Families can be a royal pain, quite literally. There are red-blooded Americans and Blue Bloods and sometimes we find our selves stained by a bit of ancient purple.
This is the legend of Meredith.
In the fifth and sixth centuries AD, many tribal chiefs and princes ruled the country of Cymry, what we know today as Wales. Each and all were in constant struggle to dominate. Maelgwn (pictured right)one of the stronger princes was attempting to bring some order and unite the varied warlords under one chief, hopefully himself. He gathered all the most powerful princes together. This council made a proposal. Each prince would sit upon a seaside chair. The king would be he who sat the longest as high tide covered the shore.
Maelgwn visited Maeldav the Old. Many believe Maeldav was the same wizard known as Merlin in the King Arthurian Myths. (Actually, there are those who propose Maelgwn was the model of King Arthur.) Maeldav prepared a chair constructed from waxed bird wings. Maelgwn sat upon his chair the longest since it rose and floated above the tide. They declared him Chief Prince with the title Maredudd. The exact meaning of this name is not certain, but may mean Protector of the Sea.1
The title Maredudd eventually became a surname and the spelling evolved through Maredydd to become Meredith. The proper pronunciation is Mare-Red-ith, not Mare-Dith. My family did use Mare-Red-ith when I was a child, but at some point my father surrendered to the more common use of Mare-Dith.
“I got tired ev’ry time I gave my name they said, ‘Spell it’. I spelled it and they’d say, ‘Oh, Mare-Dith,’ I jus’ got tired of spellin’ it.”
I discovered everybody still asked me to spell my last name, except in Dallas when Don Meredith was a hero.
Maelgwn, who is an actual historic figure (c.497 - c.560 AD), was my 43-Great Grandfather. He had at least two children, and probably many more not recorded, a son named Rhun and daughter Gwawr.
Gwawr may not be what you would name your daughter and I certainly didn’t name either of my daughters that; nonetheless Gwawr was my 42-Great Grandmother married to one Eliylt Llydanwyn ap Meirchion. This was a period long before surnames came into existence. The little word “ap” means “son of”; therefore, Eliylt was the son of Meirchion.
Eliylt and Gwawr begat Llywarch Hen ap Elidir (note the slight change in the spelling of Elitlt). Llywarch allegedly had 42 children. His wives are not noted. (It is an assumption on my part that with 42 children he probably had more than one woman in his life.)
My family is a web of odd relationships, because Rhun is also my 43-Great Grandfather, indicating he and his sister Gwawr began two separate lines of my father’s ancestors. (It also indicates Rhun shared a wife with his father, but the less said about such things the better. This is not the last of such entanglements and confusion couplings, but we will get to some more of that a bit later and in a more recent period.)
Meanwhile, Rhun begat Beli and so forth and after many permutations we reach my 32-Great Grandfather Rhodri “Mawr” (the Great) ap Merfyn, King of Wales, 855 AD-878 AD. From there we continued through a number of kings and princes until Gruffydd ap Cynan, Prince of Gwunedd in 1081. Gruffydd (Griffith) had a son named Cadwaladr ap Gruffudd, who was my 24-Great Grandfather and another son named Owain ap Gruffudd, King of Gwynedd (pronounced Gwenith), 1137 AD-1179 AD. (By the way, I refuse to change to the use of C.E. and B.C.E. [Current Era and Before Current Era]. Just because the cynics of the world fear God so much they want to eliminate any reference to his Deity doesn’t mean I’ll go along.) Owain was my 24-Great Grand Uncle and his grandson, my second cousin, was Llywelyn Fawr ap Iowerth. (Fawr is not a given name, but a descriptive add-on meaning “The Great”.)
Llywelyn Fawr was great enough in his day that he took as a wife the illegitimate daughter of John Lackland, known as Joan of England. John Lackland was the King of England at the time and is best known for signing the Magna Carta. As a result of this union I am a 24th cousin to Queen Elizabeth II. I suppose if enough people were to die, I would have a claim to the British crown.
All this is ancient history having little to do with who I am today. It is interesting to discover one has a bit of Royal DNA I suppose, but it doesn’t buy me any castles or put a farthing in my pocket. Yet there is an interesting tidbit, a coincidence of time, in this past.
Llywelyn Fawr had a son named Gruffydd who had a son also named Llywelyn (pictured left). th Cousin. Cousin Llywelyn the Last died at Buellt on December 11, 1282 during King Edward I of England’s conquest of Wales. As Fate often does just to have a giggle, the soldier who killed my cousin Llywelyn, was an ancestor of my friend, Ronald Tipton.
Of course much of history is full of uncertainty and it is disputed exactly who killed Llywelyn the Last and in what manner. According to legend, he was accidently chanced upon (which is basically true). A soldier completely unaware of who he was slew him. Sir Robert Brody was this soldier named in contemporary ballads of the time. Other accounts claim while the captured Llywelyn was kneeling in prayer Stephen Frankton of Ellesmere came behind and struck off his head. It is a fact Llywellyn’s head was carried to King Edward and then displayed 2
King Edward then named his own son the Prince of Wales and ever since there has been an English pretender using that title. Quite frankly, I have more claims to that title then Prince Charles.
Hanes Cymru (History of Wales)
Company Publishers Cywreig
Referenced by Charles Hoffman Thomas in a letter dated August 5, 1905 to my Great Uncle Benjamin Franklin Meredith II.
2. Paul M. Remfry
The Final Campaign of Prince Llywelyn
Castles of Wales Website
Also genealogy research by this author and Ronald W. Tipton.