The life of Hywel, who codified the Laws of Wales for the first time.
Hywel the Good
BY DAVID ROSS, EDITOR
The first major Welsh leader to step forward after the death of Rhodri the Great was his grandson. Cadell's son Hywel (Hywel ap Cadell ap Rhodri to give him his full name) was king of Seisyllwg following his father's death in 900. In 904 he gained Dyfed through marriage - or alternately, by ordering the death of his brother-in-law Llywarch of Dyfed - and in 930 he added Brycheiniog to his new kingdom, called Deheubarth.
THE LAW OF WALES
The Law of Wales held important differences from modern codes of law. It was not concerned with punishment or enforcement so much as establishing a process of reconciliation, especially between clans or kinship groups. It upheld concepts quite alien to laws across the border in England, such as a certain amount of respect for the rights of women - though they could not own land - and children, and the importance of mercy.
Other important differences should be noted. The Law recognised fully nine different forms of legal union between a man and woman, and only one of these was a church sanctioned marriage. Unlike the Canon Law of the Church, the Law of Wales allowed for the dissolution of a marriage, and the acknowledgement of "illegitimate" children with full legal rights. A bastard son required only his father's acknowledgement to inheirit property.
The Law also allowed for marriage between cousins, which was apparently not uncommon. These differences would eventually bring the Law under severe attack by Church authorities, who condemned it as heretical and satanic in nature. Although the Laws of Wales were aimed at consolidating folk custom, they also laid down in no uncertain terms the rights of the King and his warriors, the teulu, including the right to a portion of levied fines and any surplus harvest.
Hywel enjoyed more relaxed relations with the English than his predeccessors, because he chose to take the course of least resistance and acknowledge the English king as his overlord.
Unlike traditional medieval concepts of kingship, the Welsh evolved their own system of inheiritance and kingship. The king in Wales was above all a war leader. Inheiritance was not neccessarily a father to son event; rather, any strong leader related to a previous king up to four generations could claim the throne. Often a king appointed his successor, but it was still up to that successor to establish his right to that inheiritance by force of arms. The most valid measure of a man's "right" to be king was his ruthlessness, determination, an ability on the field of battle.
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