Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sir Morgan ap Maredudd (1)


To begin at the very beginning is perhaps impossible. It is not really known when the antecedents of the Morgan family began living at Tredegar. Their family tree is colourful and spectacular in places, but as to how accurate it is we can only speculate. A popular claim in the Victorian era was that the Morgans were descended from leaders of the Silures tribe who fought against the Romans in south-east Wales. This, you would think, would be impressive enough, but not so; some imaginative scribes were content to point to Caractacus as a Morgan ancestor, others preferred to squabble over whether the Morgans were descended from the second or the third son of Noah! (My money is on Ham, the second son, personally...)

Let's begin with somebody who was undeniably 'lord of Tredegar'. Morgan ap Maredudd, sometimes referred to as Morgan the Rebel, who, according to Dr John Gwynfor Jones, "lived at Tredegar in the early decades of the fourteenth century".

Morgan was a descendant of Rhys ap Tewdwr (Tudor), King of Deheubarth, who died in 1093 in Breconshire, and of the old lords of Caerleon (it was with this connection in mind, and playing on the Caerleon as Camelot legend, that the occultist Aleister Crowley made the claim that the last Viscount Tredegar had the right to "bear Excalibur"!).

Morgan and his ancestors were caught up in the continual struggle between the native Welsh rulers and the Norman lords whose intrusions caused continual tension. In an unstable and potentially combustable atmosphere, a fine line needed to be walked. Morgan's father, Maredudd, was the last native lord of Caerleon; he had been deprived of his lands by Gilbert de Clare (who built Caerphilly Castle) in 1270, and this wound was not forgotten by Maredudd's son. (Some have claimed that it was Morgan himself who was dispossessed by de Clare, but Octavius Morgan, the antiquarian brother of the 1st Lord Tredegar believed it to be Morgan's father Maredudd)

In 1294 the Welsh, led by Madog ap Llywelyn, broke into revolt against the English. In Glamorgan and Gwent the uprising was led by Morgan. The English forces, led by the Earl of Gloucester, had very little success against Morgan's rebels; in the uprising half the town of Caerphilly was destroyed and Morlais Castle (in Merthyr) was taken by the rebels. This triumph did not last, however, and in June 1295 with defeat looming, Morgan made it clear that his rebellion was not against Edward I, but against the de Clares, the lords of Glamorgan; giving himself up to the king he obtained the royal clemency.

This is the first indication of the Morgans thinking locally rather than nationally. Their grievance was not against Edward I, as such, but against forces that threatened their interests at home.

Morgan later served the king as a squire of the household in Flanders, thus, presumably, his redemption was complete.

Just the Facts:
Name: Morgan ap Maredudd (Meredith)
Died: c1331
Children: Only one child, a daughter, Angharad
On Throne when owning Tredegar: Edward I, Edward II, Edward III

1 comment:

Donny said...

Sir Thomas Tuberville in his letter to the French King, via the Lord Baron and Noble Provost of Paris, said that the Welsh now at Peace would rise if the Scots did "and this I have well covenanted, and Morgan has fully covenanted with me to that effect." Sir Thomas was tried and convicted on 6 October 1295, following betrayal to the King by the clerk who had written the letter for him. This suggests that Morgan ap Maredudd was doing lip service to the \English Crown and got away with it.