Alwaen I

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Teyrn Alwaen I
Reign2nd April 899 - 17th June 918
PredecessorPosition Established
SuccessorHarwyn I
Born867 CE
Neuaddduwiau, tir Lhaeraidd
Died17th June 918
Caer Moran
SpouseMyfanwy of Hlaanedd (m. 08960920)
  • Alwynne (Alwynne the Child)
  • Amyrdhae merch Myfanwy
  • Harwyn I (Harwyn the Successor)
  • Mara of Caer Shannon
  • Llyrae merch Myfanwy
  • Magwyg mab Alwaen
  • Syr Arthyr of Dun Morgan (Illegitimate)
Full name
Alwaen mab Cerwyn
FatherCerwyn "Ironbrow" of Gwyfyr
MotherMathwyld the Fey

Alwaen I was the Teyrn of tir Lhaeraidd from the 2nd April 899 until his death in 918 CE. Sometimes called Alwaen Bunaitheoir (literally Alwaen the Founder) he was the first Teyrn of a united tir Lhaeraidd through his marriage to Myfanwy of Hlaanedd and his coronation brought to an end the period of Lhaeraidh history known as the Octarchy.

Prior to his coronation Alwaen was a prince of Gwyfyr and heir to the throne; during his father's rule Gwyfyr had conquered the neighbouring Lhaeraidh kingdoms of Ffanwy, Varynfwy, Lhaeraen, Gyllnru, and Ogledd. The Chronicle of Hyld (920 CE) states that Alwaen himself had proven his valour in battle during this time, fighting and leading armies on behalf of his father; Arwyn the Elder makes brief mention of his leading his father's army at the Battle of Cruachairnh.

Alwaen's reputation among modern historians is that of a warrior king who exercised his power as Teyrn only loosely; most consider his reign to have been a success only in that his coronation brought about the unification of the Lhaeraidh people. The motivations for Alwaen's lack of action in solidifying the union of the Wyth Tyroedd and formalizing its institutions and thereby the dominance of the monarchy like many other contemporary monarchs or rulers are unclear. Current scholarly opinion has it that he enjoyed his position of undefined power.


Alwaen was born at some time in 867 CE in the Casteloedd on the Teyrnbryn; written records of the precise date of his birth do not exist and give only the year. He was the second son of Cerwyn of Gwyfyr by his first wife Mathwyld the Fey. According to the Chronicle of Hyld written in 920 CE he was "A boisterous child full of the vigour of youth and possessed of the same brash temper as his grandsire; not known to be patient yet for all that blessed with a firm sense of when to act and when to withdraw."

According to Hyld at some point between 873 and 875 Alwaen was sent to live with his uncle Bedwyr mab Bedwyr, an infamous sea raider who had terrorized the lands in what is now Vrnallia and Crylante for decades, so has to distance him from his elder brother Eoghan who was being groomed as the successor to Cerwyn's throne. Under his uncle's tutelage Alwaen became adept at the traditional Lhaeraidh methods of war with broadsword, spear, and net and by the time of his older brother's death in 879 had already accompanied his uncle on a series of raids along the northern coast of mainland Asura.

His return to the Teyrnbryn in 882 was celebrated by the court of his father who according to Arwyn the Elder; "Placed his hand upon the boy's brow and proclaimed him to be his heir and a man among the Court." In both of the Lhaeraidh Chronicles of the time it is stated that Alwaen's marriage to Myfanwy of Hlaanedd was arranged shortly thereafter and that they were married in law in 884, with their first child, Alwynne, following the next year.

Father's Conquests

During the majority of his father's reign Alwaen is mentioned only in passing by Arwyn the Elder and Hyld; only upon his return from his time as a ward of his uncle, Bedwyr mab Bedwyr, does he start to feature in a prominent role within the Lhaeraidh Chronicles. Prominent Sagitean historian Mark Urlicher attributes this to the fact that his elder brother, who is mentioned far more often and at greater length during this time, was a far more important figure as the heir apparent and argues that Hyld, as a Chronicler employed by a nobleman in Alwaen's father's Court focused principally on what his patron wanted so as to curry favour with Cerwyn.

The first significant mention of Alwaen is upon the death of his brother in 879 at which point both Hyld and Arwyn the Elder mention him and outline his exploits and experiences during his time with his uncle. Most of the accounts provided in the Chronicles are second hand and taken from Court gossip and to some degree from Bedwyr himself, trying to boost the status of his ward; however Alwaen's later actions which display his skill in battle would seem to support the idea that he did have some combat experience. From this point until his coronation the Chronicles give detailed accounts of Alwaen's actions fighting against the armies of Lhaeraen and Gyllnru.

Leading an army west into Lhaeraen the Chronicles detail a series of significant victories against Aeylfwyrd mab Tiernan at the Battle of the Bhyrbas, the Battle of Lythburn, and the Siege of Caer Cywyl (modern day Cwyl). A great deal of attention is paid in Hyld's account to Alwaen's strategic brilliance, however this claim is largely dismissed by modern scholars including Urlicher, because later accounts during and after Alwaen's reign as Teyrn claim counter to this. Nevertheless the army under Alwaen's command advanced deep into Northern Lhaeraen and captured the coastal town of Tullabought, putting it to the torch in 888 CE; his campaign left the Lhaeraen army in the north all but wiped out and Aeylfwyrd mab Tiernan slain on the walls of Caer Cywyl.

Efforts by Alwaen to move his army south to Caer Taeryn were unsuccessful as the Lhaeraen Teyrn, Merwyl, brought the bulk of his own forces northwards, intercepting Alwaen's army at Cyburn. Though defeated at the Battle of Cyburn, Alwaen rallied his troops are managed to retreat back north and east to the fortified town at what is now Turragh which they had captured shortly before the burning of Tullabought. Safely behind the walls of Turragh and with a river protecting two flanks Alwaen repelled Merwyl's siege. Though himself defeated Alwaen's actions drew Merwyl's forces away from Caer Taeryn and the following month the stronghold fell to the army of his father, Teyrn Cerwyn.

When the news of Caer Taeryn's fall reached Merwyl he broke the siege and marched south, with Alwaen's exhausted and depleted force now following him. The Lhaeraen army engaged Cerwyn's force at the Battle of the Goldfields, only to have Alwaen's apparently ragged, force strike them from behind bringing an end to the battle and giving Alwaen a warrior's reputation according to Hyld's Chronicle.

Yr Hen Teyrnas

The period directly following Alwaen I’s ascension to the throne was known as Yr Hen Teyrnas, or The Old Tyranny. The period was known to contemporaries as the Ascension and was largely represented by the steady growth of crown supremacy over what was otherwise a period of unrestrained feudalism. Alwaen I’s rule is viewed by modern historians as something of a paradox, with a major contrast between an almost tyrannical enforcement of his personal authority counterbalanced by an approach to governance bordering on non-existent.

The early years of his reign were spent almost constantly on the march leading the armies inherited from his father and wife; these armies were further bolstered by the clans O’Cadwygan, O’Laffery, O’Donagh, and O’Raehll who sought royal favour through armed support for the new Teyrn. No organised opposition to the unification of tir Lhaeraidd really materialised during Alwaen’s reign, but individual noblemen, in particular those who had seen their own status decline, did attempt localised insurrections. For the most part however Alwaen’s constant marching at the head of an army up and down the country served only one particular purpose – to display and enforce his power over the newly formed nation.

Alwaen I’s brutal suppression of those noblemen who rebelled against him is remarked upon freely by Lhaeraidh scholars to this day, but at the same time he refused as Teyrn to get involved in the political intrigues and squabbling of his feudal subjects. In this sense he lived up to his title of Teyrn, which when translated into Siarad means ‘Tyrant’. Some historians, particularly those writing before the mid 20th century, take the view that this was a calculated decision; tir Lhaeraidd was a newly united nation and the concept of a single state had yet to become prevalent among its people. Instead the majority of freemen and nobles associated directly with one of the ‘’Diúcachtha’’ – indeed the collective term for the peoples of the nation did not exist within the Lhaeraidh language until much later, well after Alwaen’s reign.

When clans Hekwyn and Fwyr initiated a brutal blood feud which escalated into open war Alwaen remained aloof; the clans both held immense power and a strong sense of their own independence and importance to the politics of the nation, neither however was rebelling against the crown. So despite having the military strength with which to end the bloodshed Alwaen elected not to get involved. Historians continue to debate why this was with Alwaen’s apologists stating the opinion that using crown authority to suppress those who were not directly threating his power would doubtless have fostered rebellion against a united tir Lhaeraidd. More recent scholarly opinion has it however that Alwaen I was simply uninterested in the business of politics.

Later Life and Death

Alwaen I remained a vigorous and active man well into is forties and though not particularly long lived remained apparently strong and healthy right up until his final months of life. For almost his entire reign Alwaen had been on the move, leading an increasingly ceremonial army around the country from horseback. Even after his physical prime he continued to enjoy hunting and hawking and by modern standards would have been considered a bastion of health.

The precise cause of Alwaen’s death in not known for certain; contemporary sources claim that his stomach had ruptured due to “excessive vigorous exercise” and cite the fact that he had started to cough blood as evidence of this. More recent theories, in particular those which came as a result of research by Dr Erin O’Loughlan, seem to hold that he in fact died from rapid onset and acute cancer of the lungs or throat. This theory is based principally upon the contemporary descriptions of Alwaen’s symptoms.