Fifteen Tribes of Wales

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'The five royal tribes of Wales' and 'The fifteen tribes of Gwynedd' refer to a class of genealogical lists which were compiled by Welsh bards in the mid-15th century.[1] These lists were constructed on the premise that many of the leading Welsh families of their time could trace their descent to the 'five royal tribes of Wales' or the 'fifteen noble tribes of Gwynedd'. This is not to say that the lists are identical.

In the surviving manuscripts, the first occurrence of the 'fifteen tribes of Gwynedd' is probably in parts written by Gutun Owain in NLW, Peniarth MS 131.[2] The Welsh headings which stand above the pedigrees of Eunydd of Dyffryn Clwyd and Hwfa ap Cynddelw on p. 85 and the tribe of Gollwyn ap Tangno on p. 90 all read something like 'one of the 15 tribes (llwyth)'. A related list is found in BM. Add. MS 14.919, f. 121v.[2]

A more developed example is to be found on two folios of a 16th or 17th-century manuscript in the British Library, Harleian MS 1970, fos 34r-v, where the list is accompanied by a number of heraldic designs.

The basic idea of five regal and fifteen common (i.e. noble) tribes was later used by the antiquarian and genealogist Philip Yorke as a model for his Royal Tribes of Wales (1799).[3]


  1. Siddons, "Genealogies [2] Welsh", p. 802
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bartrum, "Hen Lwythau Gwynedd a'r Mars", p. 233
  3. Yorke, Philip (1799). The Royal Tribes of Wales. Wrexham.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Siddons, Michael (2006). "Genealogies [2] Welsh". In John T. Koch. Celtic Culture. A Historical Encyclopedia. 5 volumes. Santa Barbara, Denver and Oxford: ABC Clio. pp. 800–2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bartrum, Peter C. (1962). "Hen Lwythau Gwynedd a'r Mars". National Library of Wales Journal. 12: 201–235.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Bartrum, Peter C. (1983). Welsh Genealogies. A.D. 300–1400: Welsh Genealogies A.D. 1400–1500. Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Siddons, Michael Powell (1991). The Development of Welsh Heraldry. 1. Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>