The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Recognising the contribution of Wales in contemporary society

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home > Transactions > Volume 21 - 2015 > Re-Thinking Thirteenth-Century Powys

Re-Thinking Thirteenth-Century Powys

The first major task in any study of medieval Powys is to answer a seemingly simple question: ‘Where was it?’ A legend current in the twelfth century, but perceptible in much earlier poetry, told how Powys had once been a substantial kingdom extending through central and north-eastern Wales and into the land that was later to become Shropshire, with a chief court at Pengwern, which was identified as Shrewsbury.1 But when Powys emerges into the historical record it appears as a diminished polity, con ned to lands west of Offa’s Dyke. We hear of kings of Powys or the Powysians in the early ninth century in the Welsh chronicles, while the Pillar of Eliseg near Valle Crucis abbey in the Dee valley close to Llangollen records something of their eighth-century achievements in driving back encroaching Anglo-Saxon forces.2 That first Powysian kingdom appears to have collapsed in the mid-ninth century, and its territory was occupied principally by the rulers of Gwynedd. In the tenth and eleventh centuries rule over Gwynedd implied rule over Powys. But in the early twelfth century descendants of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn recreated a Powysian realm.3

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