The son of Elidyr Llydanwyn, Llywarch the Old was the last monarch of the notional kingdom of South Rheged. Driven out by internal British politics and probably prevented from returning by invading Anglo-Saxons, Llywarch and his family fled to the area around Bala in Powys where he is generally understood to have became a poor but renowned poet. The best known poems attributed to him are those lamenting the deaths of his cousin, Urien Rheged, Cynddylan of Pengwern and Llywarch's own sons. He was apparently present at the former's assassination, and it was left to Llywarch to recover the unfortunate Urien's head to save it from desecration. Traditionally, Llywarch had a huge family: usually given as twenty-four sons, but perhaps as many as thirty-six, as well as daughters. He is said to have lived to the age of 100, only finally expiring in AD 634. However, he probably died in the late 6th century, when his claim to the Throne of South Rheged may have passed to his grandson, Gwair (aka Caid) ap Dwc, as most of his sons died within his lifetime fighting the Anglo-Saxons. Gwair was the great grandfather of Prince Sandde ab Alcwn.
Llywarch Hen may just possibly be the inspiration for the Arthurian literary character, Sir Lamorak de Gales.
Records of Llywarch Hen date back to the 9th century. He is generally considered historic.
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