EARLIER this month, a special event was held in Llandysul to honour the mother of one of Wales’ most famous figures.

Ffair Elen was held on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16, with the latter being on Owain Glyndwr Day, celebrating the man who is known for leading Wales in a revolt against the English.

But just who was his mother and what do we know about her? Let’s take a look at Elen and Owain’s influence on Ceredigion.

Owain Glyndwr’s mother was called Elen ferch Tomas ap Llewelyn and hailed from Ceredigion. She was the daughter of Tomas ap Llewelyn, who was a descendant of the princes of Deheubarth, including the Lord Rhys, Rhys ap Tewdwr and Maredudd ab Owain and Hywel Dda.

Elen’s family, including sister Margaret, brother Owain and half-brother Maredudd were the last independent landowning members of the Deheubarth royal family, whose lands covered much of what is now south and west Wales including Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.

The family owned extensive lands, however, this had been greatly reduced over time after confiscation and conquests by the English kings.

When her father died, Elen inherited his Ceredigion lands including the areas of Iscoed and Gwynionydd which were in the Llandysul area, bordered by the River Teifi after her brother Owain died. Her sister Margaret inherited their uncle Owain’s lands at Trefgarn in north Pembrokeshire, but Maredudd was declared illegitimate as he was Thomas’ son from a second marriage to one of his first cousins, which was unacceptable in Roman Law, which is what the English had ruled under in Wales.

Tivyside Advertiser: Owain GlyndwrOwain Glyndwr (Image: Hulton/Getty Images)

Elen married Gruffudd Fychan ap Gruffudd, a descendant of the princes of Powys Fadog, in 1350. He was the lord of Glyndyfrdwy and Cynllaith had had land on both sides of the Berwyn Mountains, as well as a manor house at Sycharth near Llansilin and a hunting lodge next to the river Dee near Carrog.

There is a legend that Elen gave birth to Owain in the home of her uncle Owain in Pembrokeshire, however, it is widely recorded that he was born in Sycharth. He had two brothers called Tudur and Madog and two sisters, Morfydd and Lowri.

It was believed that he studied as a legal apprentice in London but in 1383, he married Marred Hanmer and Owain is said to have established himself as the squire of his father’s lands. It is believed that he had six sons and six daughters, however, Marred was not the mother of all of these. His sons were named Gruffudd, Madog, Maredudd, Tomas, Ieuan and Dafydd, with the latter two being illegitimate.

His daughters were named Catrin, Sioned, Marged, Alys, Myfanwy and Gwenllian, with the latter two being illegitimate. Gwenllian would marry Cenarth native Philip ap Rhys.

Like his ancestors, Owain spent much of his time fighting for England against France and Scotland, beginning in 1384 when he was on garrison duty under Sir Gregory Sais and was involved in a number of battles, including serving under the future King Henry IV.

In 1400, King Henry IV took Owain Glyndwr’s lands and gave them to the Earl of Somerset. This included Elen’s lands of Iscoed and Gwynionydd and it was said that the men of Iscoed were in the first group of what was then Cardiganshire men to join the revolt. This led to Owain beginning his famed 15-year war against the English, supported by his family including brother Tudur and thousands of Welshmen. His brothers-in-law Griffith, John and Philip as well as their uncles Maredudd ap Llywelyn Ddu and John Kynaston played important roles in the uprising.

During the uprising, Ceredigion and north Pembrokeshire played a part but the crown was able to keep its major castles. The Welsh potentially briefly recaptured Cilgerran Castle, which was badly damaged during fighting relating to the uprising in 1405, however, it remained in the hands of the crown after the uprising. That same year, Owain’s men attempted to besiege Cardigan Castle, but were unsuccessful.

Owain’s eldest son Gruffudd was captured at the battle of Pwll Melyn in 1405 and died in the Tower of London a few years later, with the rest of the sons dying fighting for their father, with the exception of Maredudd who led the uprising in 1412.

It is believed that Owain died in 1412, potentially living out the rest of his days at the home of one of his daughters.

The family also had a connection to later royals, with Elen’s sister Margaret marrying William on Llanbrynmair before marrying Goronwy ap Tudur of Penmynydd. His brother Maredudd ap Tudur was the grandfather of Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Tudor, and Edmund Tudor, and grandfather of King Henry VII. Margaret and Maredudd had three sons – Rhys, Gwilym and Maredudd – who would all go on to support Owain in his revolt.