Murder and Mayhem in the Early Middle Ages

It is common knowledge among anyone who’s spent time wandering the history of Wales that murder and mayhem among the ruling families for power was common. David Walker (Medieval Wales, 1990) writes:  “Early entries in the Welsh Annales are brief in the extreme, but there are hints of ugly deeds.  In 814, Griffri ap Cyngen was slain by the treachery of his brother; in 904, Merfyn ap Rhodri of Gwynedd was killed by his own men; in 969 Ieuaf ab Idwal of Gwynedd was seized by his brother Iago and imprisoned; in 974, Meurig ab Idwal was blinded” (p. 6). He further points to the book Courtier’s Trifles by Walter Map, who satirized the reign of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (1039-63 AD), who ruled all of Wales from 1055 until his death.  He writes:  “I name Hywel, whom you caused to be Read more…

William de Braose and The Red Wedding

In the Game of Thrones, ‘the red wedding’ (not to ruin it for anyone) is a massacre of epic proportions. While the author, Martin, says he based the scene on real events in Scotland, Wales had a similar incident, sad to say, this one on Christmas Day. Here is the entry from Wikipedia which is accurate as far as events go: “In 1175, William de Braose carried out the Abergavenny Massacre, luring three Welsh princes and other Welsh leaders to their deaths. His principal antagonist was a Seisyll ap Dyfnwal, of Castell Arnallt near Llanover in the valley of the River Usk near Abergavenny, whom he blamed for the death of his uncle Henry. After having invited the Welsh leaders to a Christmas feast at Abergavenny Castle under the pretence of peace and the start of a new era at the end of the year (a traditional time for settling outstanding Read more…

Who was Guinevere?

Guinevere, or Gwenhwyfar in Welsh, was King Arthur’s wife. That’s pretty much all that we know about her conclusively (bearing in mind that we can hardly be conclusive about King Arthur’s existence, either–see my posts here: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/all-about-king-arthur/). She is first named in the Welsh story of Culhwch and Olwen, a tale about a hero connected with Arthur and his warriors.  We have two manuscripts: a complete version in the Red Book of Hergest, ca. 1400, and a fragmented version in The White Book of Rhydderch, ca. 1325. It is the longest of the surviving Welsh prose tale and likely existed before the 11th century, making it the earliest Arthurian tale.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culhwch_and_Olwen In it, Arthur says:   “Since thou wilt not remain here, chieftain, thou shalt receive the boon whatsoever thy tongue may name, as far as the wind dries, and the rain moistens, and the sun revolves, Read more…

The Death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

It has been over 700 years since Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s death on 11 December 1282.  J. Beverley Smith writes: “Intimations of treachery, of breach of faith, are so often conveyed darkly, and no chronicle, nor any other source, provides the unequivocal teestomny which might enable us to unravel the threads in the various accounts of the tragic happening in the vicinity of Builth.  It was alleged at the time, or shortly afterwards, in the most explicit statement we have, that the prince’s decision to venture into the area was influenced by one of the sons of his old adversary, Roger Mortimer.  The Hagnaby chroinicler, an important source for the events of the day on which Llywelyn died, was quite definite:  Roger Mortimer, he says, but, more correctly, his brother Edmund Mortimer, drew the prince there by beseeching him to come Read more…