welsh warrior who became seneschal to the Kingdom of Gwynedd in Northern Wales, serving Llywelyn the Great and his son Dafydd ap Llywelyn[1]. He claimed descent from Marchudd ap Cynan, Lord of Rhos, 'protector' of Rhodri Mawr, King of Gwynedd, he was ancestor of Owen Tudor and thereby of the Tudor dynasty,[2] and all its royal successors down to the present day.

As is usual with medieval orthography, a variety of spellings were used for his name in medieval sources, such as Vychan, Idneved Vachan, and Edeneweth Vakan.[1][3]


Ednyfed is said to have first come to notice in battle, fighting against the army of Ranulph de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester, who attacked Llywelyn at the behest of King John of England. Ednyfed cut off the heads of three English lords in battle and carried them, still bloody, to Llywelyn, who commanded him to change his family coat of arms to display three heads in memory of the feat.[4]


In 1215, he succeeded Gwyn ab Ednywain as seneschal ("cynghellwr" in Welsh) of Gwynedd, roughly equivalent to Chief Councillor or Prime Minister, his titles included Lord of Bryn Ffanigl, Lord of Criccieth, and Chief Justice.[5] He was involved in the negotiations leading to the Peace of Worcester in 1218 and represented Llywelyn in a meeting with the king of England in 1232.

Ednyfed had estates at Bryn Ffanigl Isaf near Abergele and at Llandrillo-yn-Rhos, now a suburb of Colwyn Bay; these were the palace of Llys Euryn, on the hill of Bryn Euryn, and Rhos Fynach, on the seashore below it.[6] He also held lands in Llansadwrn and presumably also on Anglesey, where his son had his seat.

Ednyfed was married twice, his first marriage was to Tangwystl ferch Llywarch[7], a known mistress of Llywelyn the Great, the daughter of Llywarch ap Brân. His second marriage was to Gwenllian ferch Rhys, daughter of prince Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth.[7]

Ednyfed probably went on a crusade to the Holy Land around 1235, although the evidence is not conclusive.

Later years and legacy[edit]

Gwenllian died in 1236. On Llywelyn the Great's death in 1240, Ednyfed continued as seneschal in the service of Llywelyn's son, Dafydd ap Llywelyn, until his own death in 1246. In 1240 Ednyfed served as a witness to a charter that Dafydd ap Llywelyn wrote for Basingwerk Abbey, alongside his brothers Grono and Heilyn[1]. One of his sons was captured and killed by the English in the war of 1245.

Ednyfed was buried in his own chapel, now Llandrillo yn Rhos Church, Llandrillo-yn-Rhos (Rhos-on-Sea), North Wales, which was enlarged to become the parish church after the previous one (Dinerth Parish Church) had been inundated by the sea during Ednyfed's lifetime, his tombstone, was reputed to lie near the altar of Llandrillo Church, now in a vertical position in the entrance porch of the church, but this is disputed as the name inscribed is an Ednyfed 'quondam vicarius' (sometime vicar). An "Ednyfed ap Bleddyn" was vicar in 1407.

Two other sons were successively seneschals of Gwynedd under Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. After Llywelyn's death in 1282, the family made its peace with the English crown, though a descendant joined the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294-5, acting as Madog's seneschal after his proclamation of himself as prince of Wales. Ednyfed's son Goronwy gave rise to the Penmynydd branch of the family in Anglesey, from whom Owen Tudor and later Henry VII were descended.

Ednyfed in legend: Ednyfed Fychan's Farewell[edit]

According to folk tradition, Ednyfed is said to have composed a farewell song to Gwenllian before leaving to take part in the Crusades, he was away for several years, and his family thought him dead. According to an old Welsh tale, Gwenllian accepted another offer of marriage. On the wedding night, a 'pitiable beggar' arrived at the house and asked permission to borrow a harp with which to entertain the party with a song. According to this legend the beggar sang Ednyfed's Farewell song and as he reached the last verse, removed his hat, revealing himself to be Ednyfed, he sang:

A wanderer I, and aweary of strife,

Get ye gone, if ye so desire;
But if I may not have my own wife

I'll have my own bed, my own house, my own fire!

Ednyfed then announced to the stunned throng:

"This was the tune 'Farewell' to my dear Gwenllian. Hence let her go with her new husband. My faithful harp, come to my arms."[8]


By first marriage to Tangwystl ferch Llywarch he had:

By second marriage to Gwenllian ferch Rhys he had:

By either of his marriages he had:

By an unknown woman he had, illegitimate:

  • Tudur Gwilltyn ap Ednyfed Fychan; had issue with Welsey[dubious ]


  1. ^ a b c Dodsworth, Roger; Dugdale, William (1655). Monasticon Anglicanum. 1. London. p. 721.
  2. ^ Bezzant Lowe, Walter (1912). The Heart of Northern Wales. Llanfairfechan. p354.
  3. ^ Bezzant Lowe, Walter (1912), pp370-371.
  4. ^ Bezzant Lowe, Walter (1912), p.355.
  5. ^ Bezzant Lowe, Walter (1912), p358.
  6. ^ Bezzant Lowe, Walter (1912), Chapter V11 pp.354ff.
  7. ^ a b c d Williams, William (1802). Observations on the Snowdon Mountains: With Some Account of the Customs and Manners of the Inhabitants : To which is Added a Genealogical Account of the Penrhyn Families. Caernarvonshire, Wales: E. Williams. p. 168.[better source needed]
  8. ^ Bezzant Lowe, Walter (1912), p357. The translation from the Welsh is credited to Mrs Watts-Jones of Glyn, Dygwyfylchi. Presumably this folk tale was handed down through the ages; a similar tale exists for the medieval poet Einion ap Gwalchmai. Although it is possible that Ednyfed went on a crusade, the tale itself belongs to the realm of folklore rather than history.
  9. ^ Great Britain (1901). H.C. Maxwell Lyte (ed.). Patent rolls of the reign of Henry III. Mackie and co. ld. p. 821.
  10. ^ Thomas Jones Pierce, "RHYS ap GRUFFYDD or ‘Syr RHYS’ (died 1356), nobleman", Dictionary of Welsh Biography, 1959


  • John Edward Lloyd (1911) A history of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest (Longmans, Green & Co.)