About Sir Rhys ap Thomas, K.G., of Dynevor
"Rhys ap Thomas (1449–1525), KG, was a Welsh soldier and landholder who rose to prominence during the Wars of the Roses, and was instrumental in the victory of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He remained a faithful supporter of Henry and was rewarded with lands and offices in South Wales. Some sources claim that he personally delivered the death blow to King Richard III at Bosworth with his poleaxe."
Sir Rhys ap Thomas
(Photographs copyright © 2002 by Jeffrey L. Thomas)
A controversial character in Welsh history, Rhys ap Thomas was born in 1449 and on his father's death inherited the wealth of the Dinefwr estates. Although his family were Lancastrian supporters he prudently served the House of York and vowed to Richard III words to the effect that Henry Tudor would land in Wales only over his dead body.
"Whoever ill-affected to the state, shall dare to land in those partes of Wales, where I have anie employment under your majestie, must resolve with himself to make his entrance and irruption over my bellie."
The story is told that after Henry Tudor's return to Britain (at Dale, Pembrokeshire, in 1485) Rhys eased his conscience by hiding under Mullock Bridge, Dale, as Henry marched over, thus absolving himself of his oath to Richard.
Whatever his motives, the fact that Rhys made a major contribution to Henry's victory at Bosworth in 1485 is undisputed. Rhys may well have entertained Henry at Carew Castle before they split up on their way north, recruiting men along the way.
When they met up again at Welshpool, Rhys had a large army of levied Welshmen with him. Many of there were Rhys' men for he had raised 500 trained cavalry to support the young Tudor - stout hearted men from the tenant farms of the Carew estates in South Pembrokeshire and all expert horsemen.
The Battle of Bosworth, on 22 August, 1485, was a turning point in British history and Richard III's death was supposedly at the hands of Rhys. Rhys was knighted on the battlefield and made Governor of Wales. After Bosworth, Rhys helped rid the king of two royal pretenders, Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. For these and other services Henry bestowed upon Rhys the Order of Knight of the Garter.
Such a singular honour deserved a celebration, and the events staged by the new Knight were on a scale never before seen in Wales. Sir Rhys organized a Great Tournament for April, 1507, held at Carew Castle.
Spread over five days this spectacular was attended by over 600 nobles and celebrated not only the Knighthood but honored St. George, patron saint of the Order as well. Rhys continued his allegiance to the Tudor dynasty, taking part in Henry VIII's invasion of France in 1513. It is said that both Tudor kings, Henry VII and VIII, placed implicit trust in Rhys who was allowed to rule his corner of Wales like a king and to die a natural death. The last years of Rhys' life were clouded in sorrow, and included the death of his son Griffith in 1522. With his last illness he left Carew for the Carmarthen Friary where he died in February 1525. At the dissolution of the monasteries his tomb was removed from the Friary and taken to St. Peter's Church, Carmarthen, where it can still be seen.
Carew Castle, Published by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, 1987.
Below: The tomb of Sir Rhys ap Thomas at St Peter's Church, Carmarthen.
For additional information on the life and times of Rhys ap Thomas, the Castles of Wales web site recommends the following book: Sir Rhys Ap Thomas and His Family: A Study in the Wars of the Roses by Ralph A. Griffith University of Wales Press
- 'Sir Rhys ap Thomas, Constable of Cardigan1
- 'M, b. circa 1449, d. 1525
- Father Thomas "Hynaf" ap Gruffudd1 b. c 1425, d. 1474
- Mother Elizabeth Gruffudd1 b. c 1420
- Sir Rhys ap Thomas, Constable of Cardigan was born circa 1449 at of Maenordeilo, Carmarthenshire, Wales. He married Efa verch Henry circa 1475. Sir Rhys ap Thomas, Constable of Cardigan married Jenet Mathew, daughter of Thomas Mathew, Esq. and Catherine Morgan, after 28 June 1480.1 Sir Rhys ap Thomas, Constable of Cardigan died in 1525.1
- 'Family 1 Efa verch Henry b. c 1453
- ◦Griffith ap Rhys FitzUryan+ b. c 1478, d. 1521
- 'Family 2 Jenet Mathew b. c 1455, d. 5 Feb 1535
- 1.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 79-80.
- Thomas’s wife Elizabeth was the heiress and only child of Sir John Gruffudd (d.1471) of Abermarlais, lord of Llansadwrn and of lands in Cardiganshire. Her family was important in Welsh history, one ancestor having commanded Welsh troops in the French wars including Crecy in 1346, and been knighted. More importantly, the family descended from Ednyfed Fychan, seneschal of Llywelyn the Great, and Gwenllian, the daughter of the LORD RHYS, as did the Tudor family (J.Davies p.140). After Elizabeth’s death, Thomas married Jonet MALEPHANT, sister of OWAIN’S wife ALSWN (Griffiths, Sir Rhys, p. 28).
- All of Elizabeth’s estate descended to their son 'Rhys ap Thomas' (Griffiths, Sir Rhys, pp.16,61). Francis Jones says that their descendants at Abermarlais took the name Jones, and much later Sir Henry Jones’s heiress married Sir Francis Cornwallis in 1665 (Hist Carms Homes, p.4). An interesting aside for the LEIGH family is that a daughter of this marriage, Frances Cornwallis, became the second wife of Sir Charles LLOYD, the son of BRIDGETT LEIGH and Sir Francis LLOYD of Maesyfelin.
- 'Thomas ap GRUFFUDD’S son Rhys ap Thomas was generally considered the greatest supporter of Henry Tudor at Bosworth, and was rewarded with a knighthood. He had a remarkable career. After Henry VII made his eldest son Arthur the Prince of Wales, he sent the boy to Ludlow castle under Sir Rhys’s guardianship. Rhys recovered the Dinefwr estates, which his descendants continued to hold apart from a few breaks (their mansion stands near the ruins of Dinefwr castle).
- 'He was made Chamberlain of south Wales for life, and Justiciar in 1496 as successor to the king’s uncle Jasper Tudor. Many other offices and grants of land were bestowed on him, and for the next 30 years until his death in 1525 at the age of 75 he was effectively the king’s viceroy in south Wales. As well as an administrator he was also a soldier, in action in the north in 1489 and in France in 1492. In 1505 he was honored as Knight of the Garter, and became Sir Rhys ap Thomas K.G. Under Henry VIII he joined the French expeditions of 1512-13, and was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. He died in 1525 and his tomb is now in St Peter’s church in Carmarthen [the picture of his tomb is from Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Family].
- Griffiths summarized his reputation and standing among his contemporaries, including the king:
- 'What Henry VII recognized in Rhys ap Thomas was that combination of military prowess, influence in south and west Wales, and personal loyalty in a crisis which had been crucial to Henry’s seizure of the throne in August 1485. It underpins the testimonial in the Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil, who could easily have encountered Rhys face to face at the court of the first two Tudor monarchs: to the Italian historian employed by Henry VII, Rhys seemed ‘a man noted for strength of will and military experience’, ‘an excellent leader in war’ (Hay, Polydore Vergil, pp.52, 97). A little later, Richard Grafton ranked him as one of Henry’s counselors ‘as well circumspect as wise’ (Grafton, p.550). His motto, ‘Secret et Hardy’, still to be seen on his Garter plate in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, seems particularly apt. The tradition, repeated by the author of the Life [written by Sir Rhys’s descendant Henry Rice in the 1620s], that Henry Tudor looked on this Welshman, only seven or eight years his senior, as ‘Father Rice’ may seem an exaggeration; but there can be no doubt that the king held him in the highest esteem for qualities that were of enduring value throughout the reign. (p.45)
Only three months after the success of Bosworth, Rhys was appointed for life the king's lieutenant and steward of Brecon, steward of Builth, and chamberlain of south Wales, all highly lucrative positions. A biography of Rhys written in the early 17th century by a descendent of his, one Henry Rice, lists Rhys's full titles as: "Rice ap Thomas, Knight, Constable and Lieutenant of Breconshire; Chamberlain of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire; Seneschall and Chancellor of Haverfordwest, Rouse and Builth; Justiciar of South Wales, and Governor of all Wales; Knight Bannerett, and Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Garter; a Privy Councellor to Henry VII, and a favorite to Henry VIII." [ Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Family , Ralph A. Griffiths, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1993, page 148.]
Rhys ap Thomas died in 1525 and his tomb can still be seen today in St Peter's Church, Carmarthen, after being moved from Carmarthen priory where he was originally buried, ironically as a result of the dissolution of Carmarthen Priory by the same Henry VIII whom he had served so loyally in life. The remains of Henry VIII's own grandfather, Edmund Tudor, also had to be removed from Carmarthen priory to St David's cathedral.
- Birth: 1449
- Death: 1525
Carmarthen; Carmarthenshire, Wales
Sir Rhys was the son of Thomas "Hynaf" ap Gruffudd and Elsbeth Griffith. He was a Welsh soldier and landholder who rose to prominence during the Wars of the Roses. Rhys was instrumental in the accession of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII) to the throne of England in 1485. Thomas led an army from Carmarthenshire to fight for Henry at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Rhys himself was responsible for killing King Richard with a poll axe. Henry was crowned King on the battlefield. He remained a faithful supporter of Henry and was rewarded with lands and offices in South Wales. Rhys was married twice: to Eva, daughter of Henri ap Gwilym of Cwrt Henri; and to Janet, daughter of Thomas Mathew of Radyr. Rhys had numerous mistresses and several illegitimate children, his legitimate son Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Thomas (also known as Griffith Ryce) died in 1521. Rhys himself died at Carmarthen Priory in 1525. After Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries, Rhys's tomb was moved to St. Peter's Church, also in Carmarthen. Rhys's estates passed to his grandson, Rhys ap Gruffydd, who was beheaded by Henry VIII in 1531 for treason. The estates were confiscated by the crown.
Spouse: Jenet Mathew Thomas (____ - 1533)* Children: Griffith Ryce (1474 - 1521)*
- Calculated relationship
Saint Peter Carmarthen; Carmarthen; Carmarthenshire, Wales
Plot: South Aisle
Maintained by: Mad Originally Created by: nbo Record added: Jan 01, 2012 Find A Grave Memorial# 82786197
Please see Darrell Wolcott: The Royal Family of Gwynedd: Einion ap Llywarch of Carmanthenshire; http://www.ancientwalesstudies.org/id163.html. (Steven Ferry, April 8, 2017.)
Sir Rhys ap Thomas, K.G., of Dynevor's Timeline
Maenordilo, Cantref Mawr, Carmarthenshire, Wales
England, United Kingdom
Maenordilo, Cantref Mawr, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Friary, Carmarthenshire, Wales