Owain I Gwynn
Born around 1060
Died around 1130
Titles held upon entry to the Kingdom of Heaven: Prince of Wales, Duke of Deheubarth and Gwynedd, Earl of Gwent and Gwynedd
Successor: Aeddan I Gwynn
Few people are as celebrated throughout our history as Owain I Gwynn. Owain has been referred to as 'the Great', 'the Pious', and 'the Just', but the one epithet that seems to consistently be attributed to his great majesty is 'the Wise'. I haven't been able to deduce precisely when Prince Owain I was born, nor who his mother was, but, given his meteoric rise one can only assume his birth was assuredly ordained by the Almighty. Upon becoming Earl in 1086 on the death of his father, the future Prince Owain immediately looked around Wales and saw it was a land besotted with inept, corrupt, and impious rulers. Owain, himself a devout and righteous man, saw this corruption and wept for the people. As a righteous ruler cannot stand idly by while people are oppressed by the wicked and sinful, Owain Gwynn did what any noble ruler would do...he set about to change it.
The first few years of Prince Owain's reign were uneventful politically speaking. The Prince, rather than haphazardly expand, spent much of his time undoing the ineptitudes wrought by the branch of House Morgan that had previously ruled the county of Glamorgan. He spent considerable money on improving and expanding the castle and surrounding village at Caerwent which helped lay the foundation for the impressive capital which we have today. He also established the mail system still in use today, as well as laid the foundation for the superb system of roads and bridges that help us to traverse the sometimes harsh terrain of the kingdom. While Prince Owain was busy improving his holdings, as any true and noble leader should, the then Duke of Gwynedd, Cadagwen the Cruel decided to expand his own realm. Cadagwen belonged to the now defunct, disgraced, and extinct House of Mathrafal, whose only notable contribution to history was their penchant for cruelty and ill-governance, both traits which almost saw the entirety of Wales lost to the Kingdom of Scotland. Luckily for us, however, Prince Owain was not ready to allow Wales to fall into sinfulness or provincial status. Over his protestations that he was not worthy, he was invested as the rightful Duke of Deheubarth. Despite his reluctance to accept the title, which stemmed mostly to the future Prince's undoubtedly great humility, Prince Owain began working with a gusto. The county of Dyfed, of which I currently have the privilege of overseeing as Prince-Bishop, had been conquered by the vile Mathrafals of the Duchy of Gwynedd around the same time as Glamorgan was added to the demense of the House of Gwynn. Prince Owain knew that the county rightfully belonged to the Duchy of Deheubarth and it seems obvious given his pious nature that he would do anything he could to wrest control of the county away from a people known to be so sinful and wicked as the Mathrafals.
War was declared sometime in the year 1092 and lasted about a year according to various parish records from both Glamorgan, Dyfed, and Gwent that detail the raising of the levies. The end result was never in doubt when his majesty Prince Owain emerged victorious from the battle and threw the Mathrafals out of Dyfed for good. It should be noted that in an immense act of piety the generous Owain the Wise set the land aside for use by the church. Though not officially transferred until several years later the Bishop of St. Davids, now the capital of Dyfed, ran the county for all practical purposes.
Surprisingly enough, details remain vague on the specifics of the next decade. Throughout the next decade Prince Owain managed to unite the provinces of Powys and Gwynedd under his control. Immediately thereafter, people began to proclaim him the true King of Wales. Owain, however, was a terribly pious man as well all well know. Hearing this clamoring he sent out riders with the proclamation that he would not be a King in Wales, for Christ is the King of Man and there can be no pretenders. The illustrious Owain I was therefore crowned Prince of Wales by His Holiness Silverius II. Sadly, he was not crowned Prince of a united Wales. Due to the incompetence and sinful nature of the Mathrafal family, the County of Perfeddwlad had been seized by a vassal of the King of Scotland. Though Prince Owain was undoubtedly a peace loving man no man could stand the affront to the honor of Wales that resulted from a Scot ruling over a Welshman, so a war ensued which would engulf the new principality for over 5 years. However the tenacity of Welsh swords proved too much for the Scots, who eventually agreed to surrender the province. So, by the year 1115, Prince Owain I had done what no man thought possible only 20 years before by uniting the whole of Wales under one banner.
Prince Owain continued to rule for another perhaps 15 years before finally being called to the Lord's service. The remaining years of his reign were spent arranging marriages, establishing the royal courts that are still in use today, and further expanding the fortress at Caerwent. It's also when the Prince instituted his most advanced, enduring, and prophetic change. Unlike his father Caradog, Prince Owain did not believe in the idea that the right to rule was conferred upon someone by virtue of birth. Instead, according to the royal decree issued in conjunction with the new inheritance law, the rulers of Wales should be only those that deserve the crown. Prince Owain, who by all accounts had a first son who left much to be desired, changed the laws of succession so that the Prince should appoint a successor who he deemed most worthy of the crown. It is the same practice we still use today. In establishing this most sacred tradition, Prince Owain gave Wales perhaps the greatest gift he could...noble and pious rulers for generations to come. Owain did not hesitate to enforce his new law either. Immediately after declaring the new form of succession, Prince Owain disinherited his heir apparent under the former law, and named his 3rd son as the heir. History would prove again that the Almighty had guided the hand of Owain in this action like so many others, but that will bring us to our next ruler Aeddan I Gwynn.