Robert Trefor was the eldest son and heir of Edward ap Dafydd of Bryncunallt. Guto’s poems are the only ones for him which have survived:
Although the first two poems were not written specifically for Robert, they contain many lines of praise for him as well as for his father, Edward, and his three brothers: Siôn, Edward and Rhisiart. Further, see the note on Edward ap Dafydd and his family.
The following lineage is based on WG1 ‘Tudur Trefor’ 14; WG2 ‘Tudur Trefor’ 14B; HPF iv: 16. Those named in poems 103–5 are shown in bold, and the names of patrons are underlined.
The family tended to adopt the traditional custom of naming the eldest son after the father or grandfather, and Robert was probably named after his maternal grandfather, Robert Puleston.
Robert married Elsbeth daughter of Gwilym of Penrhyn, the sister of Guto’s patron, Wiliam Fychan ap Gwilym (105.47 [m]erch Wilym ‘daughter of Gwilym’). This was her second marriage, her first husband having been a brother of Earl Grey of Ruthin. She and Robert didn’t have any children together, but Robert already had an illegitimate son, Wiliam Trefor, who was, according to Robert Vaughan (Pen 287, 55), Siaplen i Sion ap Richard abad llanegwystl p’decessor i esgob Dauydd ap Ien ap Ieth ap Jenn Baladr ‘chaplain to Siôn ap Rhisiart, abbot of Valle Crucis, the predecessor of Bishop Dafydd ab Ieuan ab Iorwerth ab Ieuan Baladr’.
On a stray folio in Pen 26, 97–8, a contemporary note records the death of Robert Trefor on 27 October 1452: Obitus Roberti Trevor vigilia apostolorum Symonis et Jude anno domini MCCCCLII (see Phillips 1970–2: 74). This date is confirmed by Robert Vaughan in Pen 287, 55. (No source is given for the date 1442 given in WG1 ‘Trefor’ 14.) Guto informs us that Robert was buried in Valle Crucis (105.44–5), which strongly suggests that he was a patron of the abbey during his life. As we see below, the earliest reference we have to Robert is 1429, but by then he was old enough to hold a post of some authority. If he was slightly older than his brother, Siôn Trefor, who died in 1493, he is unlikely to have been born before the beginning of the fifteenth century.
Guto provides us with some information about Robert. He was the effective head of the Bryuncunallt household in the 1440s, although his father, Edward, was still alive when Guto’s first poem was sung (103.35–42). Guto suggests that Robert also had some influence in Oswestry (103.45). In his elegy for Edward, Guto confirms that Robert was now the chief, and also the one who inherited his father’s wisdom and gentleness (104.42). Like his father, Robert is praised for his key role in upholding law and order in the country, and Guto describes him as [c]yfreithiwr grym ‘a powerful lawyer’ (105.51). He further suggests that Robert had held some sort of judicial post in Is Conwy, where he was ‘powerful towards the steadfast’, and ‘towards the weak he was merciful’ (105.55–8). He was also ‘severe and ardent’ in Denbigh (105.60) in his role as ‘steward and leader in the borough’ (105.61). But now, Robert having died, he has a new role as Jesus’s receiver (105.63–4). Where in the past he would take money to the duke of York, he now takes payments of ‘meritorious deeds’ to God (105.65–74). Guto’s poems indeed suggest that he had some sort of financial responsibility in Denbigh, and that he had been a receiver during his life, possibly in that borough.
Robert Vaughan says of Robert Trefor in Pen 287, 55: Robert Trevor obiit 1452 y gwr ymma fu Stiwart Dinbech, Sirif Sir y Fflint vstus a Siambrlen Gwynedd ‘Robert Trefor died 1452; this man was steward of Denbigh, sheriff of Flintshire and justice and chamberlain of Gwynedd’. Apart from the fact that he was steward of Denbigh in 1443 (see below), I have found no other evidence to confirm that he held any of these roles. However, he certainly did hold many public posts. Particularly relevant, as regards Guto’s claims, is the fact that he was appointed receiver in Holt in 1429, and general receiver for the lordship of Powys in 1435. His name has been found regarding the following:
|1429||The burgesses of Holt sent a petition to Joan de Beauchamp (d. 1435), to protest about the appointment of Robert Trefor (whom they associate with Trefalun) as receiver of Bromfield and Yale. The original document has been lost, but a sixteenth-century copy has survived (see Pratt 1977). The root of the discontent was the fact that Robert was the grandson of Robert Puleston and that his grandmother was the sister of Owain Glyndŵr. Robert Puleston, they said, had been responsible for attacking Holt castle in 1401, and it was only by strenght of yowr forsayd tenants & burges and english officers your Sayd Castell & towne was savyd unbrend …|
|1435 8 December||William Borleigh was appointed steward in the castles, manors and lands of the king in the lordship of Powys, and Robert Trefor was the general receiver there (CPR 1429–36, 497).|
|1437 5 January||Thomas Pulford was appointed escheator of Flintshire, to the same post, it is said, that Robert Trefor had held before him (CPR 1436–41, 39).|
|1441||Robert and his father, Edward, receive land in Nanheudwy (LlGC Puleston 935).|
|1443/4||In a collection of documents relating to the lordship of Ruthin, there are three documents dating to 1443/4 regarding the conveyancing of land in Denbigh, where Robert ab Edward/Robert Trefor is named as deputy steward in the borough. The steward at the time was William Burlegh/Burley (LlGC Lordship of Ruthin 103, 753, 766).|
|1446 24 March||A general pardon was awarded to Robert Trefor, gentilman, son of Edward ap Dafydd of Chirk and also of Halston and Wigington, regarding any offences committed before 10 March 1446 (CPR 1441–6, 415).|
Phillips, J.R.S. (1970–2), ‘When did Owain Glyn Dŵr Die?’, B xxiv: 59–77
Pratt, D. (1977), ‘A Holt Petition, c. 1429’, TCHSDd 26: 153–5