One Name Study of Gronow / Gronnow / Goronwy

One Name Study of Gronow / Gronnow / Goronwy

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tudur ap Goronwy

Tudur ap Goronwy is the hero of one of the best known of all stories about any medieval Welshman. It relates that he assumed the honour of knighthood and that Edward III summoned him to his presence to explain 'with what confidence he durst invade his prerogative by assuming the degree of knighthood, without his authority'. Tudur replied that 'by the laws and constitution of King Arthur' he possessed the three necessary qualifications. 'First, he was a gentleman. Second, he had a sufficient estate, and thirdly, he was valiant and adventurous; adding this withal, If my valour and hardiness be doubted of, lo, here I throw down my glove, and for due proof of my courage, I am ready to fight with any man, whatever he be.' The story continues that the king, admiring his spirit, confirmed him in the rank he had assumed. The tale was first printed by William Wynne in his History of Wales, published in 1697;1 it is not found in Powel's Historie of Cambria (1584), which was the basis of Wynne's work. It was, presumably, one of the additions which Wynne claimed in his Preface to have taken 'out of the notes of that late great antiquarian Mr. Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt'. The catalogue of the Peniarth collection now in the National Library of Wales, and which includes the Hengwrt collection, offers no clue to the source of the tale, though a Mostyn manuscript compiled about 1572 seems to contain its germ. So much for the legend. The known facts of his career are few and on the whole less favourable to his memory. Iolo Goch and Gruffydd ap Maredudd ap Dafydd sang his praises and mourned his death, but the quantity of positive information they provide is small, once the conventional material is dismissed. Both confirm that his home was Trecastell; neither refers to the story of his knighthood and one cannot help feeling that it would have provided them with very acceptable material had it been true. Both speak vaguely of his military prowess and his fondness for wearing armour, but neither suggests that he had been engaged in the French wars.
Goronwy's French campaigning was probably done in the time of the Black Prince and the offices he occupied in North Wales at the time of his death in 1382 suggest that he had been rewarded for his services. He was Forester of Snowdon and he also held the stewardship of the Bishop of Bangor's Anglesey manors. On 18 March, 1382, he was appointed constable of Beaumaris castle, an office only once held by a Welshman before his time. He only lived a few days to enjoy his new honour for he died, as the escheator of Anglesey reported, on 22 March, 1382. His possessions in Penmynydd and Dinsylwy Rees, to the net value of £12 a year, were held of the king in chief 'by service of going with the lord King in his wars, within the march of Wales at his own proper costs and without the marches at the cost of the lord King and by suit of the county court of Anglesey'. These were, of course, the terms on which his father and uncle had held their lands in 1352. His son and heir, Tudur, was a minor and his Anglesey lands, were delivered to his widow, Myfanwy, pending a decision as to the king's rights in the property. The pedigrees do not name Goronwy's wife, but she was undoubtedly Myfanwy, daughter of Iorwerth ap Ednyfed Gam of Pengwern in Flintshire. Bardic evidence shows that he died by drowning in Kent. Iola Goch in his elegy says that he would not have been surprised had he been drowned in the Menai or the English Channel, the implication being that he frequently crossed both; but to drown in Kent seemed a strange end to his career. Gruffydd ap Maredudd and Llywelyn Goch confirm the cause of death, although more obscurely. Iolo and Gruffydd add that his body was brought from London and buried at the Franciscan friary of Llan-faes. It is generally accepted that the magnificent alabaster altar tomb now at Penmynydd church is that of Goronwy and Myfanwy and that it was moved from Llan-faes at the dissolution of the monasteries. Representing as it does the most costly and elaborate type of monument of the period, it suggests vividly the prestige which Goronwy enjoyed in his day. Less is known of Ednyfed, but he undoubtedly died about the same time as his brother Goronwy, possibly of the same cause. Iolo Goch's elegy is to both brothers and, although the language is obscure, it clearly implies the death of both. In his case, again, his wife is not named in the pedigrees, but the family of Mostyn in Flintshire claim that she was Gwenllian, daughter of Dafydd ap Bleddyn Fychan, descended from a branch of the same family. A daughter of this marriage was to marry Ieuan ap Adda of Pengwern, himself a nephew of Myfanwy, wife of Ednyfed's brother, Goronwy.

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