Howel ab Owain Gwynedd (DNB00)

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HOWEL ab Owain Gwynedd (d. 1171?), warrior and poet, was the son of Owain ab Gruffydd ab Cynan, prince of North Wales. Pyvog, the daughter of an Irish noble, was his mother. 'Brut Ieuan Brechfa' (Myv. Arch. ii. 720) wrongly states that Owain married her in 1130. In 1143, taking advantage of a quarrel between his father and his uncle Cadwaladr (d. 1172) [q. v.], Howel seized some part of Ceredigion, and burnt his uncle's castle of Aberystwith. In the following year, in the course of a quarrel with Sir Hugh de Mortimer, Howel and his brother Cynan ravaged Aberteifi or Cardigan. In 1145, in conjunction with Cadell, son of Gruffydd ab Rhys [q.v.], prince of South Wales, he took Carmarthen Castle. In the next year, however, Howel apparently changed sides, and joined his forces to those of the Normans against the sons of Gruffydd, who had marched against the castle of Gwys. Both sides invited his aid; but the promise of 'much property' seems to have turned the scale in favour of the Norman alliance, and Howel's intervention insured the success of his allies (Brut y Tywysogion,RollsSer. p. 172,MS.D.; cf. also another account on the same page). In the same year he and his brother Cynan were engaged in a quarrel with Cadwaladr. The brothers called out the men of Meirionydd, 'who had taken refuge in churches,' marched thence and took the castle of Cynvael (ib. p. 174). In 1150 Howel suffered a series of reverses. The sons of Gruffydd ab Rhys took his portion of Ceredigion except the castle of Pengwern, and in 1152 that also fell into their hands. In 1157 Henry II made an effort to subjugate Gwynedd, and at the battle of Basingwerk was defeated by Owain and his sons, among whom was Howel (Ann. Cambr.p. 46,Rolls Ser., which gives the date as 1148; cf.Gir. Cambr.It. Cambr.vi.137,Rolls Ser.) In 1158 Howel was engaged with a mixed force of French, Normans, Flemings, English, and Welsh against Lord Rhys ab Gruffydd, who had burnt the castles of Dyved. The expedition, however, did not succeed, and a truce followed.

Howel's father died in 1169. According to the version of 'Brut y Tywysogion,' printed in the 'Myvyrian Archæology,' Howel, as Owain's eldest son, thereupon seized the government and kept possession of it for two years. During his absence in Ireland, looking after certain property which came to him in right of his mother and wife, his brother David rose up against him. Howel returned, but he was defeated, wounded in battle, and taken to Ireland, where he is said to have died in 1170, leaving his Irish possessions to his brother Rhirid. According to the 'Annales Cambriæ' (p.53), Howel was killed by his brother David and his men in 1171. An anonymous poem places his death at Pentraeth (in Anglesey?)(Myv. Arch. i. 281), while another, quoted by Price, names Bangor as his burial-place (Hanes Cymru,p. 584). Of Howel's poetical works the only known remains are eight odes printed in 'Myvyrian Archæology,'i. 197-9.

[Brut y Tywysogion, RollsSer.ed.;Ann. Cambr. Rolls Ser. ed.; Gir. Cambr., It. Cambr. vol. vi.; Myv. Arch., Denbigh, 1870 ed.; Price's Hanes Cymru.]

R. W.