May 20, 2013 by

Betrayal in the Belfry at Bangor


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“And there was effected the betrayal of Llywelyn in the belfry of Bangor by his own men.”
Brut y Tywysogyon, Peniarth manuscript 20. (Chronicle of the Princes)

This comment is sandwiched between the description of the defeat of the English at the Menai Straits on November 6th, and the death of Llywelyn on December 11th, 1282. It is only found in the manuscript kept at the National Library of Wales, not the incomplete version at Oxford, which ends with the firing of Aberystwyth Castle on Palm Sunday (April, 1282). Here is the full record for the year 1282:

“In this year Gruffydd ap Maredudd and Rhys Fychan ap Rhys ap Maelgwn took the castle and town of Aberystwyth. And Rhys gained possession of the cantref of Penweddig and Gruffydd the commot of Mefenydd. On Palm Sunday took place the breach between Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and Edward Longshanks, king of England. And the autumn after that, the king and his host came to Rhuddlan. And he sent a fleet of ships to Anglesey, and they gained possession of Arfon. And then was made the bridge over the Menai; but the bridge broke and countless numbers of the English were drowned and others slain.  And then was effected the betrayal of Llywelyn in the belfry at Bangor by his own men.

Footsteps in TimeAnd then Llywelyn ap Gruffydd left Dafydd, his brother, guarding Gwynedd; and he himself and his host went to gain possession of Powys and Builth. 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 Roger Mortimer and Gruffydd 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.”

The document is located here:

The question that springs to mind immediately as a result of this statement is–That’s it? What happened in the belfry? What does the author mean by ‘betrayal’?

It may well be that at the time, the answer was so memorable that the author didn’t feel the need to write it down, but since the English so effectively and systematically suppressed Wales after Llywelyn’s defeat, 750 years later, we don’t know the answer to that question.

Given that Llywleyn was cut down in Buellt on the 11th of December, only a few short weeks later, the statement begs for more information. But there isn’t any. Even the fabulous biography of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, written by J. Beverley Smith, has no answer for us. Such are the limits to history: if our ancestors didn’t write down what they knew, we have no way of recovering that information. For an event as momentous as the betrayal of Llywelyn, it seems amazing to know so much, and yet, so little.

5 Responses to Betrayal in the Belfry at Bangor

  1. Janet

    You are so welcome! And thank YOU for giving the world such wonderful books to read! Guess I better start on the medieval just finishes the Pendragon Saga literally 5 minutes ago! Lol! Can’t wait for the next time travel! Your books hold me captive til the end. I love are such a wonderful writer,Sarah. Thanks again! 🙂

  2. Janet

    Thanks for posting this! There is so much I would love to learn about this time and place! I am going through your books like there is no you in the middle of writing anything that might be out soon? I flew through your Time Travel series (LOVE THEM!) and I just read “My Cold Heart” and I’m at the very end of “The Pendragon Saga” (I also LOVE)..I’m sure I will be starting on “The Mediveal Mysteries” very soon. Just wondering if you are writing more on the time travel or Pendragon Saga?


    • Sarah Post author

      Hi Janet! The third medieval mystery is coming out on May 28th, and then I’m returning my attention to the time travel series. The next book in that series will be out before the end of the year.

      I’m so glad you wrote me and that you love my books!

  3. Carrie Uffindell

    What a tantalizing entry. Does Beverly Smith mention this in Llywelyn, or is it not mentioned at all. I can check my copy when I get home. My mind is already weaving tales around this mysterious betrayal. I’m assuming the “belfry” at Bangor is/was a bell tower and not a siege tower? Online listed both as a definition for belfry.

    • Sarah Post author

      Smith writes: “The treachery to which the chronicler alludes was alleged to have occurred in the church of St. Deiniol itself. It preceded Llywelyn’s departure for the march and, whatever was involved, it occurred at a time of immense importance in the reistance to the king’s forces. The location points to the involvement, among ‘his own men’, of churchmen . . .” (1998:553). Smith devotes several pages to speculation, none of it conclusive, including questions about Brother Adam, one of Archbishop Pecham’s men, whom he left behind in Gwynedd. “. . . on the very day on which Llywelyn died, John Pecham was inspired to order Brother Adam to return to the archbishop without delay” (p. 554). Very much worth reading!

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