April 24, 2011 by

Things Fall Apart–the End of an Independent Wales


Categories: Research, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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).

2 Responses to Things Fall Apart–the End of an Independent Wales

  1. Dan

    The comparison with Things Fall Apart may not be particularly apt for the point you’re making. TFA was about a change in the hegemonic cultural framework within which people made sense of the world in which they lived. The story that you are telling is essentially one of military conquest. There may have been the cultural shift as well, but it’s not reflected in this post. 🙂

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