GRUFFYDD, Sir Rhys (by 1513-80), of Penrhyn, Caern.
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Family and Education
b. by 1513, 2nd s. of Sir William Gruffydd of Penrhyn by Sian, da. of Sir Edward Stradling of St. Donat’s, Glam. m. (1) Margaret, da. of Morris ap John ap Meredydd of Clenennau, Caern., 5s. 2da.; (2) 1 Nov. 1550, Jane, da. of Dafydd ap William ap Gruffydd of Cochwillan, Caern., wid. of Robert Owen, s.p.; (3) by 1568, Catherine, da. of Peter Mostyn of Talacre, Flints., 2s. suc. bro. 1540. Kntd. 22 Feb. 1547.2
J.p. Caern. 1542-58, rem. 1559, rest. q. 1564-d.; gent. usher in 1547; commr. relief, Caern. 1550, eisteddfod at Caewys, Flints. 1568, armour, Caern. 1569, tanneries 1574; sheriff, Caern. 1566-7.3
The Gruffydd family of Penrhyn claimed an ancestry stretching back to Ednyfed Fychan, minister to Llywelyn the Great and ancestor of the Tudors. Rhys Gruffydd’s grandfather and father had been successively chamberlains of North Wales under Richard III and Henry VII. On Sir William Gruffydd’s death in 1531 he was succeeded by his son Edward, son-in-law to (Sir) John Puleston, but Edward Gruffydd died in Ireland in 1540 and the Penrhyn inheritance became the subject of rival claims. On behalf of his three granddaughters Puleston argued that the estate should descend to them as Edward Gruffydd’s offspring, while Rhys Gruffydd claimed it on the ground that his father and mother had possessed it, not in fee simple, but in fee tail, so that Edward’s lack of a male heir left him next in line. He had indeed procured the holding of an inquisition post mortem which found in his favour, but this was challenged by Puleston as having been improperly taken by the sheriff and the escheator. Rhys Gruffydd in turn accused Puleston and the widow of theft from the house at Penrhyn, to be met by a similar charge against himself. Eventually both sides agreed to arbitration, and on 8 July 1542 Chancellor Audley and William Paulet, Baron St. John, ruled that lands to the value of £33 7s.8d. should go to Rhys Gruffydd and the rest to the daughters. It was not the end of the dispute, which was to give rise to further litigation.4
Although a smaller landowner than his forbears, Gruffydd was still master of Penrhyn and a man of importance in the shire, of which he was made one of the first justices. His knighting at the coronation of Edward VI may have been a recognition of his military prowess; the Welsh poets hailed him as a warrior, but it is not known where he served. He was nominated for the shrievalty in 1547 and 1548 but was passed over. Gruffydd first sat in the Parliament of November 1554 for Caernarvon Boroughs, a seat he could never have occupied while Sir John Puleston lived. Before the election of 1555 Bishop Heath and (Sir) Nicholas Hare of the council in the marches wrote to the sheriff of Caernarvonshire and other notables there that the King and Queen expected to see returned ‘grave men and of good and honest [be]haviour, order and conversation and specially of Catholic religion’, and in a postscript they went on ‘to commend unto you Sir Rhys Gruff[ydd] knight being a man of the sort aforesaid and meet to be knight of that shire. Whom it may please you the rather at the contemplation hereof to prefer thereunto’. The letter is valuable as clinching the identity of the man returned. The election indenture is so badly damaged that all that can be made out is the name ’Richus Gruff’ and, seemingly where the Member’s name should first be given (but cannot be seen), the designation ‘generosus’. The Official Return gives the Member as ‘Ricardus Gruff generosus’, but no Richard Gruffydd gentleman is known and it cannot be doubted that the shire followed the official recommendation by electing Sir Rhys Gruffydd.5
The accession of Elizabeth was followed by Gruffydd’s exclusion from the commission of the peace but in 1564 he was restored to it and made a member of the quorum: in 1575 his area of operation was given as the commote of Isgwyrfai and the town of Caernarvon. He headed the muster lists of 1570, being responsible for supplying one demilance and two light horsemen. If his Catholicism, which a sympathizer of Mary Queen of Scots recorded in 1574, did not put an end to his local career it probably explains why he did not appear in the Elizabethan House of Commons. Gruffydd died on 30 July 1580, possessed of lands in Caernarvonshire, including the manor of Penrhyn, worth £92 a year. His heir Peter, eldest son by his third marriage to Catherine Mostyn, was 12 years old.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: P. S. Edwards
- 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from age at brother’s i.p.m., Wards 7/100/4, 8; Dwnn, Vis. Wales, ii. 167; Griffith, Peds. 185; DWB; UCNW, Penrhyn ms 58.
- 3. LC2/2/67v; Cal. Caern. Q. Sess. Recs. ed. Williams, passim; R. Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 60, 127, 135; CPR, 1553, p. 363; 1563-6, p. 31; HMC Welsh, i(1), 291.
- 4. DWB; Req.2/42/258, 6/210; LP Hen. VIII, xv, xvii; Wards 7/4/1, 3; 100/4, 8; C3/22/34.
- 5. UCNW Penrhyn ms 58; CPR, 1553, pp. 317, 329; NLW Add. ms 464/E19; Cal. Wynn (of Gwydir) Pprs. 1515-1690, p. 3; C219/24/235.
- 6. Flenley, 75, 135; SP12/95/55; UCNW Penrhyn mss 78, 80.