December 11, 1282 - Sarah Woodbury

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 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.”

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)


10 Replies to “December 11, 1282”

  1. Nor did Edward make his son Prince of Wales until 1301, a strangely muted event that appears to have been related to the Scottish campaign of that year. There was no formal declaration of Edward of Caernarfon’s new title at the parliament of January 1301 in which he was endowed with the principality, and he wasn’t formally referred to as Prince of Wales until May onwards.

  2. No surprise here, but I wouldn’t agree that Llywelyn’s star was in the ascendancy at the time of his death. His march to mid-Wales was a desperate act, a last throw of the dice before Edward mounted a full-scale invasion of Snowdonia: Llywelyn had lost Anglesey and the Four Cantreds, the fleet of the Cinque Ports controlled the seas, and the majority of his allies in the south and west were either defeated or on the run. Even if he had stayed in Gwynedd, I doubt the final result would have been any different. It would probably have taken longer, of course, or Edward might have starved Llywelyn out like he did in 1277.

    His death caused a great stir in the records – there are something like forty contemporary or near-contemporary accounts of Llywelyn’s demise, English and Welsh, chronicle, poetry and correspondence.

    1. The November defeat of the English invasion across the Menai was huge, Edward was running out of money, yet again, it was winter, when no large scale invasion possible until spring, and he was losing support from his barons for yet another Welsh war.

      1. Not at all, I’m afraid. In November, several weeks before Llywelyn’s death, Edward dispatched orders for a new army to be raised from the northern counties of England, and another to be raised from his lands in Gascony. These troops started to arrive in December and January and were deployed in the winter months: Edward was resolved on fighting a winter war, and was going to do so whatever happened to Llywelyn.

        I personally transcribed and translated the payrolls for the Gascon troops held at the National Archives, so I won’t be told I’m wrong. They were active in North Wales over the winter months and played a crucial role in wearing down Welsh resistance.

        Edward was not running out of money: he had a pretty much endless flow of credit from the Riccardi at this point, and was able to keep his armies in the field for another seven months until Dafydd was captured. There is no evidence that he was losing support from his barons.

        Once again, I have to recommend that you do some wider reading. I know that can sound patronising, but you really do.

        1. In addition, I don’t know what you mean by saying that Edward was ‘yet again’ running out of money in 1282. He had experienced no financial difficulties up to this point, either as prince or king: all of his finance problems occured in the last decade of the reign due to the conflicts in Flanders, Gascony and Scotland. It’s almost as if you wish to conflate the events of his reign, throw them into a blender and come up with the most negative interpetration possible. Either that or you’re exercising a form of cognitive dissonance.

          1. It also happens to be true, and you have no idea what you’re talking about with regard to this subject. But carry on telling lies and making money out of it – I’m sure you will be very successful. Well done.

            1. I’ve approved your comments, David, because I do believe readers of this blog are capable of sifting through different perspectives.

              For anyone following along, here’s a list of works to get you started for further reading. I would particularly highlight J. Beverly Smith’s comprehensive work Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and the work of RR Davies:

              Brown, R. Allen. The Normans and the Norman Conquest. London: Constable & Co, 1969.
              Borrow, George. Wild Wales. London: John Murray, 1907.
              Brut y Tywysogyon; or the Chronicle of the Princes: Red Book of Hergest Version, Thomas Jones, trans., ed. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1973.
              Charles-Edwards, T.M. The Welsh King and His Court. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000.
              Davies, John. A History of Wales. New York: Penguin, 2007.
              Davies, R.R. Conquest, Coexistence, and Change: Wales 1063-1415. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.
              —————. “Edward I and Wales,” in Edward I and Wales, ed. Trevor Herbert and Gareth Elwyn Jones. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1988.
              —————. Domination and Conquest: The Experience of Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1100-1300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
              —————. The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093-1343. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
              Davis, Paul R. Castles of the Welsh Princes. Swansea: Christopher Davies Limited, 1988.
              Gerald of Wales. The Journey Through Wales/The Description of Wales. Lewis Thorpe, trans. New York: Penguin Books, 1978.
              Gildas. De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae. Retrieved from: http://www.ict.griffith.edu.au/wiseman/DECB/DECBps.html
              Given, James. “The Economic Consequences of the English Conquest of Gwynedd.” Speculum 64, no. 1 (January 1989): 11-45.
              Griffiths, Ralph A. Conquerors and Conquered in Medieval Wales. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
              Haug, Brynne. Captive Cymru: Llywelyn and Gwynedd in the Wars of King Edward. Whitman College Department of History, 2012.
              —————. This Small Corner of the Earth: Cultural and Political Identities in the Medieval Welsh March. Whitman College Department of History, 2012.
              Herbert, Trevor and Gareth Elwyn Jones, eds. Edward I and Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1988.
              Jacobs, Joseph. The Jews of Angevin England: Documents and Records. London (1893): 212-15.
              —————. “England.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 5. Isadore Singer et al., eds. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1903: 161-174.
              Meisel, Janet. Barons of the Welsh Frontier: The Corbet, Pantulf, and Fitz Warin Families, 1066-1272. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980.
              Morgan, Kenneth O. “Welsh Nationalism: The Historical Background.” Journal of Contemporary History. 6.1, Nationalism and Separatism (1971): 153-159, 161-172.
              Morris, John Edward. The Welsh Wars of Edward I. New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1901.
              Oakeshott, Ewart. Sword in Hand: A History of the Medieval Sword. Minneapolis, MN: Arms and Armor, Inc. 2001.
              Pettifer, Adrian. Welsh Castles. Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press, 2000.
              Pounds, N.J.G. The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Social and Political History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
              Powicke, F.M. “Gerald of Wales.” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xii (1928): 389-410.
              Prestwich, Michael. The Three Edwards: War and State in England, 1272-1377. London; New York: Routledge, 2003.
              Pryce, Huw. Native Law and the Church in Medieval Wales. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
              —————. “British or Welsh? National Identity in Twelfth Century Wales.” English Historical Review 116 (2001): 775-801.
              —————. “Lawbooks and Literacy in Medieval Wales.” Speculum 75.1 (Jan. 2000): 29-67.
              Registrum Epistolarum Johannis Peckham, Volume 3. C.T. Martin, ed. Rolls Series, 3 V0ls. London, 1882-1885.
              Rhys, John and David Brynmor-Jones. The Welsh People: Chapters on Their Origin, History and Laws, Language, Literature and Characteristics. New York: Greenwood Press, 1969.
              Richter, Michael. The Political and Institutional Background to National Consciousness in Medieval Wales. Belfast: Appletree Press, 1978.
              —————. Giraldus Cambrensis: The Growth of the Welsh Nation. Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 1976.
              —————. “National Identity in Medieval Wales.” Medieval Europeans: Studies in Ethnic Identity and National Perspectives in Medieval Europe. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
              Roberts, Brynley F. Gerald of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1982.
              Russell, Paul. ed., trans. Vita Griffini Filii Conani: The Medieval Life of Gruffudd ap Cynan. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2005.
              Scott, James. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Yale University Press, 1987.
              Smith, Beverley J. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd: The Prince of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1998.
              Stacey, Robert C. “Parliamentary Negotiation and the Expulsion of the Jews from England.” Thirteenth Century England: Proceedings of the Durham Conference, 1995. 6. Michael Prestwich et. al, eds. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 1997: pp. 77–102
              Turvey, Roger. The Welsh Princes 1063-1283. London: Pearson Education Limited, 2002.
              Walker, David. Medieval Wales. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

  3. The events in this article hold close to my heart as I am of Welsh descent and my birthday is December 11. Thank you for honoring them by telling their story. -BB

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