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Howel Dda

HOWEL DDA (" the Good ") (d. 950), prince of Deheubarth (South Central Wales) from before 915, and king of Wales from 943 to 950, was the grandson of Rhodri Mawr (the Great), who had united practically the whole of Wales under his supremacy. As Idwal Voel succeeded his father Anarawd, the elder son of Rhodri, as lord of Gwynedd in 915, so Howel at some time before that date succeeded Rhodri's younger son Cadell as prince of Deheubarth. Howel married Elen, daughter of the last king of Dyfed, and also added Kidweli and Gwyr to his dominions, while on the death of Idwal, who was slain by the English in 943, he took possession of Gwynedd. Both these princes had done homage to the English kings, Edward the Elder and Aethelstan, in 922 and 926, and we find that Howel attended the witans of the English kingdom and witnessed about ten charters between the years 931 and 949. He was secure, therefore, from attack on the eastern side of his kingdom, and it is not certain whether he was engaged in any of the battles recorded during these years in Wales, either in Mon 914, at Dinas Newydd 919 or at Brun 935. To the peaceful character of his reign is probably due the high place which he holds among the Welsh princes. From 943 to 950 Howel Dda was probably ruler of all Wales except Powys (apparently dependent on Mercia), Brecheiniog, Buallt, Gwent and Morgannwg. With Morgan Hen, king of Morgannwg, Howel had a dispute which was eventually settled in favour of the former at the court of the English king. Howel died in 950, and such unity as he had preserved at once disappeared in a war between his sons and those of Idwal Voel. The code of laws attributed to this prince is perhaps his chief claim to fame. He is said to have summoned four men from each cantref in his dominions to the Ty Gwyn (perhaps Whitland in Caermarthenshire) to codify existing custom. Three codes, accordingly called Venedotian,Demetian and Gwentian, are said to have been written down by Bleggwryd, archdeacon of Llandaff (see WELSH LAWS).

See Sir John Rhys and Brynmor-Jones, The Welsh People (London, 1900); and Aneunn Owen, Ancient Laws and Institutions of Wales (London, 1841).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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