Gruffudd Fychan ap Gruffudd of Corsygedol was one of the most prominent patrons in Meirionydd during the second half of the fifteenth century. Guto’s elegy for Gruffudd is the only elegy for him that has survived (poem 52), but many other poets sang his praise, such as Tudur Penllyn, who composed four poems for him:
Hywel Cilan composed a reconciliation poem to Elisau and Gruffudd (GHC poem XXVI), and Deio ab Ieuan Du also sang a reconciliation poem to both Gruffudd Fychan and Rhys ap Maredudd of Tywyn (GDID poem I). In his poem for Gruffudd, Guto allocates much praise for Elisau, who may also have been one of his patrons (both Gutun Owain and Tudur Aled composed poems for Elisau, GO poem XLII; TA poem LXXXIX). Gruffudd married Maud daughter of Sir John Clement, a descendant of Sir Jeffrey Clement who received lands in Tregaron from Edward I. They had many children but it seems that it was Wiliam Fychan, who settled in Cilgerran, Cardiganshire, who continued the family tradition of providing patronage for poets. Tudur Aled composed a poem of thanks for him for a horse (TA poem CVIII). See further, Hughes 1968–9: 137–51.
The genealogical table below is based on WG1 ‘Osbwrn’ 1, 1 A1 and A2, ‘Cydifor ab Gwaithfoed’ 3, ‘Bleddyn ap Cynfyn’ 5 and ‘Clement’ 1. The names of Guto’s patrons are underlined.
Gruffudd Fychan was a descendant of Osbwrn Wyddel. Through his grandfather’s marriage to Tangwystl daughter of Rhydderch, Gruffudd was descended from the learned family of Rhydderch ab Ieuan Llwyd of Glyn Aeron. His father, Gruffudd ab Einion, also married into a family of some renown, for his first wife was Lowri daughter of Tudur Fychan, Owain Glyndŵr’s niece and a descendant of the native Welsh princes. Gruffudd ab Einion’s second wife was Mali daughter of Ieuan Llwyd, by whom he had one daughter named Annes.
Both Gruffudd and his brother, Elisau, held important offices in Merionethshire. Gruffudd was a juror during Henry VII’s reign and so too Elisau in 1448. Elisau was also bailiff of the commote of Penllyn in 1472. The poets concentrated mainly on Gruffudd’s support for the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses. Between 1461 and 1468, he held Harlech castle with his cousin, Dafydd ab Ieuan (Evans 1995: 86). It seems that Gruffudd assisted Jasper Tudor in escaping and landing in Wales via Y Tŷ Gwyn, his house in Barmouth (ibid. 91–2; GTP poem 16). Indeed, it is likely that Jasper and Henry Tudor also stayed at Gruffudd’s other home in Corsygedol (Thomas 1990: 7). In 1468 he was pardoned by Edward IV for his role in defending Harlech against the Yorkists (Evans 1995: 100–1; Hughes 1968–9: 139). However, in his elegy for Gruffudd (1483), Guto mentions Edward IV’s death and makes no mention of Gruffudd’s role in the wars. Despite his great loyalty to Jasper and his nephew, Henry Tudor, Gruffudd did not live to see Henry’s triumphant return to Britain and his defeat of Richard III in 1485. See The Battlefield: Wars of the Roses: Wales and the Wars.
Elisau, Gruffudd’s brother, was clearly alive when Gruffudd died. Indeed, the year of Elisau’s death is noted on a leaf in Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch ‘The White Book of Rhydderch’, a manuscript associated with Gruffudd and Elisau’s great-grandfather, Rhydderch ab Ieuan Llwyd of Glyn Aeron. The manuscript may have come into the possession of their grandmother, Tangwystl, when Rhydderch died (Huws 1991: 19–22). Thomas (1990: 5) suggests that Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch was at Corsygedol for most of the fifteenth century. Elisau settled at Maerdy, in all likelihood Maerdy-mawr in Gwyddelwern, where there stood a derelict farmhouse that has since been demolished (Smith 2001: 436 and 453).
Gruffudd’s son, Wiliam Fychan, inherited Corsygedol, but it seems that he lived mainly at Cilgerran in Cardiganshire as he was appointed constable of Cilgerran castle in 1509. Thomas (1990: 9) suggests that this position was a sign of the Tudors’ appreciation of Gruffudd Fychan’s support.
Evans, H.T. (1995), Wales and the Wars of the Roses (second ed., Stroud)
Hughes, A.L. (1968–9), ‘Rhai o Noddwyr y Beirdd yn Sir Feirionnydd’, LlCy 10: 137–205
Huws, D. (1991), ‘Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch’, CMCS 21 (Summer): 19–22
Roberts, H.D.E. (1968–9), ‘Noddwyr y Beirdd yn Aberteifi’, LlCy 10: 76–109
Smith, P. (2001), ‘Houses c.1415–c.1642’, J.B. Smith and Ll.B. Smith (eds.), History of Merioneth Volume II: The Middle Ages (Cardiff), 422–506
Thomas, M.Rh. (1990), ‘Fychaniaid Corsygedol’, JMHRS 11: 1–15
Williams, G.A. (2001), ‘The Literary Tradition to c.1560’, J.B. Smith and Ll.B. Smith (eds.), History of Merioneth Volume II: The Middle Ages (Cardiff), 507–628