King Edward I of England - Sarah Woodbury

King Edward I of England

King Edward is often viewed by historians as a strong king–one of the strongest, in fact. The people he conquered might not argue with that–only in equating ‘strong’ with ‘good’. He had many accomplishments during his reign that are viewed as beneficial to England–which from a certain perspective is true. One could argue (and I do) that conquering other peoples, while bringing in wealth in the short term, does long-term damage not only to the oppressed but the oppressor.

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 skillful 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, says I.

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 (

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.”

My video series ‘Making Sense of Medieval Britain’ provides a framework for understanding the development of medieval Britain–and can help make sense of Edward as well, though more tempered by the perceptions of the conquered than the pro-Edward sites.



23 Replies to “King Edward I of England”

  1. Hi, Sarah.

    This is nothing along the learned line of your discussion with David, but I just wanted to let you know how fascinating it was to read about my ancient, illustrious and wayward family members in your first two After Cilmeri books. It was quite a surprise (and not entirely pleasant) to discover a while back through genealogy that Edward (along with Humphrey de Bohun and William de Braose and others, through various issue and marriages) were my direct ancestors, twenty-plus generations ago. (It shouldn’t really be such a surprise, considering how many of our early 17th century colonial settlers were sons of landed gentry of royal descent, and how many of us plain ol’ 21st century Americans are their descendants.) I’ve known something of the history, but to realize ‘that’s family’ puts it in a whole different light. (I was even able to figure out that Prince Llywelyn was my 1st cousin, 24 times removed.) Realizing, of course, the element of fiction, I still find it fascinating to read your stories in the context of knowing that these were real people (well, not sure about Meg et. al.) and real family. Keep up the good work!


    1. Thank you for commenting! It is pretty amazing to feel that connection. How fun to have so many ‘illustrious’ ancestors 🙂 I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the books!

            1. You asked a series of questions on my opinions of Edward I and Wales. I’ve listed below with my answers under each.

              a) Edward’s conquest of Wales wasn’t really a conquest because he was invited in.

              It was certainly a conquest, though I have encountered some recent (Welsh) historians who deny that, and prefer to term it a military occupation. For me, if one country permanently takes over the legislative and financial systems of another, let alone the castle-building and exploitation of resources etc, then it is a conquest.
              Edward wasn’t invited into Wales, because he was already there. Llywelyn and his immediate predecessors were vassals of the English crown, and had been since Dafydd ap Owain Gwynedd swore fealty to Henry II. Dafydd ap Llywelyn tried to break this cycle by making Wales a fiefdom of the papacy instead of England, but was undercut by Henry III who bought off the pope before he could agree to Dafydd’s petition.
              Via the Treaty of Montgomery, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd bound Wales even tighter to the English crown, because his authority as Prince of Wales was dependent on his homage to Henry III and his successor, Edward. Llywelyn frequently acknowledged this in his letters. When he joined the rebellion against Edward in 1282 – for whatever reason – then via the legal code of the day he was a vassal in arms against his feudal overlord. He thus stood to lose Gwynedd via the law of escheat, which indeed he did (along with his head).

              b) English rule of Wales really didn’t have much of an impact on the people below the princely level, who hadn’t liked Llywelyn or supported him anyway.

              I would say this is true with regard to a great number of the uchelwyr, many of whom joined Edward’s armies in 1277. There was more of an even split in 1282, although some chose to join neither party. Madog ap Llywelyn, for instance, didn’t join either Edward or Llywelyn in that conflict. If you look at what happened to the uchelwyr after the conquest, almost all of them were left unmolested in their lands. Obviously they are no longer around to voice their opinion; we can only judge them on their actions.

              c) the ulechyr served Edward before and after Llywelyn’s death, preferred him even, since he was a better and more reasonable ruler than Llywelyn, and had few regrets about the English takeover of Wales

              Many of the uchelwyr did indeed serve the crown before Llywelyn’s death, or even before he became prince. I can list individuals and careers if you wish. Many of rhe princes who fought for Edward in 1277 certainly switched back to Llywelyn in 1282, but we shouldn’t get the two social groups mixed up. There are many reasons why the princes swung back and forth, but that is a different conversation.

              d) the common people’s lives were mostly unchanged, and if they were changed, it was for the better.

              This is another different conversation. The lives of the Welsh peasantry weren’t exactly a bed of roses under the native princes, but they undoubtedly suffered under English occupation. They were evicted in favour of English settlers, forced to live on inferior land, obliged to pay all kinds of new taxes – etc etc. I have no argument there.

              Unfortunately the uchelwyr played their part in the oppression of the common people. Bleddyn ap Rhiwallon, for instance, was one of the wealthiest uchelwyr in Gwynedd after the conquest. He gained a senior position in the administration of the Earl of Lincoln in the newly created lordship of Denbighshire, and was put in charge of evicting Welsh communities. He performed this role with gusto and got very rich doing it. In 1294 Bleddyn joined the revolt of Madog, only to be pardoned and go back to his old job.

              1. Okay, great.
                I appreciate you clarifying.

                I’m sitting here realizing that I don’t even know where to begin unpacking what you’ve said here. It isn’t that I disagree with everything. There are details with which I entirely concur. But just to give an example, this point alone where you say: “via the legal code of the day he was a vassal in arms against his feudal overlord” as if there was an unbiased legal framework in which Edward was merely an impartial enforcer of the law reveals a vast divide in our fundamental understanding of the way the world works and the culture/society/history of the people of medieval Wales.

                Thank you for your engagement. I respect your the amount of time and effort you’ve put into crafting your position, even if I don’t agree with its foundation. Feel free to add on, and I will continue to approve your comments.

                For anyone following along, here’s a list of works for further reading that David may want to add to:
                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:
                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.

                1. Well there was an unbiased legal framework. Llywelyn ap G held his principality of Wales as a vassal of the King of England. That was the substance of the Treaty of Montgomery and indeed the feudal relationship between the lords of Gwynedd and kings of England going back at least a century before that date. I don’t see how else it can perceived? Llywelyn himself acknowledged it on any number of occasions.

    1. Hi David! Thank you for commenting. You are absolutely right that a nuanced approach to an analysis of the Edwardian conquest is always better. I am concerned, however, about the straw-man argument stated up front by Stephenson: ‘this book re-examines the commonly held view that the Edwardian conquest brought hardship and nothing else to the people of Wales’. If anyone does hold this view, of course it needs to be examined, since it is so polemical and unhelpful. That some, or even many Welsh people, prospered eventually under English rule is certainly true.

      But at the same time, we will never know if the lives of those same people, or of the common people in general, would have been better or worse under Llywelyn and subsequent rule by a native Welsh prince/king, since Edward deposed the native ruler of Wales and took the country by force. Certainly, the lives of the majority of Welsh in Gwynedd and Denbigh post-1282 were not better for many years, given the taxation and numerous restrictions placed upon them specifically that were not applied to the Welsh in other parts of Wales. I’m sure I don’t need to enumerate them here except to say that the repercussions of Edward’s choices reverberated down the centuries.

      1. I think it might be helpful in these discussions if Edward himself is shunted aside a little bit, and the actual choices of the Welsh people are looked at. I’m thinking specifically of the uchelwyr or landholders below the rank of prince, and elements of the ministerial elite inside Gwynedd. These were the men who deserted Llywelyn en masse in the crucial war of 1276-77 and defected to Edward I, a blow the prince never recovered from. Why they deserted is something Stephenson – among others, such as the late Glyn Roberts – seeks to analyse.

        Regarding Llywelyn’s governance of Wales, we do know a fair about how he ruled the principality, and it isn’t a pretty picture. The big problem he had was meeting the payments required in exchange for his title via the Treaty of Montgomery. This meant he had to turn Gwynedd into a fiscal state along English lines as quickly as possible, and his methods were heavy-handed and unpopular.

        Some evidence for this (among other sources) can be gleaned from the ‘Gravamina’ or grievances of the community of Gwynedd Uwch Conwy, which were set before Bishop Anian of Bangor in 1283. I quote:

        ‘The prince used to take townships for his own use, or to grant them to others in return for services, but the burden of that township remained upon the community or upon other such townships, and it is a great wrong to place the burden of one township upon another. The prince took great and small lands without the consent of the heirs and placed his cattle-pastures and plough lands there, and took profit from land which was sold, something which no other prince did except him alone…the prince frequently waged war against you, lord king, without consulting his people and without seeking and obtaining their agreement, and when, in the course of time, peace was made between you and him he made his men pay three pence a year for every great beast, yet he was not willing to pay anything from his treasure deposited at Dolwyddelan and elsewhere…in the time of Llywelyn the measure of wine, corn and beer was increased…the prince made the noblemen of Meirionnydd bear the cost of horses to carry burden and perform his duties, and demanded pasture for other horses, something which had never occurred before his time. In Arfon, where before the time of the prince there were only one courthouse, one bailiff and two servants, now they are doubled. There the prince made villeins out of noblemen…Never in the past have these or similar wrongs been attempted or contemplated by any prince or king except by the said prince Llywelyn. For this reason the people pray God that remedy may be brought against such matters.’

        2 August 1283. Complaints levied against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd by representatives of the community of Gwynedd before Anian, Bishop of Bangor, at Nancall in Arfon. Llinos Beverley-Smith, ‘The Gravamina of the Community of Gwynedd against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, XXXI, 1984, pp173-6

        1. I understand what you’re saying about Llywelyn’s governance, but putting Edward aside makes little sense as it was Llywelyn’s obligations to Edward that pushed him to tax his people–and of course, by 1307, the taxes Edward collected in Gwynedd were triple what Llywelyn had extracted, hardly a ‘pretty picture’ either. In addition, Bishop Anian was a supporter of English dominance, in part because of the Church’s objections to Welsh law, and those quotes come from Welshmen prostrating themselves before their new king and apologizing for ever following Llywelyn in a time where they really just hoped to hang on to anything they had. By talking about Llywelyn’s rule in this light, it sounds like you’re saying it was okay for King Edward to conquer Wales, depose its native leadership, and make it a colony of England because Llywelyn was a bad ruler. He might have been a bad ruler, as these quotes indicate. But justifying Edward’s conquest this way skates really close to saying that it’s okay to conquer another people because your culture/rule/laws etc. are superior.

          I’m not saying Llywelyn was the best ruler ever. I’m not saying Edward was a bad person. I’m not saying that some people didn’t prosper under their new Anglo-Norman overlords or many weren’t complicit in their own subjugation and profited from it. But Wales was England’s first colony and it was by Edward’s hand that it was created, after which England’s policy was to extract everything possible from Wales, to the benefit of the king and England rather than the Welsh. And that policy lasted for centuries.

          This isn’t some kind of judgment on England or King Edward, or Llywelyn and Wales, for that matter. I have spent the last 20 years striving to understand the way these people thought and what drove them to make the choices they did. I’m an American, whose country has done plenty of its own colonization. We all have to come to terms with the past and the choices our ancestors made–as horrible or as great as those choices may look in today’s light–in order to understand the present. That doesn’t make us responsible for what happened in the past–only what we do going forward, and if we aren’t clear-eyed about what actually happened, then we can’t tease out what’s based in reality and what is myth-making.

          1. Well, the first paragraph of your response is hardly a clear-eyed narrative of events. The gravamina I quoted do indeed date from 1283, after the initial phase of conquest, but the content of the complaints can be traced back to the previous decade and beyond. For instance, the allegation that Llywelyn levied a tax of three pence per head of beast was first voiced in 1277. And so on.

            I didn’t use the gravamina to justify the conquest of Wales. That is you putting words in my mouth. What I said was it would be helpful to look at the actual motives of those Welshmen who chose to support Edward against Llywelyn. The harsh reality is that the majority of the Welsh political community – with the sole exception of Madog ap Gruffudd, lord of Powys Fadog – defected to Edward in 1277. That has surely got to be a theme worth investigating.

            Before you say it, I am not implying that they joined Edward because they were in love with the guy: that was my point about pushing Edward himself aside a bit, because his critics with regard to Wales appear to have a morbid obsession with his alleged character traits. Whether or not he was the most wicked man who ever lived has no bearing on the choices made by the Welsh people at a crucial time. The majority of them probably never even saw Edward, or regarded him as anything more than a preferable choice to Llywelyn. As AD Carr said, the realities of feudal lordship in this era meant that vassals often served two masters, and thus had somewhere else to go.

            In short, the conquest of Wales cannot be adequately explained as the Big Bad Ted stomping all over those poor defenceless Cymru, who didn’t have a clue what to do. That is to rob them of agency.

            1. Hi David–
              The conquest of Wales cannot be adequately explained as Big Bad King Edward stomping all over the Welsh. The Welsh are notorious for switching sides, as Dafydd ap Llywelyn spent his whole life doing, ultimately starting the 1282 war against Edward this time, or later Rhys ap Maredudd, who alone of all the noblemen of Wales did NOT adhere to Llywelyn in the 1282 war, then turned around and rebelled in 1287, now that rule by Edward wasn’t what he’d hoped.

              My point is that I don’t think, as you said, that “It really is time the discussion moved on from pro or anti-stances and the ‘conquered peoples’ narrative.” I don’t think it’s time. I think, honestly, that you can do both. Let’s talk about Llywelyn’s rule and whether or not he served his people well. But what we cannot do is justify Edward’s conquest by whether or not Llywelyn was better or worse than Edward. It’s clear from what happened after 1282 that the native Welsh of Gwynedd, whether or not they defected to Edward, discovered how horribly they miscalculated. They had no idea what ‘worse’ was until Edward took their country.

              Nor do I think you can say in the slightest that the majority of Welsh saw Edward as ‘a preferable choice to Llywelyn.’ All but Rhys ap Maredudd supported him in 1282. The vast majority defected after his death and didn’t support Dafydd, for obvious reasons, really. We have no records of what the common people thought. Maybe they thought one leader was as good as any other. But I doubt it.

              In our exchange a few years ago, I quoted the Council of Wales, which you rejected as a source because it was ‘propaganda’, but it seems to me no less credible in terms of insight to the thinking of the nobles at the time than the quotes from Bishop Anian you included.

              “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 …”

              R.R. Davies’ The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093-1343
              looks at these complicated issues with insight and clarity.

              1. RR Davies is a great source, of course, and I am yet to get through all his works. I’m currently (on and off) reading his history of the March, very useful.

                With regard to the support Edward had in 1282. Rhys ap Maredudd was not the only one of the princes to fight for him: Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn and his sons did so as well. This was all part of the age-old conflict between the houses of Dinefwr and Mathrafal against the house of Aberffraw, of course.

                However, I go back to my point about the uchelwyr. It is this class, the landholders below the rank of prince, whom we really need to be looking at. They formed the ministerial elite under the princes, and it was their decision-making that really determined the fate of Wales.

                I’ll quote a few examples. The ‘Wyrion Eden’ – the lineage descended from Ednyfed Fychan, Llywelyn ab Iorwerth’s distain or seneschal – by and large supported Edward throughout. In 1277 pretty much the entire family was accused along with the Dominicans of Bangor of conspiring to defect to Edward. One of them, Hywel ap Gruffudd, died fighting for the English at the battle on the Menai Strait in November 1282. His brother Rhys was a persistent crown loyalist, as was his more famous son, Sir Gruffudd Llwyd.

                What were the motives of these men, and many like them? If you look in the Littere Wallie, edited by JG Edwards, there are over 60 individual cases of Llywelyn forcing members of the uchelwyr to hand over hostages or cash bonds on threat of disinheritance. These date from the mid-1260s onwards, so Llywelyn was clearly struggling to enforce loyalty among the landholding class from that point on.

                In 1277 Hywel ap Meurig, a freeman of Builth whose son Llywelyn took hostage, raised an army of 2700 Welshmen of Builth, Radnor and Powys to invade Gwynedd on Edward’s behalf. There is an obvious correlation between Llywelyn’s treatment of these men and their response. One of the constables who served in this army was Madog ap Llywelyn, who would himself rebel against Edward in 1294. He fought against Llywelyn in 1277 because the prince had driven his family from Meirionydd and murdered one of his servants; the details of this can be found in the Welsh Assize Roll.

                Then there is Morgan ap Maredudd, a lord of Senghenydd. In 1270 his father’s lands were stolen by Gilbert de Clare. Three years later he was summoned to Gwynedd to do homage to Llywelyn, who then ejected him from his last estate in Hirfryn. Unsurprisingly, Morgan developed a cynical attitude towards politics and spent the rest of his days serving Edward as a spy and military captain.

                Etc etc. In your last response you referred to Welshmen who were complicit in their own subjugation. I find statements like that so frustrating, because they are based on massive assumptions. When you take a closer look at this subject, the popular or traditional interpretations fall to bits. From the perspective of men like Hywel or Madog, who was the ‘subjugator’? The king of England, or the Prince of Wales who took their children hostage, murdered their servants and seized their lands?

                With regard to the aftermath of conquest, few of the above had much cause to regret it. Hywel and Morgan earned great rewards and the sons of Hywel rose high in royal service under Edward II. Madog was the exception, of course, but even so he remained a royal servant for thirty years before he tried to set himself up as Prince of Wales.

                1. Honestly at this point, I am not understanding where you are going with this. Is the overall point that Edward was justified in conquering Wales because the ulechyr preferred his rule to Llywelyn’s?

                  Even if I granted you that point, which I don’t, actually, since there are far more examples of them supporting Llywelyn than opposing him–after five years of Edward’s rule between 1277 and 1282, the vast majority if not all but Rhys and Gruffydd (and Gruffydd was not one of the lesser nobles), including many of the descendants of Ednyfed Fychan, supported Llywelyn in the 1282 war. By that time and belatedly, they had learned what life under Edward was going like and preferred Llywelyn. Even Dafydd learned it, as evidenced by the fact that he began the 1282 war. Llywelyn didn’t even join in until June, after his wife’s death and the Battle of Llandeilo Fawr. At which point, he was their leader again. Why? Why if he was so terrible didn’t one of these others step up? Because Llywelyn was the only one everyone would follow.

                  And that’s not even touching upon the other interpretation of these ulechyr–that they were only out for themselves and cared not one whit for their own people. To be fair, Edward had only been crowned king in 1274, so he hadn’t had the opportunity to show them what his rule would really look like. By 1282 they knew better. And after 1282, most were stripped of their lands anyway, certainly throughout Gwynedd, where they were now subject to Henry de Lacy east of the Conwy and the king himself to the west. By 1284, almost all land in Gwynedd was held by the English. The specific numbers of acres and the situation is laid out in James Given’s “The Economic Consequences of the English Conquest of Gwynedd” in Speculum vol. 64.

                  He also has charts of the specific tax revenue accrued to the crown, double and in some cases triple what the ulechyr complained about to Bishop Anian. Little did they know …

                  1. Sarah, I’m afraid you are simply incorrect on most points. That is not me being arrogant, but some of your statements have me tearing my hair out. Will you PLEASE widen your reading on this subject.

                    The majority of the uchelwyr were NOT disinherited after 1283: Edward did in fact issue a general amnesty towards landowners in Wales after the war was over, as he did after the war of Madog in 1294-5. The details of these amnesties can be found in the Record of Caernarvon and are quoted in AD Carr, J Beverley Smith etc. Further details can be found on the online National Archives catalogue, if you care to look.

                    You keep coming back to this ‘justification’ for the conquest, as if that is some kind of trump card in your argument. What I am arguing is that key members of the Welsh landholding class abandoned Llywelyn at crucial times, and there are very tangible reasons for this. You have brushed aside all the Welshmen I have quoted, even though they were just select examples. I know Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn was not a ‘lesser noble’ and indeed stated as much, so I’m not sure why you made that point.

                    I believe you picked up on the Given article it after I posted a link to it on a Facebook forum. The top levels of administration were indeed occupied by Englishmen and Savoyards in the immediate postconquest period. The lower levels were occupied by the uchelwyr, pretty much the same families who had held them under the Llywelyns. There was no large-scale displacement of these men. All that happened is that one overlord – Llywelyn – was swapped for another – Edward. You’re confusing the destruction of the princely dynasty of Aberffraw with large-scale displacement of Welsh landowners in general, which didn’t happen.

                    It is quite true that certain members of the uchelwyr, who were descended from Welsh princes and Ednyfed Fychan, supported Madog in 1294: their names appear as signatories on the Penmachno document. These same men had previously supported Edward: Gruffydd ap Tudur, for example, was the royal constable of Dolwyddelan. After Madog was defeated, they all went back into Edward’s peace and served him for the rest of their days. They were simply trying to survive; this is what people do and have always done.

                    As regards the motives of the uchelwyr, again you are putting words in my mouth. I tend to agree with Carr, who stated they cannot be labelled quislings or traitors: they were simply concerned, like everyone else, with the survival of their own lordships. As regards caring for their own people, it made far more sense to serve the greater power – Llywelyn one minute, Edward the next, whoever – because to do otherwise was to risk total destruction for themselves and those who dwelled on their lands. Their concerns have to be separated from those of the princes, who operated at a different and under different pressures.

                    1. Hi David!
                      I absolutely agree with the last points you are making. They swapped leaders because it made sense to serve the greater power and they were just trying to survive. As you recall, that was part of my point about the Bishop Anian letter in 1283 after Llywleyn’s death. Of course they were going to bow to Edward and do whatever it took to get back into his good graces. And my quote about the English owned all the land in Gwynedd was directly from the Givens article on page 16 (I’ve had this article for many years, FYI, though it’s great you posted it). It is important to point out that what happened in Gwynedd was not the same as in Powys or other parts of Wales, as I’ve said. Givens goes on to say that in Denbigh by 1334, 96 of the 104 settlements in the lordship, or 92.3%, were escheated to the English. But yes, the majority of land was still held by Welshmen, and as Givens says again, “The English exploitation of their new possessions in Gwynedd primarily took the form of fiscal exactions” (24), to the tune, as I said of 2 to 3 times what Llywelyn extracted.

                      But all this is getting into the weeds and we could quote things at each other all day. The issue at this point, for me, is if you could please clarify your thesis? I hear you as saying a) Edward’s conquest of Wales wasn’t really a conquest because he was invited in; b) English rule of Wales really didn’t have much of an impact on the people below the princely level, who hadn’t liked Llywelyn or supported him anyway; c) the ulechyr served Edward before and after Llywelyn’s death, preferred him even, since he was a better and more reasonable ruler than Llywelyn, and had few regrets about the English takeover of Wales; d) the common people’s lives were mostly unchanged, and if they were changed, it was for the better.

                      If that is not your thesis, could you please reiterate?

  2. I would seriously recommend you read Dr David Stephenson’s new book on medieval Wales, which focuses on interpretations on the conquest of Wales and Edward’s relationship with the Welsh. It really is time the discussion moved on from pro or anti-stances and the ‘conquered peoples’ narrative.

  3. Sounds as though you are getting ready for another book Sarah.Hope your time in Wales provides you with loads of inspiration. Did you see Llewelyns statue in Conwy?

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