Hywel IV
10th King of Wales

King of Wales (circa 1690)
House of Deheubarth
Reign 17th March 1683 - 30th September 1706
Coronation 23rd September 1683 at St Davids Cathedral
Predecessor Hywel III
Successor Dafydd V
Born 28th February 1670
Harlech Palace
Died 30th September 1706 (Aged: 36)
Archbishops Palace, St. Davids
Spouse Lady Marged Pritchard of Abergaveny
Issue Prince Dafydd Edling Cymru

Princess Gwenllian of Morgannwg

Full name
Hywel ap Hywel ap Dafydd
Posthumous name
Hywel Adnewyddu (the Renewer)

Hywel Rhagargoeli (the Foreshadow)

House House of Deheubarth
Father Hywel ap Dafydd ap Rhys
Mother Henrietta de Bourbon
Burial New Royal Crypt, St Davids Cathedral
Religion Roman Catholic

Hywel FitzGerald-Glyndwr, son of Hywel III and Henrietta was born in the Palace of Harlech on the 28th February 1670. He was born late in his fathers life, during the period of rule by Parliament and the Chancellor, Llewellyn Preece. He was brought up mainly in Caernarfon Castle by his tutor, Henri Dupont, a Walloon from the Spanish Netherlands. Hywel was therefore fluent in French, English, Latin, Spanish as well as his native Welsh, and was considered to be one of the most educated Kings to sit on the Welsh throne.


Hywel's time as Edling of Wales was short-lived. The only child of his parents he would nevertheless have to wait until he was eight years old before being recognised as the official heir to the Welsh throne (the previous heir having been the Kings brother, Lord Gruffud of Abberffraw). With his elevation to Edling, Hywel experienced an increase in his household, with new tutors joining Henru Dupont in their educating of the young prince.

One of his fathers final acts as king was to preside over the proxy marriage of Hywel with the older Marged Pritchard. Marged was the daughter of the Lord of Abergaveny (Archibald Pritchard) but more importantly to Hywel III was the fact that Marged's mother was Heledd Morgannwg, sister to the Prince of Morgannwg and therefore Marged was the 1st cousin to the present prince, Cystennin (who would later marry Hywel and Marged's daughter, his own second cousin) Tying in the princes of Morgannwg to the Royal House in this way had long been an aim of the House of FitzGerald-Glyndwr and finally it had been achieved. The proxy marriage was spoilt, however, by the actions of the young Hywel. Already sexually active, he bedded his older bride before the proxy marriage on the 5th June, 1682 (with their first born, Dafydd born in the December of that year). The scandal of this rocked the last months of Hywel III's reign and would continue to cause political problems in the new reign.

Brenin Cymru

With the early death of his father, Hywel was promoted to the kingship at the early age of 13. Already a father, the young king was placed again in difficult circumstances. England, Wales' neighbour had been convulsed by the attempts to remove the Catholic Duke of York from the English and Scottish succession. For Catholic Wales this was a dangerous situation. Since the restoration Wales had enjoyed close relations with Charles II and whilst differing faiths, both Hywel III and Llewelyn Preece had maintained cordial relationships both between Crowns and Parliaments. The Exclusion Bill and a new, young inexperienced monarch might ruin all for Wales at such a crucial juncture. The issue was raised almost straight away. In November 1683, Hywel and Parliament disagreed. The king, armed with legal right and the Army dissolved Parliament, stripping Preece of his rank and title (both as Chancellor and as Abbott) With the one calming influence removed (and with Parliament to remain in recession until 1703) Hywel proceeded to rule much as his grandfather had.

One of the most important cultural decisions made at this point however, was the invitation of Christopher Wren to Wales. Between 1685 and 1693 Wren would submit plans for the modernisation of several Welsh cities. Harlech City and Palace, St Davids City (and Archbishop's Palace), Caernarfon City and Palace, Palace of Sycharth Manor and Cardiff City (under the Princes of Morgannwg) A Royal Observatory was also commissioned (and built to the eventual irony in Cardiff) Wren was given greater freedom of design than he had been in London, resulting in the rejected baroque plans for London seeing the light of day here in Wales.

The year 1687 also saw the creation of the Welsh Royal Society of Science (Cymdeithas Brenhiniol Gwyddoniaeth), a creation in direct response to the one instituted by Charles in England.

Second Birth of the Navy and Isolation from England

1688 saw the high point of Anglo-Welsh relations, with James II & VII on the thrones of England and Scotland. The Treaty of Kings, saw the two Catholic monarchs pledge mutual support to each other and allowed for bilateral support for each others endeavours. Part of the treaty allowed for English naval support for the small Welsh navy, which under the continued guidance of the House of Powys-Fadog (this time Prince Llewellyn) the Welsh navy enjoyed a period of continued financial support, allowing a small but well equipped fleet to be built and maintained. The Army, so beloved of Hywel III was ignored by his son and the well considered Commonwealth style Army began to sink into disrepair and neglect.

The expulsion of James from the English and Scottish thrones reverberated around the Welsh political scene. The immediate result was the pledge of men and money towards James and his endeavours in Ireland, with Welsh troops sailing to Ireland in 1690 (Welsh troops taking part in the Battle of the Boyne in the July of that year). Support for James caused tensions with the new Monarchs, William of Orange and Mary Stuart, but such tensions were soon put to one side with Wales siding with the English & Scottish kingdoms in the War of the Spanish Succession.

1690 also saw the start of the reduction in the rates of pay for the Welsh soldiers. Where before it had been four ceiniogau and one swllt, in 1690 pay was reduced by Parliament (via Privy Council order to prevent Parliament having to be called) to pisyn tair (three pieces) for an Infantryman and chwecheiniog (sixpence) for a cavalryman. Such reductions in pay saw a decrease in the numbers of men joining the Army and the army was reduced from five Cavalry regiments to three and six Infantry regiments to four, with the number of men available for the Dragoon regiment diminished as well. In 1704, Welsh troops took part in the Battle of Blenheim under Marlborough and this was to be the last engagement of the Welsh Army prior to the 3rd Anglo-Welsh war in 1718.

Relations with Parliament

Hywel's relations with parliament and government as a whole was fractious. He inherited a strong vibrant Parliament, led by the Abbott of Tintern Abbey (Llewellyn Preece), but he and the Chancellor soon fell out shortly after Hywel's coronation. With the falling out, Hywel abolished Parliament in 1683 using the pretext of the ongoing exclusion crisis in England as his reason to interfere with the Senedd. He chose to rule via the Cyngor Brenhinoedd and its bureaucracy which had built up over the years. Naturally this was not an efficient way of governing, but the nobility had long been tamed to the crown's side and therefore Hywel's path was made clearer.

Hywel now attempted to rule Cymru without the aid of a Senedd or chief minister. From 1683 to 1688 he ruled without assistance, but the finances of the kingdom degenerated during this period, with Hywel attempting to spend money that he was no longer in a position to recoup in taxes. The lords of Wales were unhappy with the situation as well. Failing a Senedd to regulate and collect taxes, Hywel relied on the nobility, using the royal guard to extort money from them. By 1688 however, with his plans for the modernisation of both Palas Harlech, Dinas Harlech and the Castell Brenhinol Harlech, in jeopardy due to lack of funds, he was persuaded to summon the Commotes in Senedd.

The 1688 Senedd was a short lived body. The seneddwyr quickly passed the required taxation bills, but Hywel feared they would try to flex their political muscles, especially after the Is-Isarll Rhos, brought forward a measure to re-establish the Gweithredu Fawr. Hywel quickly dismissed the Senedd and resumed his autocratic rule. From 1688 to to 1703 Hywel would continue to call Senedd's for the purpose of taxation and minor law making, but no Senedd lasted more than 3 months before being dismissed and he appointed nobody to the position of Canghellor, preferring to appoint a Penllywydd whose sole purpose was to present the kings wishes. Otherwise Hywel ruled via the Cyngor Brenhinoedd. This saw the beginning of the long nadir of the Senedd, it also marked the end of the Machynlleth Period with the Senedd never to sit there in a permanent setting again.

The Senedd returned however in 1703 when Hywel called for a Senedd to be held again in Machynlleth, under the ageis of Tomos Eifion, Abad o Abaty Llandudoch, who was to govern as Chancellor from 1703 to 1709. However, there were changes. The parliamentary session 1703-05 was the last session of the Senedd which could call Ty Senedd, Machynlleth as its permanent home. Thereafter, the senedd was called at the monarch's discretion at various Royal residences. Y Senedd met during 1705-18 at Palas Caernarfon, Palas Harlech, Palas Archesgobion Tyddewi, Caerdydd, Llwydlo and Amwythig.

Personal Life & Heirs

Hywel was a lively, gregarious person and surprisingly down to earth once away from matters of state. Sexually active from an early age, he was not faithful to his wife for long and once she was pregnant with their son he continued his affair with the wife of the Iarll Ynys Mon. Hywel and Marged had a curiously content marriage despite his infidelities. Marged herself pursued many affairs during their marriage and there were questions raised over the paternity of Gwenllian. Where Hywel had affairs only with women of rank, Marged tended towards courtiers and knights. The unconventional lifestyle seemed to suit both and when they needed to present a unified married front, were competent actors.

Hywel and Marged had only two children. Dafydd and Gwenllian. Both were to in their turn leave their mark on Welsh history. Dafydd would go down as Dafydd the Rash, Dafydd the Fifth of Wales, and very nearly Dafydd the Last. His reign would see the temporary end of Welsh independence.

Gwenllian in her turn would marry her first cousin once removed, Cystennin Morgannwg, and their son, Rhisiart would become Brenin Cymru under a new dynasty, the House of Morgannwg.

As was traditional, both children were raised in the Llys y Frenhines at Palas Garth Celyn until Dafydd turned 10 when he moved to the guidance of his father in the Palas Harlech and Palas Caernarfon

Death and Legacy

Hywel would die on the 30th September 1706 in the Palas Archesgobion Tyddewi, following a protracted parliamentary session. His death was a mystery. Hywel was a vigorous monarch but had built up enemies during his reign. The Senedd session of 1706 was a fractious one. Seneddwrs were pushing for greater control over his ability to raise taxes without parliamentary consent. The king dined with the Canghellor, the Archesgob and other courtiers on the 28th September and retired to bed, seemingly healthy. As the servants waked him on the 29th, they found the king ill in bed, a fever ravaging him. Despite the efforts of the doctors, the king continued to decline, dying in feverish agony on the 30th September. Poison was instantly suspected, given the kings good health, but no one was ever able to establish a convincing suspect though there were several people considered most likely, including the canghellor himself.

He was outlived by his Queen by three years with Queen Marged dying on the 17th February, 1709. Their legacy was a mixed one. Wales had changed drastically during the kings 23 year reign. Cities and palaces transformed, an Army rotting away in barracks whilst the Navy continued to shine. Parliamentary rule had gone back several generations following Hywel's removal of parliament from the role of central governance. To all outwards appearances, Wales was an autocratic but forward moving nation, secure with heirs, secure with neighbours that no longer threatened it. Yet within 12 years Wales would be conquered and annexed to the English crown for the second time in its history. For the first time since the Anglo-Saxon monarchs of the 7th and 8th centuries a monarch would lay claim to be Rex Britanniarum, and that monarch would be George of Hanover and not Dafydd of Wales.

Titles and Style

  • 28th February 1670 - 28th February 1678 - Ei Uchelder y Tywysog Hywel
  • 28th February 1678 - 17th March 1683 - Ei Uchelder y Tywysog Hywel, Edling Cymru
  • 17th March 1683 - 30th September 1706 - Ei Fawrhydi, Hywel, Gan Gras Duw, Brenin Gymraeg, Tywysog Gwynedd, Dug Dyfed, Iarll Dinefwr, Arglwydd Fawr Gymru a'r Mers, Arglwydd Eryri, Glyndyfrdwy a Harlech
Preceded by:
Hywel III
King of Wales
Succeeded by:
Dafydd V
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