Rhys ap Thomas (DNB00)

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RHYS (or RICE) ap THOMAS (1449–1525), supporter of Henry VII, third son of Thomas ap Gruffydd ap Nicolas of Newton, Carmarthenshire, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Gruffydd of Abermarlais, was born in 1449. When about twelve years of age he accompanied his father to the court of Philip of Burgundy; the two returned to Wales about 1467, and not long after the father and his sons Morgan and David died, leaving Rhys in possession of an extensive property in South-west Wales. During the reign of Edward IV he organised his tenants and neighbours into a fighting force of several thousand men. The author of the life in the ‘Cambrian Register’ represents Rhys as favourable to the Earl of Richmond (afterwards Henry VII) at the time of Buckingham's rebellion in 1483, and asserts that Richard III demanded his son as a hostage. But he was, on the contrary, in receipt of an annuity of forty marks from the king (Gairdner, Richard III, pp. 271–272), who seems to have suspected nothing until the last moment. It was early in 1485 that the Welsh leader, through his friend Trahaearn Morgan of Kidwelly, entered into communications with Henry, and finally promised to support him if he landed in South Wales. When the landing was carried out in August, Rhys took up arms, and a meeting with Henry soon took place. The story of a meeting at Milford, when Rhys, in literal fulfilment of an oath, allowed the earl to step over his body, deserves no credit. In the battle of Bosworth (22 Aug.) Rhys and his forces rendered valuable aid, and he was knighted by Henry on the field. On 3 Nov. 1485 he received a grant for life of the offices of constable, lieutenant, and steward of the crown-lordship of Brecknock, and on the 6th a similar grant of the offices of chamberlain of South Wales ‘in the counties of Kermerden and Cardigan,’ and steward of the lordship of Builth (Campbell, Materials for a History of the Reign of Henry VII, i. 105, 109). He led a troop of English horse at Stoke (16 June 1487), and was one of the captains of the abortive expedition to France of October 1492 (Bacon, Hist. of Henry VII). In the battle of Blackheath (17 June 1497) he had command of fifteen hundred horse, took Lord Audley prisoner, and was created knight-banneret on the field; he was one of the company who later in the year pursued Perkin Warbeck to Beaulieu Abbey (Bacon). On 22 April 1505 he was elected a knight of the Garter. He fought in the French expedition of 1513, and received soon after the office of seneschal and chancellor of the lordships of Haverfordwest and Rhos. He died in the spring of 1525 (Anstis, Register of the Garter, 1724, ii. 292), and was buried at Carmarthen in the Greyfriars' Church, whence his body was afterwards removed to St. Peter's. The tomb was restored in 1865.

Rhys married, first, Eva (called by Dwnn Mabli), daughter of Henri ap Gwilym of Cwrt Henri, by whom he had one son, Gruffydd; and, secondly, Janet (d. 1535), daughter of Thomas Mathews of Radyr, Glamorganshire, and widow of Thomas Stradling. A list of his natural children is given in the ‘Cambrian Register’ (i. 144). One of Lewis Glyn Cothi's poems (ed. 1837, i. 163–6) is in his honour. It is clear he played an important part in the revolution which placed Henry VII on the throne; and Fuller remarks that ‘well might he give him a Garter by whose effectual help he had recovered a crown’ (Worthies, 1662).

[A full biography, written about 1635 by a descendant, was printed in vol. i. of the Cambrian Register (pp. 49–144). It depends too much on tradition to be altogether trustworthy, yet contains much important information. Other sources are the chronicles of Polydore Virgil, Hall, Grafton, Holinshed, and Speed; Bacon's Hist. of Henry VII; Dwnn's Heraldic Visitations, i. 210; Anstis's Register of the Garter; Gairdner's Richard III.]

J. E. L.