Guto’s poems are the only surviving poems to Meurig Fychan ap Hywel and his wife, Angharad daughter of Dafydd. He composed a praise poem (poem 49) and an elegy for the couple (poem 50); their son, Dafydd ap Meurig Fychan, was also one of Guto’s patrons. For a full discussion of the family, see Jones (1953–6: 5–15) and Vaughan (1961–4: 119–21, 204–8).
The genealogical table below is based on WG1 ‘Bleddyn ap Cynfyn’ 51 A. The names of Guto’s patrons are underlined.
The family of Nannau
The family of Nannau in the parish of Llanfachreth were descendants of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, king of Powys from 1063 to 1075. Bleddyn’s son, Cadwgan, who died in 1111, may have been the first to settle at Cefn Llanfair, the earliest name accorded to the Nannau estate (Thomas 1965–8: 98). According to Robert Vaughan, Cadwgan built the first house on the site, which is described by him as ‘the stateliest structure in all North Wales’ (Vaughan 1961–4: 119). Very little is known about the family until the time of Ynyr Hen ap Meurig, Cadwgan’s great-grandson, who lived in Nannau during the thirteenth century. He had three sons, namely Ynyr Fychan, Anian and Meurig Hen. The eldest, Ynyr Fychan, is the forefather of the lineage discussed below. See further, Hughes 1968–9: 157–66; Williams 2001: 611.
Hywel ap Meurig Fychan and his brother, Meurig Llwyd
Meurig Fychan ab Ynyr Fychan was a man of great importance during the early fourteenth century. His effigy, dated c.1345, survives in the church of St Mary’s in Dolgellau (Siddons 2001: 631; Gresham 1968: 190–2). His eldest son, Hywel ap Meurig Fychan, held some minor positions locally in 1391/2 and in 1395/6. His home may have been Cae Gwrgenau near Nannau, but Richards (1961–2: 400–1) argues that both he and his brother, Meurig Llwyd (who inherited Nannau), lived at Cefn-yr-ywen Uchaf and Cefn-yr-ywen Isaf. Like his ancestors, Meurig held the office of bailiff in the commote of Tal-y-bont in 1391/2 and shared the responsibility for the havotry of Tal-y-bont with his brother, Hywel. In 1399/1400 he shared the responsibility for the havotry of Meirionnydd and is named as forester of the commote of Tal-y-bont (Parry 1958: 188–9). Both Hywel and Meurig were generous patrons. Their uncle, Llywelyn Goch ap Meurig Hen, composed a poem of praise for them both (GLlG poem 8) and Gruffudd Llwyd composed both a praise poem and an elegy for Meurig Llwyd (GGLl poems 14 and 15; Johnston 1990: 60–70).
Meurig Llwyd inherited Nannau and in all likelihood lived there towards the end of the fourteenth century. Meurig and his wife, Mallt, had many children, including Hywel Selau and Gruffudd Derwas. The wife of Hywel Selau was Mali daughter of Einion, an aunt of Gruffudd Fychan ap Gruffudd of Corsygedol. During the revolt at the beginning of the fifteenth century, Hywel Selau sided with Henry IV instead of his cousin, Owain Glyndŵr. As a result, Nannau was razed to the ground during the early stages of the revolt. According to tradition, Hywel Selau himself was put to death on Nannau land by Owain’s supporters in 1402 and his body was left in a hollow tree nearby. The tree was afterwards known as ‘Glyndŵr’s Oak’ (Parry 1965–5: 198). Although little more that an unfounded legend, the tale is interesting in that it supports the belief that Hywel Selau died c.1402.
Meurig Fychan ap Hywel Selau
It seems that Meurig Fychan was only two years old when his father, Hywel Selau, died. As he was too young to inherit the estate, Meurig was raised by his uncle, Gruffudd Derwas. It seems that Meurig was old enough to inherit Nannau by the second decade of the fifteenth century. In an extent of 1420, Meurig and his uncle, Gruffudd Derwas, are listed as the owners of lands in the vicinity of Nannau (Owen and Smith 2001: 113), and their names are recorded as the tenants of Llanfachreth mill in 1444/5 (Parry 1965–8: 190). Gruffudd Derwas sold two small holdings to Meurig in 1451, but both Gruffudd and Meurig are recorded as free tenants. In 1452/3 Gruffudd and his nephew, Meurig, are named in connection with Llanfachreth mill.
Some evidence survives that suggests that Meurig was active in the law courts. He is named frequently as a witness in the courts of Caernarfon and Dolgellau (Ellis 1383: 89). At Dolgellau court in 1452/3 he was named as a witness and in a court case in 1453/4 in Caernarfon Meurig himself is named as the victim (Parry 1958: 96). Indeed, many thefts of livestock from Nannau are recorded, indicating how much of an issue this was during the fifteenth century. It is hardly surprising that Guto praises Meurig as one who actively sought to uphold the law.
It is not known when Meurig died, for there is a gap in the Nannau manuscripts between 1460 and 1480. The last reference to him occurs in 1460. According to one source, Meurig died in 1482 (RWM II, 847), but Pryce (2001: 286) argues that he died soon after 1460. In his elegy for Meurig, Guto clearly states that his patron was buried at Cymer abbey in Llanelltyd near Nannau.
Angharad daughter of Dafydd
Angharad, Meurig Fychan’s wife, was the daughter of Dafydd ap Cadwgan of Llinwent in Llanbister, Radnorshire. She was descended from Elystan Glodrydd (WG1 ‘Elystan Glodrydd’ 30) and a long line of noblemen and women who had patronized the poets from at least the fourteenth century. Angharad’s brother was Dafydd Fychan (a patron of Huw Cae Llwyd, HCLl poem XXIII) and she was therefore an aunt of Maredudd ap Dafydd Fychan (a patron of Lewys Glyn Cothi, GLGC poem 181). Angharad was also an aunt of Elen Gethin, the wife of Tomas Fychan of Hergest, son of Sir Roger Fychan and Gwladus Gam. Gwladys Gam’s second husband was Sir William ap Thomas of Raglan. According to Guto’s elegy for both Meurig and Angharad, she died about the same time as her husband, possibly from the same disease, and was buried with him at Cymer abbey in Llanelltyd near Nannau.
Ellis, H. (1838) (ed.), Registrum vulgariter nuncupatum ‘The Record of Caernarvon’ (London)
Gresham, C.A. (1968), Medieval Stone Carving in North Wales (Cardiff)
Hughes, A.L. (1968–9), ‘Rhai o Noddwyr y Beirdd yn Sir Feirionnydd’, LlCy 10: 137–205
Johnston, D. (1990), ‘Cywydd Marwnad Gruffudd Llwyd i Hywel ap Meurig o Nannau’, YB XVI: 60–70
Jones, E.D. (1953–6), ‘The Family of Nannau (Nanney) of Nannau’, JMHRS 2: 5–15
Owen, D.H. and Smith, J.B. (2001), ‘Government and Society 1283–1536’, J.B. Smith and Ll.B. Smith (eds.), History of Merioneth Volume II: The Middle Ages (Cardiff), 60–136
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Pryce, H. (2001), ‘The Medieval Church’, J.B. Smith and Ll.B. Smith (eds.), History of Merioneth Volume II: The Middle Ages (Cardiff), 254–96
Richards, M. (1961–2), ‘Llywelyn Goch ap Meurig Hen a Chae Gwrgenau’, JMHRS xii: 400–1
Siddons, M.P. (2001), ‘Heraldry’, J.B. Smith and Ll.B. Smith (eds.), History of Merioneth Volume II: The Middle Ages (Cardiff), 629–48
Thomas, C. (1965–8), ‘The Township of Nannau, 1100–1600 A.D.’, JMHRS 5: 97–103
Vaughan, M. (1961–4), ‘Nannau’, JMHRS 4: 119–21, 204–8
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