The Lords of Dudley and the Rebellions of Llwelyn ap Gruffudd (Part 1)

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LLwelyn ap Gruffydd form a medieval manuscript

In my article in the October 2008 edition of Ramparts I detailed the participation of Roger de Somery III of Dudley Castle in suppressing the uprising of Rhys ap Maredudd (1287-1292). I noted that de Somery had also taken part in Edward I’s campaign against the Welsh Prince Llwelyn ap Gruffudd and his brother Dafydd, (1282-1283). In this article, (to be continued in the next issue) I will explore this rebellion and Llwelyn’s earlier one, in which Roger de Somery II (1235-1272) was involved


 (Please note: the word “ap” in Welsh names, means “son of”.)


            Llwelyn ap Gruffudd, (also known as “Llwelyn the Last”), was the grandson of Llwelyn ap Iowerth, (“Llwelyn the Great”), ruler of the Welsh Kingdom of Gwynedd, who had married Joan, the illegitimate daughter of King John (1167-1216).  As a result, Llwelyn ap Ioworth was recognised as the ruler of Wales, not only by King John but also by his son, Henry III, (1207-1272), although he paid homage to them both. With Llwelyn’s death in 1240, Llwelyn’s son and heir, Dafydd ap Llwelyn took the throne of Gwynedd and that of Wales.


Henry III affirmed Dafydd’s right to rule – although Henry insisted that the rulers of other Welsh kingdoms were his vassals not Dafydd’s. Henry, however, was concerned that Dafydd’s brother, Gruffudd, could be a focus for rebels and imprisoned him in the Tower of London. On St. David’s Day, 1244, Gruffudd attempted to escape down a rope of sheets knotted together. The sheets broke and he plunged to his death. Dafydd then formed an alliance with other Welsh nobles. Alarmed by this Henry invaded Wales.  However, Dafydd died suddenly, leaving Henry to claim the kingdom of Gwynedd.


            After the death of Dafydd ap Llwelyn, his nephews, Owain and Llwelyn ap Gruffudd, ruled Gwynedd jointly. In 1247 they paid homage to Henry at Woodstock. Under the terms of the Treaty of Woodstock they were recognized as lords of Gwynedd – although the Welsh kingdom belonged to the English. However, in 1255 Llwelyn imprisoned his brothers Owain and Dafydd after defeating them at the battle of Bryn Derwin and proclaimed himself to be the sole ruler of Gwynedd and Prince of North Wales, (Dafydd was released the following year, but Owain languished until 1277). In 1256, joining with other Welsh Lords, he swept through Wales, including the English controlled south, seizing the territories of rival Lords. Concerned at Llwelyn’s actions, Henry mustered the royal army, including Roger de Somery II and his men at Glamorgan, under the command of Stephen Bauzan, Lord of Breigan and Llansannor.


            The army left Camarthen in May 1257, attacking settlements as it moved up the Towy valley. In June it came under attack from the Welsh led by Maredudd ap Rhys and Maredudd ap Owain’s at Coed Llathen, near Llandeilo Fawr and lost its supply train and provisions. Narrowly escaping, it then headed for Cardigan under constant harassment from the Welsh force. However, the next day, at Cymerau, it was defeated by the Welsh Army. According to chroniclers, one of whom was a monk at Talley Abbey, the Welsh captured barons, ordained knights and slew more than 2,000 of the invading army including Stephen Bauzan.


By 1258, Llwelyn had established the supremacy of Gwynedd and been declared Prince of Wales.


Roger took part in two further futile attempts to defeat Llwelyn in 1258 and 1262, but he was becoming anxious about the proximity of the Welsh to Dudley castle and in 1263 he was granted permission to refortify it.


In 1264 civil war broke out between Henry III and rebel barons led by Simon de Montford, whom Llwelyn supported. When de Montford defeated Henry at the Battle of Lewes (1264) he recognized Llwelyn as the Prince of Wales. However, at the battle of Evesham in 1265, Prince Edward, Henry’s son and heir, defeated De Montford and the rebel barons.


On September 29 1268, Llwelyn signed the “Treaty of Montgomery” with Henry III and Prince Edward, at Montgomery Castle. Llwelyn swore upon the Holy Scriptures that he would abide by the treaty. Under its terms, he agreed to give his fealty, or loyalty as a servant, to the Crown of England, accepting that he held his lands as a gift from the King of England and to pay 25,000 marks (approximately 16,666) immediately to Henry and thereafter 3,000 marks (approximately 2,000) a year. Llwelyn’s annual income from his homeland Gwynedd was approximately 3,000 marks a year. He also returned the lands he had taken in Cheshire and Shropshire.


            In return, Henry granted the principality of Wales to Llwelyn and his heirs and declared that all Welsh Lords were to pay homage to Llwelyn, who took the title “Lord of Snowdonia and Prince of Wales”.


            However, two Welsh Lords – Llwelyn’s rivals – his brother, Dafydd and Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, the former Lord of Powys, were not happy with this situation and following a failed attempt to murder Llwelyn they fled to England to seek protection from Henry.


            Henry died on October 6, 1272. Prince Edward was away fighting in the Crusades. On 2 August 1274, he returned to England as King Edward I.


            Llwelyn was summoned to pay homage to the new King, but he ignored the request and refused to acknowledge Edward as his Lord. The order was made a number of times. Each time, Llwelyn refused – even when Edward captured Llwelyn’s intended bride, Eleanor de Montford, daughter of the rebel Simon de Montford. There are a number of possible reasons for this refusal:


- Llwelyn feared for his life because Edward was harbouring his rivals Prince Dafydd and Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn. If he travelled into England he may have been taken prisoner or murdered.


- In protest at the attacks on his land by Marcher Lords, (Lords who owned estates on the borders between England and Wales).


- Seeing himself as the ruler of Wales, Llwelyn may have regarded himself as an equal to Edward and didn’t believe he should have to pay homage.


To Edward, this meant rebellion and he was determined to bring Wales and Llwelyn to heel. In 1277, he summoned his lords and amassed the largest and best equipped army ever seen in England since the Norman Conquest: a thousand heavily armoured knights and over 15,000 foot soldiers from Cheshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Rutland, Shropshire and Worcestershire. It also included Welsh soldiers from Radnorshire, Brecon and Abergavenney and contingents were led by Prince Dafydd and Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn’s son, Lewis de la Pole. There were also three hundred crossbowmen, from Gascony in France and 100 archers from Macclesfield.


            In July 1277 Edward took command of the army at Worcester and began the march into Wales. He also took with him a large number of woodsmen and labourers whose job it was to remove the forests so Llwelyn’s men could not use them for cover and to build wide roads thus allowing the army to move easily. At each point the army rested Edward initiated the building of a castle.


            A fleet of ships was also launched and this was used to isolate the island of Angelesy, which supplied Llwelyn and his men with grain, thus cutting off their food supply, and to attack Welsh defensive positions along the mouth of the Conwy.


            Llwelyn was forced to retreat to his mountain strongholds in Gwynedd.  As he did so, some of his Lords deserted him, leaving him with a greatly reduced army. It was in Gwynedd that Edward’s army encircled him. Faced with starvation or death, Llwelyn surrendered.


            Llwelyn signed the “Treaty of Conwy” on 9 November 1277. Under its terms, he was to withdraw all of his forces to behind the frontiers of Gwynedd and give up any claims for land in the Marches. On 10 November 1277 at Edward’s newly constructed castle at Rhuddlan he swore allegiance to his English overlord.


            When Edward returned to London for Christmas, Llwelyn accompanied him and married Eleanor de Montford. In the presence of Edward and the nobles of the realm, Llwelyn paid homage to Edward and swore an oath that he and the nobility of Wales would hold their territories as servants of the King of England, his lord for as long as he lived. A further humiliating condition was that Llwelyn had to make this oath annually.


            Edward then proceeded to cut back the Welsh forests to remove the threat of them being used as a hiding place for rebels and outlaws and replaced Welsh law with English laws. Castles, (such as Aberystwyth, Builth, Flint and Rhuddlan), were built quickly using English labourers in strategically sited locations and around the castles, towns were established for the labourers and garrisons of the castles.


            But this was not the end…

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