Medieval Planned Communities

When Edward I conquered Wales, he did more than build castles.  He also built townships.  These were villages associated with one of his castles.  In most cases, he imported English people to live in them, ousting the native Welsh.  Caernarfon, Rhuddlan, Conwy, Flint, Harlech and Beaumaris were among these combined castles/villages. “The strategy of building Welsh Medieval Castles was combined with King Edward’s ambition to build and integrate fortified towns with the great castles. These purpose-built townships were designed to predominantly house the English conquerors. The towns were defended by the city walls and, of course, the castles. The Constable of the castle would often perform a dual role as Mayor of the town. Not only did the English have control over the local Welsh population they also had control of commerce and finance. The townships were established as trading Read more…


The Fall of the Templars

Other than a few unsuccessful raids on the Syrian and Egyptian coasts, after 1291, the Templar Order deteriorated into one of bankers and moneylenders. A series of verbal attacks was launched against all military orders, the Templars in particular, suggesting they no longer had a purpose for existence since they failed to take steps to regain the Holy Land. Nothing came of these attacks until a renegade Templar, Esquiu de Floyrian, made specific charges of blasphemy, idolatry and sodomy against the Order to Philip the Fair (Philip IV) of France.” http://www.mostly-medieval.com/explore/temphist.htm (for previous discussion on the origin of the Templar Order see: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-knights-templar/ This was the beginning of the end for the Templars.  On Friday the 13th (and this is the reason the day is said to be unlucky, or so I understand), Philip of France arrested all of the Read more…


The Knights Templar

In the beginning: “Immediately after the deliverance of Jerusalem, the Crusaders, considering their vow fulfilled, returned in a body to their homes. The defense of this precarious conquest, surrounded as it was by Mohammedan neighbours, remained. In 1118, during the reign of Baldwin II, Hugues de Payens, a knight of Champagne, and eight companions bound themselves by a perpetual vow, taken in the presence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, to defend the Christian kingdom. Baldwin accepted their services and assigned them a portion of his palace, adjoining the temple of the city; hence their title “pauvres chevaliers du temple” (Poor Knights of the Temple). Poor indeed they were, being reduced to living on alms, and, so long as they were only nine, they were hardly prepared to render important services, unless it were as escorts to the pilgrims on their way from Jerusalem to the banks of the Jordan, then frequented as a place of devotion. The Templars had as yet neither distinctive habit nor rule. Hugues de Payens Read more…


Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

Llywelyn was the last Prince of Wales, which any reader of my blog should know by now since I obsess about him.  But has anyone ever rendered him in crochet form before as has my daughter?  Behold! Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was born somewhere around 1225 (amazingly, historians are sure of neither the date nor his true mother–although there are enough hints to conclude that it was Senana, his father’s wife).  He was the second son of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn.   Other sons were Owain, the eldest, Rhodri, who never made a claim for any power in Wales, and Dafydd, who was thirteen years younger. When Llywelyn Fawr, the great Prince of Wales, died in 1240, he left two sons:  Gruffydd, who was the eldest but illegitimate and Dafydd, who was younger but born to Llywelyn Fawr’s lawful wife, Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of Read more…


December 11, 1282

Today is the 737th anniversary the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native Welsh Prince of Wales.  He was ambushed and cut down by Englishmen, somewhere in the vicinity of Builth Wells (Buellt in Welsh), Wales, late on the afternoon on 11 December 1282.  It was a Friday. And then Llywelyn ap Gruffudd left Dafydd, his brother, guarding Gwynedd; and he himself and his host went to gain possession of Powys and Buellt. And he gained possession as far as Llanganten. And thereupon he sent his men and his steward to receive the homage of the men of Brycheiniog, and the prince was left with but a few men with him. And then Edmund Mortimer and Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, and with them the king’s host, came upon them without warning; and then Llywelyn and his foremost men were slain Read more…


Review of Crouchback

Thanks to Whiskey and Wit for the review of my new book, Crouchback “Sarah Woodbury has masterfully blended rich strands of history with fine webs of murderous intrigue in her newest novel Crouchback. The reader is instantly engaged as childhood friends, Rhys and Catrin, are reunited in their birth country Wales after twenty years apart. The Welsh natives are not only dedicated to helping their fellow countrymen but are also attempting to untangle the mystery behind a handful of murders, and all this while maneuvering around the thumb of the conquering Edward I – the risks are unquestionably high. Picking sides (the conquered and the conquerors) in this first Welsh Guard Mystery is not necessary. Woodbury writes in such a way that her English, Norman, and Welsh characters are multi-layered, multi-faceted, complex humans that make good, bad, and ugly decisions. Read more…


Crouchback is here!

My new book, Crouchback, the first book in the Welsh Guard Mysteries, is a medieval mystery set in 1284 Caernarfon. The title comes from the medieval word ‘croix’ for ‘cross-back’ indicating participation in the Crusades. Crouchback is available at all retailers, in ebook and paperback! Ebook: https://books2read.com/crouchback  Paperback: https://amzn.to/2qKJKtP April 1284. As a newly widowed lady-in-waiting to the very pregnant Queen Eleanor of England, Catrin never expected to return to Wales again. She was definitely unprepared to be confronted with murder when she got there–or to find herself face-to-face with Rhys, the childhood friend she lost twenty years before. Rhys had never intended to return home either, but a lifetime of war has deposited him right back where he started–impoverished and owing service to Catrin’s older brother. With Wales fallen irrevocably to England and not knowing whom else they can Read more…


Halloween in Wales

As I sit here munching candy corn (which my 15 year old declares ‘the best candy’–even better than chocolate–though he can’t have any because he’s allergic to corn), I’m thinking about the Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mystery, The Fallen Princess, which takes place at Halloween.  Except that during the Middle Ages, it was called ‘All Hallow’s Eve’, the day before All Saint’s Day, and it was less about candy and more about a belief in actual spirits. All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, has its roots in an older, pagan tradition, called Nos Calan Gaeaf , Welsh for Samhain, a Gaelic word meaning ‘Summer’s End’.  This is the most well-known Halloween tradition in Wales.   http://www.controverscial.com/Samhain.htm  The Welsh translation, interestingly, is ‘the first of winter’. From the National Museum of Wales:  “A pagan holiday dating back to the Iron Age Celts, Samhain was considered Read more…


An Iron Ring of Castles

During the late 1270’s and early 1280’s, particularly after the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Edward I began construction of a string of castles in Wales that circled the country.  The north, in Gwynedd, had always been a hotbed of Welsh resistance and resentment of English authority and it was there he built some of the most impressive of his monuments.  http://www.castlewales.com/edward1.html He began in the northeast with three castles: Hawarden, Flint, and Rhuddlan, all built before the 1282 war. Hawarden was the first castle attacked by Dafydd ap Gruffydd on Palm Sunday, 1282, when he started what became the final war with England.  Edward began Flint in 1277, bringing in up to 2300 English workers to build it.  Llywelyn ap Gruffydd submitted to Edward I at Twthill, the old timber castle at Rhuddlan, after which Edward immediately pulled down Read more…


King Edward I of England

King Edward is often viewed by historians as a strong king–one of the strongest, in fact. The people he conquered might not argue with that–only in equating ‘strong’ with ‘good’. He had many accomplishments during his reign that are viewed as beneficial to England–which from a certain perspective is true. One could argue (and I do) that conquering other peoples, while bringing in wealth in the short term, does long-term damage not only to the oppressed but the oppressor. 1239:  born 17 June 1254:  married Eleanor of Castille (he was 15, she 9) 1265:  Defeated Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham 1270:  Joined the 9th crusade to the Holy Land 1274:  Returned to England to take up the throne (Henry III, his father, had died in 1272) 1275-1290:  Codified existing statues into a more cohesive system of law, Read more…


Carew Castle

  According to CADW, Wales has more castles per square mile than any other nation. Carew Castle is one of them. Carew Castle, located on the Caeriw River in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales, is one of the few castles that displays architecture from the Norman period through the Elizabethan, with archaeological evidence showing indications of settlement dating back 2000 years.  The name ‘Carew’, Caeriw in Welsh, is an anglicized combination of, “caer” meaning fortress, and “rhiw” meaning hill–not that the area on which it stands is hilly:  “Its position is low-lying, but still prominent in the flat land around the tidal reaches of the Carew river. The castle stands at the end of a ridge at a strategically excellent site commanding a crossing point of the then-still navigable river.”  http://www.castlewales.com/carew.html The name also might come from ‘Caerau’, simply the plural, ‘forts’. Tradition states that the original Read more…