Categotry Archives: Research

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Guardians of Time is here!

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GOT blogChristmas 1292. Time travel has meant many things to Meg, David, and Anna over the years, but regardless of the circumstances, it has always been about saving lives: their own, their family members’, their friends’.

This time, it’s a combination of all three.

Guardians of Time is the ninth novel in the After Cilmeri series.

It is available at Amazon US and all Amazon stores, iBooks, Kobo, Google PlaySmashwordsand Nook.

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The Statute of Wales

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King Edward I issued the Statute of Wales (sometimes referred to as the Statute of Rhuddlan) in 1284 as part of his program of subjugating Wales to English law.  For Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, and his people, being able to live under Welsh law had been a primary concern and one of the most compelling reasons to war with England.  Edward, knowing this, saw to it that the Welsh laws were overthrown, and this act was not repealed for centuries.  It was comprehensive and complete–the most comprehensive any King issued during the middle ages  (Bowen 1908).

To download your own copy:   http://www.archive.org/details/statuteswales01bowegoog

This site states:  “At the Statute of Rhuddlan, 1284, Wales was divided up into English counties; the English court pattern set firmly in place, and for all intents and purposes, Wales ceased to exist as a political unit. The situation seemed permanent when Edward followed up his castle building program by his completion of Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech. In 1300, Edward made his son (born at Caernarfon castle, in that mighty fortress overlooking the Menai Straits in Gwynedd) ‘Prince of Wales.'”

In summary, the Statute instated these laws:

1.  Wales was annexed to the Crown of England

2.  Divided Wales into counties and appointed officers, controlled by the King

3.  Created the office of “Sheriff” and regulated the matter of the courts, abrogating Welsh law in this matter.

4.  Created laws regarding debt, laws, and attorneys, inquests, pleas, trials, and juries, all in accordance with English common law.

5.  Established laws of dower for women (for which there was no formal arrangement under Welsh law)   and inheritance, according to English common law.  He specifically forbade ‘bastards’ to inherit, as had been customary under Welsh law.

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The Holy Grail and Dinas Bran

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That King Arthur got mixed up with Jesus Christ can’t be too surprising, given the myth-making that went into the King Arthur story.  Rumor has it that Bran, for whom the castle, Dinas Bran, was named, was Joseph of Arimithea’s son-in-law.  Legend has it that after Jesus’ death, Joseph brought the Cup of Christ from Israel to Britain.  It does seem unlikely, doesn’t it?

But that is what the ‘Holy Grail’ is, that King Arthur’s knights go in search of:  “The Holy Grail of Christian legend is the vessel given by Christ to his disciples to sup from at the Last Supper. Later, it is said to have been given to his grand-uncle, St. Joseph of Arimathea, who used to collect Christ’s blood and sweat whilst he hung upon the Cross.”  http://www.arthurianadventure.com/holy_grail.htm

Dinas Bran, in turn, is the “site of an ancient Iron-Age hill-fort, believed to have been the home of the Kings of Powys, well into the 8th century. It is particularly associated with King Elisedd of Eliseg’s Pillar fame. The castle is, however, named for King Bran Fendigaid (the Blessed), a Celtic God known from both Welsh and Irish mythology who was later mortalized into a monarch of North Wales.” http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/corbenic.html

“Much of the information available about Bran the Blessed strongly suggests that at least part of his legend entered into later Arthurian romance. His Magic Cauldron is probably that sought by King Arthur in the Welsh poem, the “Spoils of the Annwfn”.  As in Bran’s Irish tale, Arthur travels to the Celtic Otherworld and, like the Welsh tale, only seven men survive. The vessel was later reborn as the Holy Grail, the cup of plenty or cornucopia found in mythology from across the Globe. The wound to Bran’s foot, inflicted by a poisoned spear, which caused his lands to fail is echoed in that of the Arthurian Grail guardian, known as the Grail or Fisher King.

His latter title may be related to Bran’s association with rivers and river-crossings (such as those he encountered in Ireland). His castle was Corbenic or Castell Dinas Bran, both names deriving from the word Raven or Crow. The Fisher King, like Bran’s head, could feast with his followers indefinitely and his forename was said to be Bron (or Brons) in the so-called Didot Perceval: clearly a transformation of Bran. Here, he is given a wife, Anna, the daughter of St. St. Joseph of Arimathea, probably through confusion with his grandmother, Beli Mawr’s wife, Anu. Bran may also be the original of other Arthurian characters like Brandegorre, Bran de Lis, Brandelidelin or Ban of Benoic.”  http://www.whiterosesgarden.com/Nature_of_Evil/Underworld/UNDR_Deities/UNDR-D_western_europe/UNDR_bran2.htm

It was Joseph of Arimathea who gave his tomb to Christ upon his death and (again, legend has it) first brought Christianity to Britain aroun 63 AD, along with the cup.

“During the late 12th century, Joseph became connected with the Arthurian cycle, appearing in them as the first keeper of the Holy Grail This idea first appears in Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie, in which Joseph receives the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Britain. This theme is elaborated upon in Boron’s sequels and in subsequent Arthurian works penned by others. Later retellings of the story contend that Joseph of Arimathea himself travelled to Britain and became the first Christian bishop in the Isles.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_of_Arimathea

Glastonbury Tor claims this too, but we know that can’t be true :)

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Llywelyn ap Iorwerth Takes the Throne

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Upon the death of Owain Gwynedd in 1170 AD, his eldest son, Hywel, purportedly a most capable man, succeeded to the rulership of Gwynedd.  In Wales, all sons, regardless of their legitimacy, can inherit, provided their father had acknowledged them.  This should have been the case with Hywel.

As I wrote in this post, the downside of this enlightened approach to illegitimacy is that it divided the kingdom between all the heirs and fostered animosity among brothers over their portion of their inheritance.  Such was the case when Owain Gwynedd overcame his brothers to take the throne, such was the case many years later after the death of Llywelyn Fawr, and such was the case in 1170.

Thus, Dafydd ap Owain Gywnedd conspired with his mother (Owain Gwynedd’s second wife, Cristina) and brother Rhodri to usurp the throne from Hywel, the eddling, whom his father had chosen to succeed him.  Dafydd drove Hywel out of Gwynedd and ultimately defeated him at the battle of Pentraeth.  After the untimely and suspicious deaths of most of Dafydd’s other brothers, Dafydd eventually ruled most of Gwynedd and parts of Wales all by himself from 1174.  http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/1255610

Llywelyn ap Iorwerth was born in 1172, at the remote castle of Dolwyddelan, south of Mt. Snowdon.

Iorwerth, Llywelyn’s father, was the eldest legitimate son of Owain Gwynedd, by his first wife Gwladys.  He seems not to have taken part in the upheaval among the brothers and perhaps it had something to do with his disfigurement (he is nicknamed Iowerth Drwyndwn ‘broken nose’).   He married Marared, daughter of Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys.   Thus, Llywelyn was grandson to Owain Gwynedd and of a powerful lineage on both sides.

“The infant prince, being a potential menace to the power of his father’s half-brothers in Gwynedd , probably grew up in Powys under the protection of his maternal relatives. Following an obscure period of apprenticeship in arms (he entered the turbulent arena of northern politics at a very tender age), he combined with his cousins, the sons of Cynan ap Owain Gwynedd, and in 1194 defeated his uncle, Dafydd I, seizing from him a share in the government of Perfeddwlad, which in 1197, he transformed into sole rulership. With the capture of Mold in 1199 he promised to become a leader of the calibre and vision of Owain Gwynedd; in fact, between 1199 and 1203 , he restored the undivided sovereignty of his grandfather over the whole of Gwynedd , including Merioneth and Penllyn .”  In 1194, he was only 22.

http://yba.llgc.org.uk/en/s-LLYW-API-1173.html

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King Edward I of England

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“The English have a lot to answer for.”

One of my graduate professors said this in reference to Africa (and I in no way mean to absolve the US of what IT has to answer for, and acknowledging that historically I am as much English as Welsh), but I think of it now whenever I think of Edward I.

Because I’m a Welshophile.

At the same time, history should not judge the man by 21st century standards.  That said, Edward I should be remembered for the following, both ‘good’ and bad':

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, some of which was based in the Magna Carta.

1277-1282:  War against the Welsh

The official web site of the British monarchy says:  “Llywelyn maintained that the rights of his principality were ‘entirely separate from the rights’ of England; he did not attend Edward’s coronation and refused to do homage. Finally, in 1277 Edward decided to fight Llywelyn ‘as a rebel and disturber of the peace’, and quickly defeated him. War broke out again in 1282 when Llywelyn joined his brother David in rebellion.

Edward’s determination, military experience and skilful use of ships brought from England for deployment along the North Welsh coast, drove Llywelyn back into the mountains of North Wales. The death of Llywelyn in a chance battle in 1282 and the subsequent execution of his brother David effectively ended attempts at Welsh independence.”  Ha.

1283:  Hanged, drew, and quartered Prince Dafydd ap Gruffydd in Shrewsbury, first man of standing to die in such a fashion, thus ending all hopes of an independent Wales (see above).

1290:  Expelled the Jews from England (http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/its-all-about-money/)

1296:  Began war with Scotland

1305:  Hanged, drew, and quartered William Wallace in London

1307:  Died 7 July

Another pro-Edward page says:  “Edward’s character found accurate evaluation by Sir Richard Baker, in A Chronicle of the Kings of England: He had in him the two wisdoms, not often found in any, single; both together, seldom or never: an ability of judgement in himself, and a readiness to hear the judgement of others. He was not easily provoked into passion, but once in passion, not easily appeased, as was seen by his dealing with the Scots; towards whom he showed at first patience, and at last severity. If he be censured for his many taxations, he may be justified by his well bestowing them; for never prince laid out his money to more honour of himself, or good of his kingdom.”  http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon30.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_I_of_England

http://www.royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/KingsandQueensofEngland/ThePlantagenets/EdwardILongshanks.aspx

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Dolbadarn Castle

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Dolbadarn Castle is only 6 1/2 miles as the crow flies from the Menai Straits, and yet, the topography of the area is such that it was built by Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great) to guard the mountain pass from Caernarfon to the upper Conwy Valley.  ‘Its position at the tip of Llyn Padarn allowed the garrison to blockade anyone’s movement through that part of the north, then as now a main link to the rest of Wales. The military worth of the spot was evidently recognized as early as the 6th century but surviving masonry dates no earlier than the 1200’s.’ http://www.castlewales.com/dolbd.html

Llywleyn Fawr built the castle in the early 13th century and it was one of the last defenses of Dafydd ap Gruffydd–Llywleyn Fawr’s grandson–in 1283 after Edward had defeated Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Dafydd’s brother (Paul Davis, Castles of the Welsh Princes, p. 42).  It was then abandoned.

 

A visit to Google Earth reveals that the Castle sits on a crest above a slight valley, overshadowed by the enormous mountains behind it.  ‘The site is a narrow outcrop of rock with steep falls on all sides, especially the east, where there is a sheer drop to Llyn Padarn’ (Adrian Pettifer, Welsh Castles, p. 33).  It is likely that some kind of Roman road passed through the area on its way into the mountains, as traces remain of a temporary Roman camp further up the road, once it turns east to Betws-y-Coed.

According to Pettifer, the keep at Dolbadarn, which is the most well preserved piece of it, ‘vies with the gatehouse at Criccieth as Llywelyn the Great’s finest piece of castle architecture’.   All three floors had fireplaces and toilets, even the basement.  The outer walls were high enough to conceal the roof of the upper floor and protect it from being fired by missles (Pettifer, p. 34).

Llywelyn ap Gruffydd kept his elder brother, Owain, at Dolbadarn, for 20 years, before he was released in 1277 as part of the Treaty of Rhuddlan.  An old man by then, Llywelyn provided for him the cantref of Llyn, in which he died sometime before December, 1282 (Smith, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, p. 441).

Dolbadarn Castle was last used by Owain Glyndwyr to hold prisoners during his uprising against the English crown in the 1400s.  http://www.castlewales.com/dolbd.html

*Thanks to Stephen Colbert’s, Better Know a District

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Senana, Mother of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

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Senana, by all appearances, had to have been quite a woman.  She was the daughter of Caradog ap Thomas ap Rhodri ap Owain Gwynedd, the great king of Gwynedd during the twelfth century.  Her husband was the illegitimate son of Llywelyn Fawr, the great Prince of Wales.

Llywelyn Fawr ruled Wales with a strong hand, and as his death approached, he made a fateful choice:  that Dafydd, his legitimate son through his wife, Joanna, herself an illegitimate daughter of the King John of England,  would rule after him.  In so choosing, he put Wales on a course for inevitable conflict.

Llywelyn Fawr died in 1240 and Gruffydd immediately began agitating for his own power.  By 1241, Dafydd had imprisoned him in Criccieth Castle, along with his eldest son, Owain.  Senana pleaded first with Dafydd to free her husband and son, and when Dafydd refused to bend, went herself to Shrewsbury where King Henry of England was holding court, to ask him to intercede with Dafydd.  King Henry agreed.  What’s more, she got him to write up a charter dividing Gwynedd into two equal portions, one for Dafydd and one for Gruffydd, and thus indicating his proper patrimony.

Senana then gathered her family together (all except Llywelyn who was free and at sixteen, an adult) and went with them to England.

Unfortunately for her, King Henry immediately threw Gruffydd and Owain into the Tower of London.  On March 1, 1244, Gruffydd made a rope out of sheets and attempted to lower himself down from a high window. The sheets broke and Gruffydd fell to his death.

Senana, then, was left alone in England with Owain and her two younger sons, Dafydd and Rhodri.  At that point, she did not return to Wales, but stayed under the protection of the King of England, who still held Owain captive, although less confined then his father.  In so doing, she left Llywelyn alone in Wales beside Prince Dafydd, such that when he died unexpectedly and without an heir in 1246, Llywelyn alone was there to take the reins.  That is not to say she wasn’t proud of him for doing so.   He had carved some lands for himself out of what could have been his father’s.  The history books do not record her thoughts–it is only later, when Llywelyn refused to share power and lands with his brothers, that Senana fought for their rights against him.

Purportedly, Owain, was allowed to hotfoot it to Wales as soon as the news hit that his uncle was dead.  It served the English crown’s purposes to foster dissension among the Welsh royal brothers, but he’d lost six years–years in which Llywelyn had wooed supporters and proven himself a war leader.

And then, in 1252, when Dafydd was fourteen and now a man by the standards of Wales, Senana returned to Wales to try to help him establish his own lands.  At first Dafydd was under the tutelage of Llywelyn, but then Owain gifted him a small portion of land, which Llywelyn had not, thus uniting the two brothers against him.  This is the last mention of their mother in the historical records.

(Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.  J. Beverly Smith.  Cardiff:  University of Wales Press)

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The First Welsh Parliament

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The first Welsh parliament was established by Owain Glyndwr (Owain Glendower) in 1404 in Machynlleth, a small town on the northwest coast of Wales, not far from Harlech Castle, which was his seat.

“In 1404, Glyndwr assembled a parliament of four men from every commot in Wales at Machynlleth, drawing up mutual recognition treaties with France and Spain.”  http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bowen/owainglyndwr.html

The Owain Glyndwr Centre exists now on the site of the building where this was established and Owain was crowned Prince of Wales.  http://www.canolfanglyndwr.org/

Background:

“Glyndwr was a member of the dynasty of northern Powys and, on his mother’s side, descended from that of Deheubarth in the south. The family had fought for Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in the last war and regained their lands in north-east Wales only through a calculated association with the powerful Marcher lords of Chirk, Bromfield and Yale and the lesser family of Lestrange. They thus rooted themselves in the Welsh official class in the March and figured among its lesser nobility …

In 1399-1400 Glyndwr ran up against his powerful neighbor, Reginald de Grey, Lord of Ruthin, an intimate of the new king, Henry IV. The quarrel was over common land which Grey had stolen. Glyndwr could get no justice from the king or parliament. This proud man, over forty and grey-haired, was visited with insult and malice. There are indications that Glyndwr made an effort to contact other disaffected Welshmen, and when he raised his standard outside Ruthin on 16 September 1400, his followers from the very beginning proclaimed him Prince of Wales.

The response was startling and may have even startled Glyndwr himself. Supported by the Hanmers, other Norman-Welsh Marchers and the Dean of St Asaph, he attacked Ruthin with several hundred men and went on to savage every town on north-east Wales. There was an immediate response from Oxford, where Welsh scholars at once dropped their books and flocked home. Even more dramatic was the news that Welsh laborers in England were downing their tools and heading for home. The English Parliament at once rushed ferociously anti-Welsh legislation on to the books. Henry IV marched a big army right across north Wales, burning and looting without mercy. Whole populations scrambled to make their peace. Over the Winter, Glyndwr, with only seven men, took to the hills …

For the Welsh, it was a Marcher rebellion and a peasant’s revolt which grew into a national guerrilla war. The sheer tenacity of the rebellion is startling. Few revolts in contemporary Europe lasted more than some months; no previous Welsh war had lasted much longer. This one raged in undiminished fury for ten years and did not really end for fifteen.”  http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bowen/owainglyndwr.html

“In the early 15th Century the Welsh were fired by anti-English feeling after much of the country had been subjected to centuries of their rule and Glyndwr mobilised this national sentiment  … Backed by French military aid, Glyndwr took Carmarthen and Cardiff in 1403 from the English and Harlech and Aberystwyth in 1404.”  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/north_west/3698635.stm

“In 1404, to demonstrate his seriousness as a ruler, Owain held court at Harlech and appointed the brilliant Gruffydd Young as his Chancellor. Soon afterwards, he called his first Parliament (or more properly Cynulliad or “gathering”) of all Wales at Machynlleth where he was crowned Prince of Wales and announced his national programme. He declared his vision of an independent Welsh state with a parliament and separate Welsh church. There would be two national universities (one in the south and one in the north) and return to the traditional law of Hywel Dda. Senior churchmen and important members of society flocked to his banner. English resistance was reduced to a few isolated castles, walled towns and fortified manor houses … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owain_Glynd%C5%B5r

Shades of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, who had planned to divide up England and Wales between himself, Simon de Montfort, and Gilbert de Clare in the 13th century, “Owain demonstrated his new status by negotiating the “Tripartite Indenture” with Edmund Mortimer and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. The Indenture agreed to divide England and Wales among the three of them. Wales would extend as far as the rivers Severn and Mersey including most of Cheshire,Shropshire and Herefordshire. The Mortimer Lords of March would take all of southern and western England and the Percys would take the north of England.[7] Although most historians have dismissed the terms of the Indenture as being highly ambitious and fanciful, R. R. Davies noted that certain internal features underscore the rootedness of Glynd?r’s political philosophy in Welsh mythology: in it, the three men invoke prophecy, and the boundaries of Wales are defined according to Merlinic literature.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owain_Glynd%C5%B5r

A timeline for the revolt is here:  http://www.timeref.com/thr00005.htm

 

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Happy St. David’s Day!

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Ashes St. David is the patron saint of Wales and his feast day (and possibly the date of his death) is March 1.  The Welsh spelling of his name is ‘Dafydd’.

St. David “died in the year 589. His mother was called Non, and his father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, King of Ceredigion. After being educated in Cardiganshire, he went on pilgrimage through south Wales and the west of England, where it is said that he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He even went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made archbishop.

He eventually settled at Glyn Rhosyn (St David’s), in south-west Wales, where he established a very strict ascetic religious community. Many miracles have been attributed to him, the most incredible of which was performed when he was preaching at the Synod of Llanddewibrefi – he caused the ground to rise underneath him so that he could be seen and heard by all. How much truth is in this account of his life by Rhigyfarch is hard to tell. It must be considered that Rhigyfarch was the son of the Bishop of St David’s, and that the Life was written as propaganda to establish Dewi’s superiority and defend the bishopric from being taken over by Canterbury and the Normans.”  http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/275/

“By the 9th century he had gained the name Aquaticus because he and the monks of his establishments were supposed to have drunk only water. His earliest Life* appeared around 1090 and was composed by a son of Sulien, bishop of St. David’s. The aim of this work was to promote the independence of the Welsh church. The Life tells us that St. David founded ten monasteries (including Glastonbury) and that the monks were vegetarian. Their regime included manual labour, study and worship.”  http://www.data-wales.co.uk/st_david.htm

“March 1, the date given by Rhygyfarch for the death of Dewi Sant (St. David), was celebrated as a religious festival up until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. In the 18th century it became a national festival among the Welsh, and continues as such to this day. The celebration usually entails singing and eating, which may mean a meal followed by singing, or much singing followed by a Te Bach, tea with teisen bach and bara brith. Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon, is flown as a flag or worn as a pin or pendant, and leeks are worn, and sometimes eaten. In schools in Wales the boys take leeks to school, status being given to those who bring the biggest leeks, and eat them earliest in the day.”  http://www.davidmorgan.com/stdavid.html

“Many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate St. David: the daffodil (a generic Welsh symbol which is in season during March) or the leek (Saint David’s personal symbol) on this day. The leek arises from an occasion when a troop of Welsh were able to distinguish each other from a troop of English enemy dressed in similar fashion by wearing leeks.[15] The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Pedr (daffodil, literally “Peter’s leek”).”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_David’s_Day

One year, the Google search engine acquired a castle, a flag, and a dragon.  Let’s see what they have in store for us this year :)

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St. David’s Bishops Palace

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The Bishop’s palace at St. David’s was built in the 13th century. Ornate and elaborate, it showcased the bishop’s power and wealth. Before the Norman conquest of Wales, the Welsh church tried to get the bishopric promoted to an archbishopric, which would free it from the jurisdiction of Canterbury, but those efforts were not successful. I visited in May 2014.

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Christmas and the Winter Solstice

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Stonehenge_Winter_Solstice_2007December 21st is the winter solstice in 2014. This is Stonehenge at the Winter Solstice in 2007. I’m pretty sure a whole bunch of those people have no idea why they’re there :)

Cultures throughout the world and throughout history have celebrated the winter solstice, carefully calculating it’s date and time for sunrise and sunset, and aligning standing stones, worship sites, and burials in coordination with the sky.  Wikipedia has an excellent catalog of these events:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

“The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20 and December 23. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south receive 24 hours of daylight.”  http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice.html

The Romans first linked Christmas with the solstice.  They pegged the event to December 25th because, since 43 BC, this date was the winter solstice in the Julian calendar.  It was only in 1582 that Pope Gregory XIII reconciled the calendar with the actual astronomical solstice, moving the solstice to December 21 (and keeping Christmas on the 25th).

From http://www.essortment.com/christmas-pagan-origins-42543.html:  “In ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast.

In Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated many years before the birth of Christ. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture. In January, they observed the Kalends of January, which represented the triumph of life over death. This whole season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The festival season was marked by much merrymaking. It is in ancient Rome that the tradition of the Mummers was born. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from house to house entertaining their neighbors. From this, the Christmas tradition of caroling was born.

In northern Europe, many other traditions that we now consider part of Christian worship were begun long before the participants had ever heard of Christ. The pagans of northern Europe celebrated the their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the Sun God grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year.

According to my go-to online etymological dictionary, Yule: yule (n.) Look up yule at Dictionary.comOld English geol, geola “Christmas Day, Christmastide,” from Old Norse jol (plural), a heathen feast, later taken over by Christianity, of unknown origin.

The Old English (Anglian) cognate giuli was the Anglo-Saxons’ name for a two-month midwinter season corresponding to Roman December and January, a time of important feasts but not itself a festival. After conversion to Christianity it narrowed to mean “the 12-day feast of the Nativity” (which began Dec. 25), but was replaced by Christmas by 11c., except in the northeast (areas of Danish settlement), where it remained the usual word.

Revived 19c. by writers to mean “the Christmas of ‘Merrie England.’ ” First direct reference to the Yule log is 17c. Old Norse jol seems to have been borrowed in Old French as jolif, hence Modern French joli “pretty, nice,” originally “festive” (see jolly).

The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck and were often present at weddings, representing fertility. The Druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees.

In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. The new religion went down a bit easier, knowing that their feasts would not be taken away from them.” http://www.essortment.com/christmas-pagan-origins-42543.html

 

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11 December 1282

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Today is the 732th 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 on the day of Damasus the Pope, a fortnight to the day from Christmas day; and that was a Friday.
—-Brut y Tywysogyon, Peniarth manuscript 20  (The Chronicle of the Princes)

His head was carried to King Edward I, who ordered that it be displayed on a pike, in London.  Apparently, it stayed on display for over 20 years.  The rest of his body is purportedly buried at Abbey Cwmhir, northeast of Rhayader in Powys.

I wrote Footsteps in Time because there seemed to me to be few events in history where the fate of a nation hinged so profoundly upon the death of one man and I couldn’t stand that it ended the way it did. So I changed it :). At the time, historians said that if Llywelyn had lived only a few more weeks, all of Wales would have flocked to his banner. We’ll never know the truth of that, but his star was in the ascendancy and King Edward was within weeks of running out of both patience and money.

Llywelyn’s brother, Dafydd, was eventually captured and hanged, drawn, and quartered, the first man of significance to experience that particular death.  His death was practice for what Edward did to William Wallace, two dozen years later.  Gwenlllian, Llywelyn’s daughter and only child, was kidnapped from Aber and sent to a convent in England, where she remained a prisoner her entire life.

At Llywelyn’s death, Wales fell under English rule, and Edward declared his own son, Edward II, the new Prince of Wales.

That this happened, and that it is little remarked in historial records, should not come as a surprise.  History is written by the victors, as this comment from an English travel writer, William Camden, dating to 1610, makes clear:  “following rather his owne and his brothers stubberne wilfulnesse than any good hope to prevaile, would needes put all once againe to the hazard of warre, he was slaine, and so both ended his owne life, and withall the British [meaning, not English] government in Wales.”

I visited the site in May at Cilmeri where Llywelyn’s death is commemorated by a lone stone marker.

For more on Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, see:

Arwystli

The Battle of the Menai Straits

Betrayal in the Belfry of Bangor

Biography of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

The Brothers Gwynedd

Cymerau

Dafydd ap Gruffydd

Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Wales (d. 1246)

The Death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

Eleanor (Elinor) de Montfort

Family Tree of the Royal House of Wales

Gwynedd after 1282

Historiography of the Welsh Conquest

King Edward I of England

Medieval Planned Communities

Memo to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s Staff

The Rising of 1256

Senana, Mother of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

Simon de Montfort

The Statute of Wales (Rhuddlan)

Surprise Holy Day Attack!

Things Fall Apart

Welsh Heraldry

Welsh Independence

Welsh Independence (again)

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