Tag Archives: Dafydd ap Gruffydd

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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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Gwynedd after 1282

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After the Treaty of Aberconwy in 1277 AD, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was reduced to lordship over a small area of land in Gwynedd, mostly west of the Conwy River.  Over the course of the 1282 war, he took back much of what he’d lost.  He was killed, however, on 11 December 1282, and all of Wales ultimately fell the forces of Edward I.  The map at right shows:

   Green:  Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s principality
   Blue:  Territories of Dafydd ap Gruffydd
   Pink:  Territories ceded forever to the English Crown

 

This defeat of the native Welsh forces led by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and then briefly after Llywelyn’s death by his brother, Dafydd, resulted in a much divided Wales.  On the top of the hierarchy, instead of native rulers, were English (mostly) absentee landowners.  Within the Marche and portions of southern Wales, the native rulers had sided with the English anyway, and thus retained their land.  Among the peasants, their lot in life didn’t change much.

In Gwynedd, however, which had been the seat of Welsh resistance for centuries, the English overlords directly intervened in the life of the local populace and attempted to root out and confiscate the lands of those who’d rebelled.  For example, of the 104 shares of land in the Denbigh area formerly under Welsh control, the English confiscated, through a variety of means, 96 of them, or 92.3% of the total (Given, James.  The Economic Consequences of the English Conquest of Gwynedd. Speculum. Vol. 64. No. 1 1989).

Given goes on to say: “The acquisition of sizable tracts of land allowed the English to work some changes in Denbigh’s ethnic and social composition.  The new rulers made a determined effort to establish an English colony . . . all the original inhabitants of the vill adjoining the head of the honor at Denbigh were removed, and a borough was created in the castle’s shadow.  Other Englishmen were settled nearby.  In the town of Lleweni, for example, only one Welshman, Iorwerth ap Llywarch, was allowed to retain land.  The rest of the village was divided among about 120 English colonists”  (p. 18).

Interestingly, except for confiscating Llywelyn’s own lands, and Edward’s extensive castle building program, Edward’s treatment of western Gwynedd appeared at first to be more lenient in that he deliberately kept the native system of land ownership intact.  Instead, he extracted money from those who owned land in a complete overhaul of the rent and taxation system.   In the past, rent consisted of a combination of food renders, labor services, and compulsory hospitality.  Under the new regime, it was all cash payment and the increases ranged from 78.5% for cash rent from free tenants to a 7-fold increase for bondmen (p. 25).

In order to establish his authority in the region, he built a series of castles across Gwynedd, among them Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy, and Harlech.

The English also:  required individuals to “grind their grain at the lord’s mill, press their grapes at his wine press, bake their bread in his oven, etc.”  and pay for the privilege.  They also were compelled (according to a 1305 record) to attend the local market and to trade only within the (English) borough town walls, resulting in more taxes.  “In a period of twenty years, thanks to steady and determined application, the English administration had managed to increase its take from its Welsh territories almost three fold” (Given p. 25-31).

Other impacts included an overhaul (and rejection) of the long-standing Welsh system of laws set down by Hywel Dda and the impressment of Welshmen into the English miltary.  “Just as the Welsh may have had to bear a disproportionately heavier share of taxation than the English, so it appears that they made a relatively large contribution to royal armies . . . For example, of the 12,500 infantry raised for the 1298 Falkirk campaign, 10,500 (84%) were Welsh” (Given p. 35).

Given concludes that the result of the English occupation forced the Welsh to sell themselves, their property, and their possessions to placate an ever more avaricious English government.  “Sometime early in the fourteenth century, in a petition delivered to Edward II, [petitioners] informed the king that because of their poverty and impotence they had left their lands, unable to pay their rents reliefs, and other dues.  In 1324, the villeins of the commote of Eifionydd . . . were so vexed and impoverished by the demands of the men who were farming the king’s mill and fish weirs that they experienced great difficulty in holding their land . . . [others claimed] that the royal purveyors had so impoverished them that they could barely live”  (p. 43).

Given concludes that, contrary to previous scholarship and received wisdom, “the growth of political authority, generally saluted as one of the positive features of late-medieval  society, may in reality have been one of the primary causes of the crises that afflicted Europe in the late Middle Ages” (p. 44).

That’s possible, but given Edward’s intent to wipe out all memory of Llywelyn, his seat and family, along with Welsh nationalism, this attempt to conquer the Welsh financially makes perfect sense.  Coupled with his castle building program, it shows how successful Edward was not only at defeating the Welsh militarily, but ensuring their material defeat and continued (and continual) subjugation.

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Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales

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410px-Arms_of_Dafydd_ap_Gruffydd.svgDafydd ap Gruffydd was the younger brother of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the Prince of Wales who ruled portions of Wales, to a greater or lesser degree, since the death of his uncle (also named Dafydd) in 1246.  The younger Dafydd was born in 1238, thirteen years after Llywelyn.  This Dafydd spent the majority of his life in England, to which his family was forced to come when his father was imprisoned at the Tower of London by King Henry.  Llywelyn, 16 at the time and a man, had refused to leave Wales with the rest of his family, and thus was on the spot, so to speak, when his uncle Dafydd died.

At that point, Dafydd ap Gruffydd was only 8 years old, and in no sense prepared to put forth a claim to his patrimony.  That occurred for the first time in 1255, when he conspired with his brother, Owain Goch, to force Llywelyn to relinquish some of his lands to Dafydd.  They were defeated in the Battle of Bryn Derwin.  Llywelyn accepted Dafydd back into his favor a year later, only to have Dafydd betray him again in 1263, and again in 1274 when he attempted to assassinate Llywelyn.

To say that Dafydd had a problematic relationship with Llywelyn is an understatement. Llywelyn kept Owain Goch imprisoned for the rest of his life, but he released Dafydd after Bryn Derwin and gave him lands, ultimately bowing to his younger brother’s rightful claim. At the time, Llywelyn perceived Owain, the elder brother, as the greater threat.

From Brynne Haug:  “Dafydd’s choice to turn to Edward in 1263 and again in 1274 was self-serving in that he believed his chances better with the king than with Llywelyn. Llywelyn had little choice but to accept Dafydd back when he changed his mind: in 1267 Edward I stipulated it in the Treaty of Mongomery, and it was again a condition in 1277.” What must have been  most aggravating to Llywelyn was that Dafydd was one of the impetuses for ALL of the wars against England that peppered his reign:  in 1267, in 1277, both times when he fought against Llywelyn on the side of the English, and in 1282, when he forced Llywelyn to throw his weight behind Dafydd himself after he launched an attack on Edward’s castles in Wales.

Whatever his motives, Dafydd did stay true to Wales after Llywelyn’s death. In June 1283, English soldiers captured Dafydd, took him to Shrewsbury, and, in October, executed him.  He was hung, drawn, and quartered, and his head displayed in the tower of London alongside Llywelyn’s.

Sources:

J. Beverly Smith, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd:  The Prince of Wales.

Brynne Haug, Captive Cymru: Llywelyn and Gwynedd in the Wars of King Edward.

Peniarth MS 20, The Chronicle of the Princes

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The Dream of Welsh Independence

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On December 11th, 1282, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was killed amidst the conflict with Edward I.  Less than a year later, his brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, was hung, drawn, and quartered and dragged throught he streets of Shrewsbury–as final payment for what Edward perceived as the ultimate betrayal.  The two men had been as close as brothers, once, and ended in epic hatred.  In further retribution, Edward  took all the signs of office–the true cross, the scepter, the crown–of the throne of Wales for himself.  And he made sure his son, Edward II, was born at Caernarfon Castle (in 1284), so that Edward could name him the Prince of Wales.  The heir to throne of England has been called the Prince of Wales ever since.

It has been 731 years since 1282.  Is that too long a time to remember this?  Has too much time passed for Welsh people to think independence is a reasonable thing to ask?

A 2007 BBC poll reported that 20% of the people of Wales backed independence, while 70% did not; this is in comparison to Scotland, where 32% of the population supported independence from England.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/6263807.stm

The ‘Acts of Union’ were passed in 1707, by Scotland’s and England’s parliaments (Wales, of course, had no say in the matter).  When James VI of Scotland inherited the English crown after the death of Elizabeth I (1603) the two countries had been effectively joined, albeit with some resistance on the part of the Scots.  That resistance continued through the final defeat at Culloden in 1745, at which point the English did to the highland Scots what they’d done to the Welsh 500 years before.  http://www.britishbattles.com/battle_of_culloden.htm

The leader of the independence movement in Wales is Plaid Cymru, a political party.  They say their aims are:

1) To promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining Full National Status for Wales within the European Union.  2)  To ensure economic prosperity, social justice and the health of the natural environment, based on decentralist socialism.  3)  To build a national community based on equal citizenship, respect for different traditions and cultures and the equal worth of all individuals, whatever their race, nationality, gender, colour, creed, sexuality, age, ability or social background.  4)  To create a bilingual society by promoting the revival of the Welsh language.  5)  To promote Wales’s contribution to the global community and to attain membership of the United Nations.  http://www.plaidcymru.org/content.php?nID=1221;lID=1

Of the sixty members of the Welsh National Assembly, the purpose of which (from their own web site) “is a democratically elected body that represents the interests of Wales and its people, makes laws for Wales and holds the Welsh government to account.”   There are 26 members of the Labour Party, 14 members for Plaid Cymru, 13 Welsh Conservative, and 6 Liberal Democrats.   Wales is led by a ‘first minister’ who is appointed by the crown (Queen Elizabeth), putting the Welsh Assembly on equal footing with Scotland within the three states that make up Great Britain.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Minister_for_Wales

The question for the Welsh boils down to two:  1)  what are the consequences of becoming independent?  and 2)  what are the consequences of not?

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Memo to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s Staff

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I unearthed this from my archives and thought I’d share.  Too bad this isn’t a deleted scene from Footsteps in Time 🙂

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Breaking News! A historic document has been found in the archives at the University of Bangor in Wales! Read on for the full text!

18 November 1282

To:  All Welsh Staff

From:  Goronwy ap Heilin, Seneschal to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

RE:  Dafydd ap Gruffydd, traitorous weasel

Summary of Facts:

Prince Dafydd ap Gruffydd, brother of Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd has betrayed the Cause of Wales in the following manner:

1)  In June, 1255, Dafydd and his elder brother, Owain, leagued against Prince Llywelyn, discontented with his rule of Wales and his refusal to partitition Gwynedd.  Prince Llywelyn repulsed them at the Battle of Bryn Derwin.

2)  After Prince Llywelyn forgave this shocking betrayal and released him from prison, Dafydd defected to the English crown in the spring of 1263.  Together, he and King Henry waged war against Llywelyn.  Eventually, after several defeats, Henry sued for peace and acknowledged Llywelyn’s sovereignty as Prince of Wales in 1267.  As part of the treaty, Henry convinced Llywelyn to restore Dafydd to his favor.

3)  In the winter of 1274, Dafydd and Owain ap Gruffydd Gwenwynwyn of Powys plotted to assassinate Llywelyn.  The timely intercession of a snowstorm averted the attempt.  Dafydd fled to England and to King Edward (Henry had died in 1270).  In 1277, Edward, Dafydd at his side, put together an enormous army and attacked Llywelyn.  You all well remember the tragedy of that defeat.

4) At the humiliating Treaty of Rhuddlan which resulted from the defeat, Edward forced Prince Llywelyn to accept Dafydd’s return to Wales and the resumption of his place as one of its princes.

5) On Palm Sunday in 1282, Dafydd and some supporters, now turning traitor to King Edward, attacked several of Edward’s castles in Wales, thus violating the peace Llywelyn had arranged with Edward.  Prince Llywelyn supported his brother and began to take back the lands he’d lost in the previous war—lands that Edward had taken from him with the help of Dafydd.

—WE HAVE WORD OF POSSIBLE NEW TREACHERIES LAST NIGHT IN THE BELFRY AT BANGOR CHURCH.  DO NOT TRUST DAFYDD AP GRUFFYDD.  IF SEEN ON PREMISES, APPREHEND IMMEDIATELY AND INFORM YOUR MANAGER—

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An Iron Ring of Castles

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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

The three castles of north east Wales, from east to west, are Hawarden, Flint, and Rhuddlan.

http://www.castlewales.com/wales_ne.html

Hawarden was built before the conquest of Wales, and was the first castle attacked by Dafydd ap Gruffydd in 1282 when he began 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 the old timber Rhuddlan Castle, towards the end of 1277 after the construction at Flint was well underway.  Immediately thereafter, Edward pulled down the old structure and began work on the present, massive, stone castle, built at the first usable ford of the Clwyd River, south of the sea.

Following along the north coast, come Conwy, Beaumaris, and Caernarfon, bringing the string of powerful castles across the coast of north Wales to six, within a stretch that was fewer than 60 miles as the crow flies.  Source for the map:  http://www.timeref.com/castedwd.htm

http://www.castlewales.com/edwrdcas.html

Conwy was begun in March of 1283, before the death of Dafydd ap Gruffydd and is located on the west bank of the Conwy river, which is of more than symbolic significance.  It was the Conwy River that was the barrier between east and west Gwynedd, and the difficulty in forcing it that delaying Edward’s conquest of Wales.  With a massive castle on the west bank of the river, he gained a permanent foothold in Snowdonia and the patrimony of the Princes of Gwynedd.

Beaumaris was built on Anglesey, near the ruins of Llanfaes Abbey (which the English destroyed), which had been patronized by the Welsh Princes.   At one point, the sarcophogus of Joanna, Llywelyn Fawr’s wife, was used as a horse trough, but is now on display at the castle.  The castle wasn’t built until 1295, as a result of the rebellion in late 1294 by Madog ap Llywelyn.  The entire population of Llanfaes was moved in order to build it.

Edward built Caernarfon (or Caernarvon, the English spelling, since the Welsh town was destroyed to build it and English settlers brought in, much like at Rhuddlan and Conwy), beginning in May, 1283.  It became his primary seat in Wales, and it was here that his son, Edward II was born–intentionally–to give credence to Edward I’s later naming of him the Prince of Wales.

The final two castles in Edward’s building program are Aberystwyth and Builth/Buellt.  Edward began Aberystwyth on the west coast of Wales in 1277 as a concentric castle (near/on the foundations of much older castles), but conspirators of Dafydd ap Gruffydd attacked it on Palm Sunday, 1282, damaging it badly.  Thus, it wasn’t until the Welsh defeat at the end of 1283 that construction began again, finishing in 1289.  Today, it is one of the more crumbled of Edward’s castles, although not as damaged as Builth in Powys, of which only grassy mounds remain.

Like Aberystwyth, Edward began building Builth Castle in 1277, in response to the defeat of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.  It was near this castle, in fact, that Llywelyn was set upon and murdered in December of 1282.

http://www.castlewales.com/maps.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/artsandculture/3211046/Wales-Edward-Is-seven-magnificent-castles.html

http://www.castles.me.uk/history-king-edward-i-welsh-medieval-castles.htm

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Welsh Heraldry

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Knights in the Middle Ages wore a coat of arms to distinguish themselves from one another in battle.  Within a given family individuals would have their own coats of arms, separate from each other and sometimes blending with another family, depending on the circumstances of marriage.  A family would also have crests and seals, which might or might not be the same as the coats of arms.  All are referred to as heraldic devices.

“Generally the language of heraldry suggests its warlike origin. The term Coat of arms is derived from the surcoat worn over the armor to keep off the rays of the sun. It was a waistcoat-like garment, on which the heraldic design was depicted. The knight wore the arms shown on the surcoat on his shield, the trappings of his horse, and his lance pennon. In addition, he might have painted on his helmet what was called his crest. Not all knights chose a crest. The motto is not an integral part of the coat of arms, and may be changed at the will of the user.”  http://www.familynamesonline.com/coahistory.html

“The date and manner of the origin of coats of arms, often called family crests, has been a matter of much speculation. There is no evidence of coats of arms being present at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, nor were family crests apparent by the beginning of the twelfth century. However, in the 13th century, coats of arms were used throughout Europe and the whole ‘science’ of heraldry – its rules and terms – had been established. During this time the Crusades undoubtedly helped spread the use of coats of arms.

Various suggestions have been put forward regarding the origin of coats of arms, for example: shields, banners, tabards and possibly the use of seals. Probably, once a design had been adapted, it would have been put to many personal items at the same time. To qualify as a coat of arms, a design must be capable of being depicted on a shield, but the name ‘coat of arms’ is derived from the linen tabard which was worn over the armour and upon which the design was shown.”

http://searchwarp.com/swa20112.htm

The coat of arms for Gwynedd was this:

 

The personal coat of arms for Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was this:

 

This was clearly derived from the coat of arms of Gruffydd ap Cynan, father of Owain Gwynedd, who was  himself the grandfather of Llywelyn Fawr, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s grandfather:

And this is the coat of arms of  Dafydd ap Gruffydd, whom Edward I hanged, drew, and quartered in 1283 (or had hung, drawn and quartered, I suppose, since he didn’t do it himself :):

 

Wikipedia has a great list of other heraldic devices for the rest of Wales:

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

For translations of Welsh Latin mottos, and more information in general about Welsh mottos, see:  http://www.doomchicken.net/~ursula/sca/motto/welshmottoes.html

“English, Welsh, French, and Latin mottoes were all used in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Wales. The following table shows their relative frequencies:

Language Number of Mottoes Percentage
English 15 7.3%
Welsh 47 22.8%
French 30 14.6%
Latin 114 55.3%

(A few mottoes were bilingual, and are therefore counted twice; one motto, “Odexi du parmer,” has been omitted from the analysis because its language could not be identified.)

Latin mottoes predominate. This reflects a widespread literacy in Latin; it may also indicate that the more overtly intellectual imprese mottoes influenced heraldic motto choices. British war-cries were often in French; sixteenth- and seventeenth-century men and women who displayed French mottoes could have inherited them from French-speaking ancestors, or they might have been displaying their knowledge of a foreign language. The bearers of Welsh and English mottoes, on the other hand, presumably spoke these languages at home.”

Sources for images:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coat_of_arms_of_Prince_Dafydd_ap_Gruffydd.svg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Personal_arms_of_Llywelyn_ap_Gruffudd.svg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Coat_of_arms_of_Wales.svg

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

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The Quest for Welsh Independence

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When the Romans conquered Britain, the people they defeated were the Britons, the ancestors of the Welsh, a Celtic people who themselves had come to the island hundreds of years before. After the Romans marched away in 410 AD, the Saxon invaders overwhelmed the British in successive waves, pushing them west and resulting in a Saxon England and British Wales. When the next conquerors—the Normans—came in 1066 AD, they conquered England but they did not conquer Wales. Not yet.

For the next two hundred years, power in Wales ebbed and flowed, split among Welsh kings and princes, Marcher barons (Norman lords who carved out mini-kingdoms for themselves on the border between England and Wales), and the English kings.

Through it all, the Welsh maintained their right to independence—to be governed by their own laws and their own kings.

The ending came on December 11th, 1282, when Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales, was killed on a snowy hillside, the end of a thirty year conflict with Edward I, King of England. Less than a year later, his brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, was hung, drawn, and quartered and dragged through he streets of Shrewsbury, the first man of standing to die that particular death—practice for the murder of Scot patriot William Wallace in similar fashion twenty years later (along with hundreds of other Scots, including three brothers of Robert the Bruce).

In further retribution, Edward took all the signs of the Welsh principality—the true cross, the scepter, the crown—for himself. And he made sure that his son, Edward II, was born at Caernarfon Castle (in 1284), so that Edward could name him the Prince of Wales. The heir to throne of England has been called the Prince of Wales ever since.

It has been 729 years since 1282. Is that too long a time to remember? A 2007 BBC poll reported that 20% of the people of Wales backed independence, while 70% did not; this is in comparison to Scotland, where 32% of the population supported independence from England.

This brutal history prompted me to write, my After Cilmeri series which follow the adventures of two teenagers who travel back in time to the thirteenth century and save Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s life. In my books, the Welsh people maintain their independence and never succumb to Edward I, nor fall under the heel of the English boot.

The practical side of Welsh independence, after all this time, would be very different from the idea of it, no matter how appealing.  Could Wales be self-sufficient?  England has exploited its natural resources for over 700 years.  How much is left?  And if Wales isn’t going to rely on exports, than what … tourism?  On March 3, 2011, Wales voted for more powers for their assembly.

The Welsh Assembly, according its web page, has three tasks:  “The Assembly has three key roles: representing Wales and its people; making laws for Wales; and holding the Welsh Government to account.”  http://www.assemblywales.org/abthome/role-of-assembly-how-it-works.htm  To see what aspects of government for which the Assembly is responsible:  http://www.assemblywales.org/abthome/role-of-assembly-how-it-works/governance-of-wales.htm

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Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn

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Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn was a contemporary of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales who died in 1282.  He was father to Owain, who with Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn’s brother, conspired to murder Llywelyn in 1274.

Gruffydd was born sometime before 1216, the date of his father’s death.   Llywelyn Fawr had driven the family from their lands in Powys and Gruffydd subsequently grew up in England.   “Gwenwynwyn seized Arwystli in 1197 when he was aligned with England. Following the marriage of Llywelyn Fawr and Joan of England in 1208, warfare broke out once more between Gwenwynwyn and Llywelyn. In 1212 Gwenwynwyn’s ancient royal seat at Mathrafal was destroyed and he was evicted from his territories. He changed allegiances again and was restored to his realm in 1215 making a new capital at Welshpool. In 1216 he was defeated in battle with the forces of Llywelyn and fled to England, where he died shortly afterwards.”  http://www.welshicons.org.uk/html/powys_wenwynwyn.php

Gruffydd became the ostensible ruler of Powys, but in fact spent most of his life in England, under the patronage of the English kings.  He returned to Wales for the first time in 1241, after Llywelyn Fawr’s death, and ruled his principality of Powys-Wenwynwyn off and on, depending upon whether or not Edward or Llywelyn was in the ascendancy, until his death in 1286.  His support for the English kings never wavered, and upon Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s death in 1282, his family became Marcher lords, and changed their name to de la Pole.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruffydd_ap_Gwenwynwyn

Of that fateful year of 1274, J. Beverly Smith writes:  “before the year was out the two men [Dafydd ap Llywelyn and Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn] who had conspired to put the prince to death had found refuge in England by the king’s permission.  The decision to allow them sanctuary in the king’s realm made a fundamental difference to relations between king and prince . . . Dafydd, pressing the king for support, asked for guidance as to how he could do most to damage Llywelyn . . . [in a letter] Llywelyn told how the men of Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn had come from the safety of their retreat in Shropshire to attack Powys Wenwynwyn.  They had come six times and audaciously sold the booty at the markets of Shrewsbury and Montgomery.  One of the prince’s men had been decapitated in public . . .” (Llywelyn ap Gruffydd  p. 383).

The name ‘Gwenwynwyn’ is a triple repitition of  “wyn” which means “white, fair, or blessed”.  http://www.behindthename.com/name/wyn

or, possibly something along the lines of “land of the white lambs” since “wyn” in my modern Welsh dictionary means ‘lamb’.

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Things Fall Apart–the End of an Independent Wales

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Things Fall Apart is the name of an excellent book written in 1958 by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, describing his main character’s fall from grace where he loses his power, his family, and ultimately his life (he hangs himself).   It is an equally apt phrase for defining what happened in Wales immediately after the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. 

J. Beverley Smith writes:  “By the beginning of 1283, but not very long before, Llanrwst and Betws became bases for English operations in the upper Conwy valley, and it seems that a crossing of the river had been forced by then.  The Welsh forces faced an advance made in two directions.  One army moved upstream along the Conwy and Lledr valleys to Dolwyddelan, a key position in the defensive preparations of the princes.  By 18 January the castle was in the king’s possession  . . . another army moved down the Conwy valley to Aberconwy.”  (Llywelyn ap Gruffydd p. 574-74)

Edward made his base there.  The crossing on a refurbished bridge of boats from Anglesey to Bangor had already been accomplished before the end of 1282, allowing the King to advance towards Caerfarnon and Criccieth.  By April, Dafydd ap Gruffydd was hemmed in on all sides, having lost Ceredigion and Powys as well.  Castell y Bere fell with no resistance on 25 April 1283. 

According to reports at the time Dafydd sent his wife to plead to the King, along with Roger Clifford, but the Edward would have none of it.   “It was in Snowdonia, at Llanberis and right at the foot of Snowdon itself, that we have the last glimpse of the last cohort of the princes of the principality of Wales.  Dafydd was probably captured in this area, finally betrayed, we are told, by his own men.” (Smith p. 576)

Smith has this description of Dafydd’s death:  “He was tried and sentenced to death for treason, and the judgement was executed, in a barbaric manner, on 2 October.  Dragged to the scaffold at the horse’s tail for betraying the king, he was hanged alive for homicide, he was disembowelled and his entrails burned for his sacrilege in committing his crimes in the week of Christ’s Passion, and his body, quartered for plotting the king’s death, was dispatched to the four corners of the kingdom.  His head was displayed beside the head of Llywelyn in the Tower of London . . .” (p. 578-79).