Eleanor (Elinor in Welsh) de Montfort (1252-1282) was the wife of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales. She was the daughter of Simon de Montfort, who was killed in the Battle of Evesham by the forces of Edward I when she was only thirteen. Her mother, Eleanor of Leicester, was the youngest daughter of King John of England and his wife, Isabella of Angouleme. Interestingly, that made Elinor’s mother and Joanna, Princess of Wales and the wife of Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s grandfather), half-sisters. Joanna had been born in 1191. After Simon de Montfort’s death, Elinor and her mother) found refuge at the Dominican nunnery of Monargis in France. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan,_Lady_of_Wales
J. Beverely Smith writes: “Llywelyn’s decision to marry Simon de Montfort’s daughter was revealed in dramatic circumstances at the end of 1275. Eleanor was travelling from France to join the prince [whom she had already married per verba de presenti–or inabsentia] when she was detained at sea and taken into Edward’s custody. She sailed in the company of her brother Amaury, and the king was jubilant at a capture which placed Montfort’s son and daughter in his hands and revealed, hidden beneath the ship’s boards, the arms and banner of the Montforts” (1998:390). Finally, by Edward’s lights, he had real justification for re-entering Wales and forcing Llywelyn to submit to England once and for all. Note that Elinor was also Edward’s cousin.
For Llywelyn’s part, he had decided to marry Elinor after the events of 1274 when his brother, Dafydd, and other conspirators had tried to kill him. Nobody knows why he’d waited this long to marry (he was now approaching 50 years old) but his failure to father a child with any woman up until then might have played a role–once married, there was no chance to father a child with another woman who might prove more fertile, AND have that child acknowledged by Edward and/or the Church.
In the end, Edward kept Elinor captive for three years, until after Llywelyn had lost the war of 1277 and submitted to Edward at Rhuddlan castle. Elinor and Llywelyn were married (again) on October 13th (the Feast of St. Edward) in 1278, at the cathedral church at Worcester. Edward gave Elinor away.
Wales remained at peace until 1282, when Prince Dafydd’s men launched a surprise attack on English castles on Palm Sunday. Elinor herself died in childbirth on June 19, 1282 at Garth Celyn, and was buried across the Menai Strait at Llanfair Abbey, beside her aunt, Joanna. No trace remains of her grave.
From The Chronicles of the Princes (Red Book of Hergest): “And then, on the Feast of St. Edward, the marriage of Llywelyn and Eleanor solemnized at Winchester, Edward, king of England himself bearing the cost of the banquet and nuptial on the feast of St. festivities liberally. And of that Eleanor there was a daughter to Llywelyn, called Gwenllian and Eleanor died in childbirth, and was buried in the chapter house of the barefooted friars at Llanvaes in Mona. Gwenllian, after the death of her father, was taken as a prisoner to England, and before she was of age, she was made a nun against her consent.”
“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.
And 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 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.
The ‘Dark Ages’ were ‘dark’ only because we lack extensive (or in some instances, any) historical material about the period between 407 AD, when the Romans marched away from Britain, and 1066, when William of Normandy conquered England.
“Initially, this era took on the term “dark” . . . due to the backward ways and practices that seemed to prevail during this time. Future historians used the term “dark” simply to denote the fact that little was known about this period; there was a paucity of written history. Recent discoveries have apparently altered this perception as many new facts about this time have been uncovered.
The Italian Scholar, Francesco Petrarca called Petrarch, was the first to coin the phrase. He used it to denounce Latin literature of that time; others expanded on this idea to express frustration with the lack of Latin literature during this time or other cultural achievements. While the term dark ages is no longer widely used, it may best be described as Early Middle Ages — the period following the decline of Romein the Western World. The Middle Ages is loosely considered to extend from 400 to 1000 AD.” http://www.allabouthistory.org/the-dark-ages.htm
For Wales, the time was no more or less bright than any other. The relative peace the Romans brought was predicated on the brutal subjugation of the British people. When the Romans left, the Britons faced the Irish from the west, the Scots from the northwest, the Picts from the northeast and ‘Saxons’ (who were Angles and Jutes too, not just ‘Saxons’) from the east. To a certain degree, it was just more of the same. The Britons had their lands back—the whole expanse of what is nowWales andEngland—for about five minutes.
As the Romans went back home, there emerged from the coracles that had carried them across the sea-valleys the foul hordes of Scots and Picts. … They were more confident than usual now that they had learnt of the departure ofthe Romans and the denial of any prospect of their return. So they seized the whole north of the island from its inhabitants, right up to (i.e. as far south as) the wall (presumably Hadrian’s). A force was stationed on the high towers to oppose them, but it was too lazy to fight, and too unwieldy to flee. Meanwhile there was no respite from the barbed spears flung by their naked opponents, which tore our wretched countrymen from the walls and dashed them to the ground.
From contemporary accounts in 411:
They (the barbarians) reduced the inhabitants of Britainand some parts of Gaul to such straits that they revolted from the Roman Empire, no longer submitted to Roman law, but reverted to their native customs. The Britons, therefore, armed themselves and ran many risks to ensure their own safety and free their cities from the attacking barbarians. The whole of Armorica, [Emap (7)] and other Gallic provinces, in imitation of the Britons, freed themselves in the same way, by expelling the Roman magistrates and establishing the government they wanted. The revolt of the provinces ofBritain and Gaul occurred during Constantine’s tyranny because the barbarians took advantage of his careless government. …
Fastidius — letter to a widow in Britain
We see before us many instances of wicked men, the sum of their sins complete, who are being judged at the present moment, and denied this present life no less than the life to come. This is not hard to understand, for in changing times we expect the deaths of magistrates who have lived criminally, for the greater their power, the bolder their sins. … Those who have freely shed the blood of others are now forced to shed their own. … Some lie unburied, food for the beasts and birds of the air. Others have been individually torn limb from limb. Their judgements killed many husbands, widowed many women, orphaned many children, leaving them bare and beggared … for they plundered the property of the men they killed. But now it is their wives who are widowed, their sons who are orphaned, begging their daily bread from strangers.
It does seem that a ruler named Vortigern invited some Germanic ‘Saxon’ tribes to settle in eastern England, in hopes of creating a buffer zone between the Britons and the relentless invasions fromEurope. This plan backfired, however, and resulted in the pushing westward of successive waves of ‘Saxon’ groups. Ultimately, the Britons retreated into Wales, the only portion of land the Saxons were unable to conquer.
From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:
445: In the fourth year of Vortigern’s reign, the English came to Britain.
449: The British consulted what was to be done and where they should seek assistance to prevent or repel the cruel and frequent incursions of the northern nations. They all agreed with their king Vortigern to call over to their aid, from the parts beyond the sea, the Saxon nation. … The two first commanders are said to have been Hengist and Horsa.
449: Martian and Valentinian assumed the Roman empire(actually in 450) and reigned seven winters. In their days Hengest and Horsa, invited by Vortigern, king of the Britons to his assistance, landed inBritainin a place that is called Ipwinesfleet; at first to help the Britons, but later they fought against them.
453: But Hengest was an experienced man, shrewd and skilful. Sizing up the king’s incompetence, and the military weakness of his people, he held a council, and said to the British king “We are a few; if you wish, we can send home and invite warriors from the fighting men of our country, that the number that fight for you and your people may be larger.” The king ordered it be done, and envoys were sent across the sea, and came back with sixteen keels, with picked warriors in them. In one of the keels came Hengest’s daughter, a beautiful and very handsome girl. When the keels had arrived, Hengest held a banquet for Vortigern, and his men and his interpreter, whose name was Ceretic, and told the girl to serve their wine and spirits. They all got exceedingly drunk. When they were drinking Satan entered Vortigern’s heart and made him love the girl. Through his interpreter he asked her father for her hand, saying “Ask of me what you will, even to the half of my kingdom”.
It is a matter of record that the ‘Saxons’ invaded Britain in the last years of the Roman occupation, and then in full force after the Romans left the island in 410 AD. They marched away, seemingly without a backward glance, leaving the Britons–after 400 years of occupation–to fend for themselves.
From Britain envoys set out with their complaints, their clothes (it is said) torn, their heads covered in dust, to beg help from the Romans. … The Romans … informed our country that they could not go on being bothered with such troublesome expeditions; that Roman standards, that great and splendid army, could not be worn out by land and sea for the sake of wandering thieves who had no taste for war. Rather, the Britons should stand alone, get used to arms, fight bravely, and defend with all their powers their land, property, wives, children, and, more importantly, their life and liberty. Their enemies were no stronger than they, unless Britain chose to relax in laziness and torpor; they should not hold out to them for the chaining hands that held no arms, but hands equipped with shields, swords and lances, ready for the kill. This was the Romans’ advice.
These invaders, as the map to right shows, were not in fact all ‘Saxon’, but a combination of Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Franks, and Frisians, each hailing from a different region of the western coast of Europe.
The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes were Germanic peoples. From Wikipedia: They were “originally a small tribe living on the North Sea between the Elbe and Eider Rivers in the present Holstein. Their name, derived from their weapon called Seax, a knife, is first mentioned by the Roman author Ptolemy (about 130).
In 3rd and 4th century Germany, great tribal confederations of the Alamanni, Bavarians, Thuringians, Franks, Frisians, and Saxons arose. These took the place of the numerous petty tribes with their popular tribal form of government. With the exceptions of the Saxons all these confederations were ruled by kings; the Saxons were divided into a number of independent bodies under different chiefs, and in time of war these chieftains drew lots. This leader the other chiefs followed until the war ended.
In the third and fourth centuries the Saxons fought their way victoriously towards the west, and their name was given to the great tribal confederation that stretched towards the west exactly to the former boundary of the Roman Empire, consequently almost to the Rhine. Only a small strip of land on the right bank of the Rhine remained to the Frankish tribe. Towards the south the Saxons pushed as far as the Harz Mountains and the Eichsfeld, and in the succeeding centuries absorbed the greater part of Thuringia. In the east their power extended at first as far as the Elbe and Saale Rivers; in the later centuries it certainly extended much farther. All the coast of the German Ocean belonged to the Saxons except that west of the Weser, which the Frisians retained.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Saxony
From then on, there are differing views about how rampant the Saxon spread was. Certainly, it happened (language alone tells us that), but the exact timeline for the spread is not clear. The Battle of Mt. Badon (whether or not fought by Arthur) is said to have occurred around 500 AD, which held back the Saxon tide for a generation.
In looking through historical documents, there is a striking resemblance between one of the last letters that Llywelyn ap Gruffydd wrote to Edward I, a month before his death, and the famous speech by Patrick Henry. From Llywelyn:
We fight because we are forced to fight, for we, and all Wales, are oppressed, subjugated, despoiled, reduced to servitude by the royal officers and bailiffs so that we feel, and have often so protested to the King, that we are left without any remedy . . ..
Compare it to Patrick Henry’s speech to the Virginia Assembly:
Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope . . .
Welsh rulers fought the English/Norman rule from 1066 to 1282, but even after the Welsh conquest by Edward I, other men stepped up to foment rebellion, some with more success than others.
One was Madog ap Llywelyn (1294-95): Frustrated by high taxes, forced levies for Edward’s wars, misuse of power by his officers (sound familiar?), Madog rose to lead an organized rebellion at Michelmas in 1294, just as Edward was preparing to cross the English Channel for a continental campaign. He immediately abandoned that plan and turned his attention to Wales. http://www.medievalists.net/files/08100401.pdf
Madog himself wasn’t particularly noble in his ideals–he was a distant relative of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd but who had not been an ally. Back in 1256 the Prince of Wales dispossessed his family of their lands, they fled to England and to Edward. Upon Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s death, Madog expected a return to his fortunes, expectations which failed to materialize. Madog’s forces overran Caernarfon and occupied the castle. Other castles across Wales were besieged and many towns put to the flame, including Caerfphilly, Harlech, and Conwy. http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/Madog_ap_Llywelyn Ultimately, of course, Edward’s armies defeated Madog’s and captured him.
A second was Llywelyn Bren in 1316 who rebelled against Edward II, somewhat despite himself. His real argument was with Sir Payn Turberville whom Edward had appointed to rule Glamorgan after the death of its Earl. As always seemed to be the case with these royal, English appointments, he was tyrannical and vicious. Llywelyn made some statement to that effect, which Turberville reported to Edward II, who then called Llywelyn to account. Instead of allowing Edward to hang him, he fled and fomented rebellion, although he ultimately surrendered rather than have the full weight of the Marche brought down on his countrymen’s head. This page has a detailed description of what went on: http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/2010/01/uprising-in-south-wales-1316.html
Ultimately, Hugh Despenser had Llywelyn removed from the Tower of London and murdered.
My daughter says that Castell y Bere is in ‘the freaking middle of nowhere’ which is why King Edward couldn’t convince any English settlers to live there after he conquered Wales. Plus ‘it’s really, really windy.’
Potentially, that is all you need to know about Castell y Bere, but if that turned you away from visiting, that would be unfortunate. Historically, Castell y Bere was also one of the most important castles of the Welsh Princes–certainly it is one of the largest and most elaborate. It sits on elongated plateau of rock in the Upper Dysynni Valley. Because of its central location (at the time), it helped Llywelyn Fawr, who built it, control the territory along the old mountain road from Cadair Idris to Dolgellau. It also guards the territory between the Dyfi and Mawddach estuaries (see above mentioned ‘freaking middle of nowhere’). Llywelyn built it with luxuries in mind, and included stained glass windows, inlaid tile, and stone carvings (Paul Davis, Castles of the Welsh Princes).
Llywelyn Fawr began the castle after a dispute with his son, Gruffydd in 1221 AD. Llywelyn took these territories for himself, and began work on Castell y Bere. His grandson, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, added onto the structures, eventually creating a sprawling complex of buildings, surrounded by a system of walls and ditches that made the castle virtually impossible to assault. It was the last castle to be taken in 1283, after the fall of Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, surrendering to King Edward’s forces without a fight.
King Edward maintained the castle (to the tune of 265 pounds) from 1286 to 1290, but Adrian Pettifer states in his book Welsh Castles, ‘the castle proved too remote to be supplied in times of siege.’ It was burned during Madog ap Llywelyn’s uprising in 1294 and never restored.
Shaked like a coward … all the courses of my life do show
I am not in the roll of commen men.
–Shakespeare (Henry IV)
Born in 1349, at the height of the Black Plague, Owain Glyndwr lived in a turbulent time in Wales. With the defeat of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in 1282, Wales became nothing more than a vassal to the English crown and the vast majority of the native rulers were dead or unseated by English barons. Glyndwr’s family had supported Llywelyn, but had allied themselves with the Mortimers and Lestranges afterwards such that they got to keep their lands.
As was so often the case in Wales, however, Glyndwr found himself in trouble when he “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 himPrince of Wales.” http://www.castlewales.com/glyndwr.html
By 1403, Glyndwr controlled most of Wales and “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. At Machynlleth, he was also crowned king of a free Wales. A second parliament in Harlech took place a year later, with Glyndwr making plans to carve up England and Wales into three, as part of an alliance against the English king: Mortimer would take the south and west of England, Thomas Percy, earl of Northumberland, would have the midlands and the north, and himself Wales and the Marches of England.” http://www.castlewales.com/glyndwr.html
Over the next few years, Glyndwr’s power and influence began to wane, especially after King Henry IV of England was able to turn his attention from the Scots to the Welsh. In 1409, Mortimer and Glyndwr’s family were captured and taken to the Tower of London. Although Henry V offered Glyndwr a pardon in 1413, he refused it. There is no record of what happened to him after that, and no location for his death and burial. For historical purposes, he vanished.
Owain Glyndwy is immortalized in Shakespeare’s play, King Henry IV:
“The Earl of Northumberland, his son Henry Percy [Harry Hotspur] and the Archbishop of York, began rebellions against Henry. They joined with the Mortimer family and Owain Glyndwr, there plan was to overthrow Henry IV, and divide the kingdom into three parts – the northern part for the Northumberland family, the southern part for the Mortimers, Wales and the western midlands of England for Owain Glyndwr. However the rebellion failed.” http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~yawn/h4sh.htm
This bears a fascinating resemblance to Clare, Prince Llywelyn, and Simon de Montfort’s plans to divide England and Wales 150 years earlier.
“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.
Sorry … this map is not in English! But I think we can figure it out anyway.
The Templars had as yet neither distinctive habit nor rule. Hugues de Payens journeyed to the West to seek the approbation of the Church and to obtain recruits. At the Council of Troyes (1128), at which he assisted and at which St. Bernard was the leading spirit, the Knights Templars adopted the Rule of St. Benedict, as recently reformed by the Cistercians. They accepted not only the three perpetual vows, besides the crusader’svow, but also the austere rules concerning the chapel, the refectory, and the dormitory. They also adopted the white habit of the Cistercians, adding to it a red cross.
Notwithstanding the austerity of the monastic rule, recruits flocked to the new order, which thenceforth comprised four ranks of brethren:
The order grew after that, gaining power and reach within the next century:
“By spring of 1129 Templars had established a strong foothold in France, England and Scotland. In Scotland, around Aberdeen alone, a substantial quantity of Templar property was held including houses and churches in Turiff, Tullich, Maryculter, Aboyne, and Kingcausie. South of Aberdeen at Culter, they possessed a huge estate of no less than 8,000 acres.
By the second half of the 12th century the Order was flourishing and had become one of the leading landowners in Syria and Palestine. Funds and recruits continued to arrive from Europe and in order to manage this great wealth the Templars became experts in banking. By as early as 1148 they were moneylenders, despite the Church ban on usury and they soon had one of the most efficient banking networks in the western world. Pilgrims could now not only rely upon the protection of the Templars but could deposit money at their local preceptory and withdraw it as required by producing a letter of credit at any other preceptory.
With a common Rule, the Order’s legal and economic status was similar in almost every country, however it was only in the great capitols – London, Rome and Paris – that financial dealings took precedence. Outside the capitols, each commander or preceptor used his allotted lands in the appropriate way – farming, spinning, brewing and baking.
The Order’s military reputation and strength was also growing swiftly. Throughout the 12th century the Templars, together with the Hospitaller knights, were the finest fighting force in the Holy Lands. In time however, partly because fewer recruits could be found who were willing to die for the faith and partly due to growing rivalry between the various military orders which had now been created, the Templars’ military strength in the Holy Land began to decline.
When Acre fell to the Moslems in 1291, after a siege of the castle which lasted weeks and included fire bombs, catapults and mines, the Holy Land was lost forever. Over 20,000 Templar knights and sergeants had met their deaths since the Order’s inception. The Templars had lands in Cyprus and it was here that they created a new headquarters in the Middle East.
Other than a few unsuccessful raids on the Syrian and Egyptian coasts, the 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 Phillip the Fair (Phillip IV) of France.” http://www.mostly-medieval.com/explore/temphist.htm
This was the beginning of the end for the Templars. On Friday the 13th (and this is the reason the day is unlucky, or so I understand), Philippe of France arrested all of the Knight Templars in Paris and confiscated all of their money. “King Phillip’s audacious plan was to arrest every Templar in France, charge them with heresy, and exact immediate confessions from them by torture before Pope Clement V or anyone else could protest on their behalf. By making the charges religious in nature, Phillip would be seen not as an avaricious thief, but as a noble servant of God.
Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, had been called to Poitiers, France, for the purpose of discussing with the new pope a new crusade to retake the Holy Land. For almost two years, he shuttled back and forth between the pope and King Phillip, essentially stamping out various diplomatic fires, such as the proposal to merge all the military orders.
In June 1307, de Molay rode into Paris at the head of a column of his knights, with a dozen horses laden with gold and silver, to begin the financing of the new Crusade. For the next several months, Phillip treated the aging Grand Master with interest and diplomacy, and de Molay believed he and the Order were at a new turning point. He didn’t know how right he was.
The end began at dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307. The sealed order to Phillip’s bailiffs had gone out a full month before. It was accompanied by a personal letter from the king, filled with lofty prose about how heart-rending it was to be compelled to do his duty, while detailing frightening accusations against the Templars. The letter would have had an eye-popping effect on the king’s men, and their secrecy was undoubtedly assured. The sealed arrest order was not to be opened until the appointed day.
At this time, France was the most populous nation of Europe, even including Russia. And it was no tiny country either; France took up more than 40,000 square miles, an enormous area to cover from the back of a horse. Yet Phillip IV managed to carry off a stunning piece of work. Hundreds of the king’s men simultaneously opened letters all over the country ordering them to converge on every Templar castle, commandery, preceptory, farm, vineyard, or mill.
It was shockingly effective, instantly chopping off the head of the Order. Phillip obviously had a hit list of the most important knights to nab. Accounts differ wildly, but the most respected ones agree that 625 members of the Order were arrested in the first wave. These included the Grand Master; the Visitor-General; the Preceptors of Normandy, Cyprus, and Aquitaine; and the Templars’ Royal Treasurer.” http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/king-phillip-iv-pope-clement-v-and-the-fall-of-th0.html
Within British (and by that I mean Welsh/Cymry/Celtic) legend, a High Council–a Parliament of a sort–existed in the Dark Ages to choose a “high king”. One of these high kings, according to legend, was King Arthur. Later, during Arthur’s reign, he instituted his ’round table’, a gathering of equals, to discuss the troubles in his realm. Or so the story goes.
But did this High Council ever exist?
The answer is ‘yes’–certainly during the reign of the last Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. In 1282 when Edward I of England wrote his letters to Llywelyn and Dafydd, demanding that they concede defeat, he also wrote a letter to the ‘Council of Wales’, laying out his case. To this they responded:
“The people of Snowdonia for their part state that even if the prince desired to give the king seisin of them, they themselves would not do homage to any stranger, of whose language, customs and laws they are utterly ignorant. For by doing so they could be brought into perpetual captivity and barbarously treated . . .” http://garthcelyn.com/letters_14.html
Our evidence for a council of ‘Britain’ (which in the post-Roman occupation period did include all of what is now England and Wales) is first and foremost, Gildas. He writes: “Then all the council members, together with that proud tyrant [theoretically, Vortigern], were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheep-fold), the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of the northern nation.”
From Robert Vermaat: “What Gildas does not do is describe Vortigern as a sole ruler, or a ‘High King’ if you will. He rules as a king, but together with a Council, the members of which are rulers of their own territory. Gildas sees this as a logical but reprehensible evolution from the usurpation of Magnus Maximus, which has seen the progressive disintegration of the British territory from one single state (diocese) into several smaller kingdoms without overlord in Gildas’ day.
Though in the days of Vortigern this was clearly not the case, and Vortigern’s decisions seem to be obeyed in the whole diocese. Dumville has proposed that there is nothing to suggest that Vortigern’s rule did not encompass the whole diocese. But Vortigern is not ruling alone, as observed above. He has power over magistrates, who later evolve into sub-kings or provincial rulers, but that power may have been wielded by the Council as a whole, for Gildas puts the blame with all of them. Gildas does not mention the Council in this function elsewhere, or so it seems. Gildas does seem to indicate, however, that the members of the council in the days of Vortigern had become the warring princes of his own days.” http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artsou/gildvort.htm
That a council of Britain existed appears to have been a common understanding throughout the subsequent centuries, as Geoffrey of Monmouth, writing in the twelfth century mentions it often. He states that Britains ‘flocked together from all parts and in a council held at Silchester,’ and crowned Constantine High King; furthermore, Aurelius holds a council in chapter 7 and 8 of book 6; and Arthur in chapter 1 and 16 of book 9.
Additional mention of some kind of council is found in the Chronicle of the Princes (Red Book of Hergest). From 1096: “And the Britons, having retreated to their strongest places, according to their usual custom, agreed in council to save Mona.”
Chronicle of the Princes (Ystrad Fflur). From 1220: “Llywelyn, prince of Gwynedd, gathered to him the princes and leading men of all Wales. . .”
1258: “In this year all the Welsh made a pact together, and they gave an oath to maintain loyalty and agreement together, under pain of excommunication upon whomsoever of them broke it.”
Certainly the power of the Council was not constant, and in part depended upon the unity of Wales as a whole and the individual authority of the ruling high king, and later Prince.
As to whether King Arthur was ever high king? At this point, we just don’t know.
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).
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.
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).
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
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).