Discussion:
Reliability of the History of Gruffudd ap Cynan
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HWinnSadler
2018-05-29 14:23:46 UTC
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One of the main sources for the life of Gruffudd ap Cynan, Prince of Gwynedd (d. 1137), is the "History of Gruffudd ap Cynan". For those interested, here is a link to read it- http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/gruffydd.html

However, the historicity of this biography is occasionally questioned. Darrell Wolcott, of the unreliable "Ancient Wales Studies" writes this: http://www.ancientwalesstudies.org/id46.html

Our very own Stewart Baldwin, in his fantastic "Ancestry of Llywelyn ap Iorweth", accepts the genealogy presented that makes Radnailt the mother of Gruffudd. My question for Stewart, than, is how he views the other Genealogies in the biography, obviously full of inventions. For example-

"Olaf himself was a son of King Sitriuc, son of Olaf Cuaran, son of Sitriuc, son of King Olaf, son of King Haarfager, son of the King of Denmark."

The Welsh Genealogies are traced back to Adam (obviously invented) as well.

In other words, how much of this "History of Gruffudd ap Cynan" can be trusted as reliable?
s***@mindspring.com
2018-05-29 16:26:21 UTC
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Post by HWinnSadler
One of the main sources for the life of Gruffudd ap Cynan, Prince of Gwynedd (d. 1137), is the "History of Gruffudd ap Cynan". For those interested, here is a link to read it- http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/gruffydd.html
However, the historicity of this biography is occasionally questioned. Darrell Wolcott, of the unreliable "Ancient Wales Studies" writes this: http://www.ancientwalesstudies.org/id46.html
Our very own Stewart Baldwin, in his fantastic "Ancestry of Llywelyn ap Iorweth", accepts the genealogy presented that makes Radnailt the mother of Gruffudd. My question for Stewart, than, is how he views the other Genealogies in the biography, obviously full of inventions. For example-
"Olaf himself was a son of King Sitriuc, son of Olaf Cuaran, son of Sitriuc, son of King Olaf, son of King Haarfager, son of the King of Denmark."
The Welsh Genealogies are traced back to Adam (obviously invented) as well.
In other words, how much of this "History of Gruffudd ap Cynan" can be trusted as reliable?
As you have already noted, some of the statements in the Life of Gruffudd ap Cynan are clearly false. As with all early biographies of this type, where the principal motive was to glorify the subject, separating "truth" from propaganda and falsehood can be problematic, leading to honest differences in opinion which are difficult to reconcile. Within these limitations, the prevailing opinion is that the Life is reasonably reliable for the period during which Gruffudd lived.

With regard to his genealogy, the further back you go the less reliable it gets, as you would expect. His father's identity is confirmed by other independent sources. To my knowledge, the part of his genealogy for the first few generations which is not confirmed by sources independent of the Life consists of the identity of his mother, his mother's parentage (both father and mother), and the parentage of his maternal grandmother. The four generations Olaf son of Sitriuc son of Olaf Cuaran son of Sitriuc are confirmed by the Irish annals. The generations before that, and the paragraph about Harold Haarfager and Rollo are legendary embellishment, very much distorted from whatever real events on which they were ultimately based. Slani is named only in the History and sources based on it, but the marriage of Sitriuc (son of Olaf Cuaran) to a daughter of Brian is also mentioned in the well known Irish source "Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh" (which is also partly propaganda). Sitriuc's mother Gormflaith is well documented in several Irish sources. The part of the genealogy within a few generations of Gruffudd is chronologically consistent, and fits well with what is known about the career of Gruffudd ap Cynan. Obviously, strictly contemporary documentation of these relationships would be desirable. I consider the documentation of these generations to be good enough but far less than ideal.

Some scholarly works where these matters have been discussed are:

Maund, K. L., ed., Gruffudd ap Cynan: A Collaborative Biography (Woodbridge, 1996). (A series of articles by different authors, edited by Maund, all dealing directly or indirectly with Gruffudd ap Cynan, including detailed discussions of his genealogy.)

Maund, K. L., Ireland, Wales, and England in the Eleventh Century (Woodbridge, 1991). (A study by Maund, based on her Ph.D. dissertation if I recall correctly, mainly a prosopographical and genealogical study of eleventh century Welsh leaders. The appearance of "Ireland" as the first word of the title is rather misleading.)

Russell, P., ed. Vita Griffini Filii Conani: The Medieval Latin Life of Gruffudd ap Cynan (Cardiff, 2005). (An edition of the recently discovered Latin Life of Gruffudd, previously known only from the medieval Welsh translation.)

Stewart Baldwin

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