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Title: Elfael  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rhys ap Gruffydd, Welsh Marches, New Radnor, Petty kingdom, Commote, Cantref, Painscastle, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Elfael was one of a number of Welsh kingdoms occupying the region between the River Wye and river Severn, known as Rhwng Gwy a Hafren, in the early Middle Ages. Later in the Middle Ages it became a cantref. After the Laws in Wales Act of 1535, it became part of the new county of Radnorshire. However, in the late medieval period, it was a marcher lordship. It was also reckoned to be one of the cantrefs of Wales, and from 1536 of Radnorshire.


The main castles in Elfael were:

Kingdom and Cantref

Little or nothing is known of the early history of Elfael. It is possible it was an early kingdom or proto-kingdom, but the evidence is lacking. It later had close ties with the Kingdom of Deheubarth.

In the 12th century, Elfael is recorded as being in the possession of the Prince Einion Clud, with his brother Cadwallon ap Madog ruling as Prince of neighbouring Maeliennydd. Cadwallon made his peace with Henry II of England in the 1150s. However, even before this his family's possession of their lands was contested by marcher lords, such as Pain fitzJohn, who built Painscastle. Madog ab Idnerth captured Painscastle in 1137, but William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber captured it in 1195, after which the castle was defended by his wife Maud (or Matilda) until it was relieved by Geoffrey fitz Peter.

In early March 1188, when Gerald of Wales visited the area with Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury raising soldiers for the crusade, they met Einion Clud's son and heir Einion o'r Porth at Radnor Castle in Elfael. Gerald describes him as being Prince of Elfael, and described how he 'took the cross' like his cousin Maelgwn ap Cadwallon ap Madog did afterwards at his castle of Crug Eryr (described by Gerald as 'Cruker').[1] Eineon, son of Eineon Clyd, prince of Elvenia, and many other persons. Eineon rising up, said to Rhys, whose daughter he had married, "My father and lord! with your permission I hasten to revenge the injury offered to the great father of all."

Einion o'r Porth's son Anarawd ab Einion died on 12 August 1198 at the

It was principally after the death of Llywelyn ab Anarawd that the descendants of Einion o'r Porth's brothers came to the fore in Elfael. Thus it was that it was said that the area was occupied by Iorwerth Clud in 1215, and he was confirmed as lord by Henry III of England. Painscastle was recaptured by the English and rebuilt in stone in 1231, being claimed by Ralph Tosny, whose descendants were its lords, except when it was held by Welshmen owing allegiance to Llywelyn the Last between 1265 and 1276. Possession of the cantref (or lordship) of Elfael no doubt followed that of its principal castle.

Marcher Lordship

The lordship descended in the Tosny family, and then passed in 1309 to an heiress, who married one of the Beauchamp family, Earls of Warwick.[5]


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