Rhun ap Maelgwn (DNB00)

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RHUN ap MAELGWN (fl. 550), British king, was the son of Maelgwn Gwynedd [q. v.], whom he succeeded as ruler of North Wales about 547. The mediæval romance known as ‘Breuddwyd Rhonabwy’ introduces Rhun as ‘a tall man with curly auburn hair,’ whose privilege it is to give counsel to all comers, and to whom Arthur accordingly brings his counsellors (Mabinogion, ed. Rhys and Evans, pp. 159, 160). This conjunction of Rhun and Arthur is an anachronism, but what is said of the former suggests that he inherited from his father not only North Wales, but also the authority of ‘gwledig,’ or overlord of the other Kymric princes. According to a ‘cyfarwyddyd’ or popular tale, quoted by Iorwerth ap Madog, who in the early part of the thirteenth century compiled the Venedotian code of the laws of Hywel the Good, Rhun invaded the north in order to avenge an inroad into Arfon (the region between Bangor and the Rivals) of the northern princes Clydno Eiddyn, Nudd Hael, Mordaf Hael, and Rhydderch Hael (fl. 570), whose comrade Elidyr Mwynfawr had been previously slain in the district. The men of Arfon led the van of Rhun's host, which was so long absent from Wales that on its triumphant return Rhun granted to Arfon fourteen perpetual privileges (Ancient Laws of Wales, ed. Owen, i. 104–6). Rowlands speaks in ‘Mona Antiqua’ (ed. 1723, p. 164) of other laws made by Rhun, contained in an old manuscript styled ‘Laws of Rhun ap Maelgwyn;’ this, however, was probably only a copy of the Venedotian code containing ‘Breiniau Arfon.’ Rhun appears in the Triads as one of the three ‘blessed rulers’ of the Isle of Britain (Myv. Arch. ser. i. 9, ser. ii. 8, ser. iii. 25), and also as one of the three ‘golden-shackled’ princes of the island (ib. ser. i. 22, ser. ii. 43, ser. iii. 28), which is explained as meaning that he was too tall to ride any horse with stirrups in the ordinary way, and therefore had a chain of gold slung across the crupper of his steed to support his ankles. That he bore the surname ‘Hir,’ i.e. the tall, is known from the pedigrees in Jesus Coll. MS. 20 (Cymrodor, viii. 87) and the poetry of Meilyr Brydydd (Myvyrian Archaiology, Denbigh edit. p. 140). Rowlands asserts, without authority, that he gave his name to Caer Rhun, the ancient Conovium (Mona Ant. ed. 1723, p. 148). In the late ‘History of Taliesin,’ printed in Lady Charlotte Guest's edition of the ‘Mabinogion,’ Rhun is represented as a gallant sent to try the virtue of Elphin's wife, an attempt in which he is baffled by the substitution of maid for mistress.

[Harl. MS. 3859, and authorities cited.]

J. E. L.