Rhys ap Thomas KG

Rhys ap Thomas KG (1449 - abt. 1525)

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Sir Rhys "Rice, Rees, the Raven" ap Thomas KG
Born in Llandeilo Fawr, Carmarthenshire, Walesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Husband of — married after Jun 1480 [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died about in The Friary, Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire, Walesmap
Profile last modified 19 Jun 2019 | Created 14 Nov 2011
This page has been accessed 8,971 times.
European Aristocracy
Rhys ap Thomas KG was a member of royalty, nobility or aristocracy in Wales in the Middle Ages.
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British Aristocracy
Rhys ap Thomas KG was a member of aristocracy in the British Isles.
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Short Biography

Rhys ap Thomas was born about 1449, was the youngest legitimate son of Thomas ap Gruffudd ap Nicholas ap Philip. (Most sources cite that Rhys Ap Thomas was born in 1448 or 1449, others as early as 1425 and as late as 1451.) His mother was Thomas's first wife Elsbeth Griffith ferch Sir John Gruffudd. Rhys was of the "tribe of Einion ap Llywarch." Rhys's grandfather, Gruffudd ap Nicholas, was the founder of the House of Dinefwr. His father Thomas and his two older brothers died within a short time, leaving Rhys to inherit the family fortune.

Although the family had been Lancastrians, due to the changing political scene in Wales, Rhys supported the Yorkists. Rhys was also a trained soldier, and his vast holdings were of strategic importance. The political landscaped changed when Richard III came to power, and Rhys joined with others to support Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and he was Henry's main Welsh supporter and ally. He was knighted by Henry Tudor, Henry VII, apparently for his performance in battle of Bosworth in 1485. "In 1485 the tenants of Sir Rhys ap Thomas joined him in the march to Bosworth."[1] He was also given the Garter in 1505.[2]

His first wife was Efa ferch Henry ap Gwilym of Glan-lais. Rhys and Efa had three children, all of Llandeilo Fawr, Carmarthenshire, Wales, who were his only legitimate children:

  • Sir Gruffudd ap Rhys, Knight; m. Catrin St. John
  • Owain ap Rhys; m. Unknown Awbrey
  • Joan ferch Rhys; m. Sir Charles Herbert, Knight

Jonet Mathew, his second wife, was the widow of Thomas Stradling of St Donats. Rhys and Jonet did not have any children.

Rhys also had numerous mistresses and at least 16 children with them.

Rhys died on 9 February 1525 (some sources show his death on Dec 5 1525, others Feb 1527) at the Church of the Franciscan Friars (Greyfriars), at Carmarthen. (Alternate death dates include 1515 and 1526-1527.) He was buried at the Monastery of the Preaching Friars, Caerfyrddin Sain Pedr, Carmarthenshire, Wales. In 1538, "Rhys ap Thomas's tomb was taken to St. Peter's Church, Carmarthen ." Rhys's son Gruffydd had predeceased him, so his heir was his grandson Rhys ap Gruffydd.[2][3]

SEE the biography in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography at the National Library of Wales.

The title "Fitz Urien", sometimes seen as Fitz Urgan/Uryan is a reference of his descendancy from Sir Urien Rheged Ap Cynfarch. According to legend, this is the same Sir Urience who was a Knight of the Round Table and married Arthur's sister Modron (Mordred).[4]


Rhys, Sir, ap Thomas (1448/9–1525), soldier and landowner, was the youngest legitimate son of Thomas ap Gruffudd ap Nicolas (d. c.1474) of Newton, Carmarthenshire, and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Gruffudd (d. 1471) of Abermarlais, Carmarthenshire; for forty years (1485–1525) he was the king's principal lieutenant in south Wales. According to Rhys's biography, written in the 1620s by his descendant Henry Rice, he accompanied his father into exile at the Burgundian court after the Yorkist victory in 1461; he probably returned to Wales early in the 1470s, only to discover that his family was still eclipsed during Edward IV's restored regime. It also suggests that Rhys declined to support Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham and lord of Brecon, in his rebellion in 1483 because the two families were at odds. Richard III sought to win Rhys's support with an annuity of 40 marks; but this may not have prevented him from communicating with Henry Tudor in Brittany, perhaps even promising to support Henry's invasion in 1485. According to the biography, Richard III demanded the surrender of Rhys's only legitimate son, Gruffudd, as a guarantee of his loyalty. Although the Life claims that Rhys welcomed Henry Tudor on arrival in Pembrokeshire on 7 August 1485, he is likely to have been cautious about declaring for the insurgents, and there was uncertainty about his attitude while he shadowed Henry's advance through mid-Wales. Outside Welshpool on about 16 August the forces of Rhys and Henry joined for the march to Bosworth (22 August). Even before they met, Henry seems to have indicated that Rhys would be his chief lieutenant in Wales if Richard III were vanquished. Henry's favour to Rhys immediately after Bosworth, and their intimate relationship throughout Henry VII's reign, suggest that their collaboration in 1485 was well prepared. Rhys's assistance at Bosworth was significant, and one Welsh poet (Guto'r Glyn) seems to imply that he struck the blow that killed the king. Rhys served King Henry primarily as a powerful landowner in south Wales and a skilled soldier.

After 1485 Rhys's position in Wales was second only to that of the king's uncle, Jasper Tudor: ‘a man noted for strength of will and military experience’ and ‘an excellent leader in war’ (Anglica historia, 52, 97). He offered such steadfast loyalty that seventeenth-century tradition noted that Henry VII called him ‘Father Rice’. Knighted three days after Bosworth and a member of the king's household soon after, in November 1485 Rhys was appointed for life the king's lieutenant and steward of Brecon, steward of Builth, and chamberlain of south Wales; he dominated Carmarthen—perhaps Wales's largest town—as its mayor on four occasions between 1488 and 1516. As an outstanding soldier, especially in command of light cavalry, he helped to suppress the Brecon rising of 1486, Simnel's rebellion in 1487, the Cornish rising of 1497, and Warbeck's rebellion of October 1497; he also accompanied the king on his French expedition in October 1492. After Jasper Tudor's death (1495) Rhys acquired further responsibilities, as justiciar of south Wales (January 1496) and constable of Aberystwyth Castle for life (April 1502). His son Gruffudd was close to Prince Arthur (d. 1502) and was buried near Arthur's chantry chapel in Worcester Cathedral in 1521. Henry VII's regard for Rhys led to his election as a knight of the Garter in 1505; the festivities at Carew Castle in April 1506 to celebrate the anniversary of his election are recounted in detail in the later biography.

Henry VIII likewise relied on Rhys's loyalty and military skill: he was confirmed in his Welsh offices, and by August 1509 was steward of Pembroke. In 1513 he commanded 3000 infantry and light cavalry at the sieges of Thérouanne and Tournai, and his energy, daring, and experience contributed to victory over the French at the battle of the Spurs (16 August). He and his son became steward and receiver of Haverford and Rhos in May 1517, and it is likely that Gruffudd ap Rhys, who was frequently at the king's court, was groomed to succeed to his father's position; but Gruffudd died suddenly and intestate in 1521. It was Sir Rhys who was commissioned to guard Milford Sound and defend Ireland in the early 1520s.

Rhys's annual income from land, offices, and annuities was about £1500 by 1509; his estates, acquired by inheritance, marriage, and mortgages, lay mainly in Carmarthenshire, and to a lesser extent in Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire. He married first Efa, daughter of Henry ap Gwilym of Carmarthenshire, and, second, probably in the early 1480s, Jenet, sister of Sir William Mathew of Radur and widow of Thomas Stradling of St Donats, Glamorgan. He had half a dozen mistresses and at least a dozen children, who were married into gentry houses of south Wales. His greatest coups were the marriages of his heir, Gruffudd, to Catherine St John, daughter of Sir John St John of Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, and the king's kinswoman, and of his grandson, Rhys ap Gruffudd, to Catherine, daughter of Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk (c.1521). Carew Castle and estate, Pembrokeshire, which he may have acquired in the 1490s, became his main, imposing residence. The family home at Newton was small, though his mother's home at Abermarlais was renovated, and Newcastle Emlyn was used for hunting. Weobley Castle in Gower was also modernized by Rhys. His opulent household attracted poets from Glamorgan and north Wales, most notably Tudur Aled (d. 1525). They lauded his descent and Tudor connections, his military accomplishments in defeating Richard III, the French, and various rebels, and his election to the Garter. He was compared to heroes of romance, and Rhys himself commissioned a copy of the Welsh prose translation of ‘La Queste del Saint Graal’ (NL Wales, Mostyn MS 184). He spent his last years securing the inheritance of his grandson, Rhys ap Gruffydd (c.1508–1531). He died in the spring of 1525 and was buried at the Greyfriars, Carmarthen; his tomb was transferred to St Peter's Church, Carmarthen, after the dissolution.

R. A. Griffiths



From: Bruce & Judy Voran <voran@futureone.com> Subject: [THOMAS] Rhys ap Thomas Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2003 19:24:14 -0700

I have seen various hypotheses that Rhys ap Thomas might have been the grandfather of Tristram Thomas of St. Nicolas Parish, Alfold, Surry, England in about 1558. I ordered the following book on Interlibrary Loan to check this hypothesis: Ralph A Griffiths, Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Family : a Study in the Wars of the Roses and Early Tudor Politics. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1993. Pp. 268-270.

I found the following information which suggests to me a couple of things:

There is no documented evidence of a Nicolas Thomas, son of Rhys ap Thomas who could have been the father of Tristram Thomas, rector of the above parish.

It appears that the descendents of Rhys ap Thomas later used the surname Rice -- which is logical, given the naming patterns of the time.

Therefore, it is my conclusion that Rhys ap Thomas could not have been the ancestor of Tristram Thomas, appointed rector of St. Nicolas Church, Alford Parish, Kent, England 1558 by Bishop White.

"His first wife was Eva, daughter and co-heiress of Henrie ap Gwillim, of Cort Henrie, by which marriage his estates were considerablie increase, and the long subsisteinge feudes betweene the twoe families weare, att lengthe, hapilie extinguished. The fruite of this union was one sonne, Sir Griffith Rice, whose birth his mother survyved nott longe. To his second wife he matcht with Jonett, daughter of Thomas Mathewes, of an auntiente house in Glamorganshire, by whome he left noe issue. Butt the children he had by different concubynes weare verie numerouse for of hum itt maie be saide, that, in his younger dayes, under the standarde of Venus as well as thatt of Mars, “militavit non sine gloria” [he fought not without glory], and in the servyce of bothe, with him, it was butt ‘veni, vidi, vici.’ And, as most of his illegitimate offspring were matcht to, or became the founders of, house of prime note in Southe Wales, and weare richlie endowed, itt may not altogether be superfluouse or foraigne to our purpose to enumerate as many as weare publicklie acknowledged by their father, and maintayned with suitable respecte. By Gwenllian, sister to his counsellor and confidentiall secretarie, whoe, as well as her brother, might be styled de secretis consiliis [of secret councils]; he had issue Margarett, Ellen the elder, Ellen the younger, Margarett the younger, Mawd, William, David the elder, David the younger, Thomas and Phillip. By elizabeth Mortimer, one daughter, Jane. By Jennett, daughter of Meredydd Vychan of Talley, he had Gwenllian. By Alice Kyffin, of Montgomerieshire (for he mighte well saye, Quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris [which region of the earth is not full of our toil?] a daughter who died yonge. And, lastlie, by a daughter of Howell ap Jenkin, of Ynisymangwyn in Merionethshire, Anne, whome itt is sayde her father notyced above the rest, and had brought up under his owne eie, matcheinge her into one of the first families of Pembrokeshire……" Ralph A Griffiths, Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Family : a Study in the Wars of the Roses and Early Tudor Politics. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1993. Pp. 268-270.

Son – Gruffyd ap Rhys died between July and Oct 1521 – without issue Grandson – Rhys ap Gruffyd executed 4 Dec. 1531 His son Gruffyd Rice took the family surname of Rice

Henry Rice – 1590-1651 wrote The Life and Objections to the alleged treason of Rhys ap Gruffyd, first published in the inaugural volume of The Cambrian Register in 1796. p. 135,

Judy Voran, Strawberry, AZ

References for Note

  • TNA: PRO · Carmarthen RO, Dynevor MSS · NL Wales, Dynevor papers · Chancery records
  • ‘A short view of the long life of … Rice ap Thomas’, Cambrian Register, 1 (1796), 49–144 · * P. C. Bartrum, ed., Welsh genealogies, AD 1400–1500, 18 vols. (1983) ·
  • R. A. Griffiths and R. S. Thomas, The principality of Wales in the later middle ages: the structure and personnel of government, 1: South Wales, 1277–1536 (1972) ·
  • J. M. Lloyd, ‘The rise and fall of the house of Dinefwr (the Rhys family), 1430–1530’, MA diss., U. Wales, 1963 ·
  • The Anglica historia of Polydore Vergil, AD 1485–1537, ed. and trans. D. Hay, CS, 3rd ser., 74 (1950) ·
  • Gwaith Tudur Aled, ed. J. G. Jones, 2 vols. (1926) ·
  • PROB Bodfeld, TNA: PRO, 35 Archives Bristol RO, MS 04720 (1)
  • Likenesses effigy on tomb, c.1525, St Peter's Church, Carmarthen
  • R. A. Griffiths, ‘Rhys, Sir, ap Thomas (1448/9–1525)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 30 Dec 2012
  • Sir Rhys ap Thomas (1448/9–1525): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/23467
  • Ralph A Griffiths, Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Family : a Study in the

Wars of the Roses and Early Tudor Politics. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1993. Pp. 268-270.


  • Royal Ancestry D. Richardson 2013 Vol. V p. 56-57
  1. Part 3, Concise History of Llandeilo, from Llandeilo by Eirwen Jones, 1984, on Llandeilo site
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Biography of Rhys ap Thomas", David Rees, Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society; Vol. 2 1986-1987, Page 24ff; at Welsh Journals
  3. "Amongst those interred at St Peters is Sir Rhys ap Thomas (1449-1525). He...led the Welsh support for Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The three ravens from his coat of arms remain on the town’s crest to this day." ~Carmarthen
  4. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • FamilySearch Welsh database
  • Medieval Welsh Ancestors of Certain Americans by Carl Boyer, 3rd (n.p., Santa Clarita, CA 2004) , Page 130

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Comments: 3

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One distinction has been made clear - that Sir Gruffydd ap Rhys was a legitimate son. What would be extremely useful is to have the names of the illegitimate children, especially in the case(s) where they too had progeny.

What are the prevailing theories on that? For example, some researchers show a Thomas ap Rhys (born circa 1478), whose partner is unknown, who went on to father a line beginning with Philip ap Thomas (born circa 1554). Is that relationship considered of merit?

posted by Fann Fann
Ap Thomas-32 and Ap Thomas-9 appear to represent the same person because: duplicates- I mistakenly left the ap off the LNAB when creating this profile
posted by Doug Lockwood
The only legitimate son of Rhys was GRIFFITH AP RHYS according to "The Thomas Book, Giving the Genealogies of Sir Rhys Ap Thomas, K. G., the Thomas Family Descended from Him, and of Some Allied Families" by Lawrence Buckley Thomas, and is also noted in the wikipedia article.
posted by Philip Tripp

Rhys is 16 degrees from Frederick Douglass, 19 degrees from Margaret Summitt and 6 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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