The Lords of Dudley and the Rebellions of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Part 2)

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In the first part of this article I described the uprising of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd against the English and his defeat by Edward I and the role of  Roger de Somery II. As a result, of his defeat in 1277 Llywelyn was forced to swear loyalty to the English Crown. Edward replaced Welsh laws with English laws and built a number of castles, garrisoning them with English Soldiers.

        By 1282, the Welsh were feeling burdened by the English Laws. They felt the English officials handled their complaints in an arrogant and patronising way, but were threatened with execution if they complained about the behaviour of their English over-lords.

        While Llywelyn was unhappy with English rule, his brother Dafydd was becoming increasingly bitter. He felt that he had not been sufficiently rewarded by Edward for his role in defeating Llwelyn and was having disputes with English officials.

        On 21 March 1282 – Palm Sunday – Dafydd and his men mounted a ferocious attack upon Hawarden castle. The castle fell quickly and according to a contemporary account, the Welsh killed:

        “…all they met with, young and old, women and children, in their beds and [devastated] afterwards with plunder and  conflagration, the greater part of the Marches…”

        There were uprisings in Brecon, Radnor and Montgomery. The castles of Flint, Rhuddlan and Llanbardan were besieged, Llanbardan being  destroyed. The towns of Flint and Oswestry were attacked and plundered and the inhabitants slaughtered. The rebels’ raids took them to the gates of Chester. They pillaged the lands of the Marchers as far as the Bristol Channel. Everywhere, the English were put to the sword. Churches and farms were burnt and appalling acts of barbarity were committed.

        Llywelyn, perhaps influenced by his wife Eleanor, did not join his brother. However, after his wife died giving birth to their daughter, Llwelyn joined the rebellion in June that year.

        King Edward considered himself to have been too lenient with the rebels previously and set out to destroy them. Once more he gathered his army at Worcester. The army comprised 750 cavalrymen and 8,180 foot soldiers, (including 50 crossbow men and 2,600 archers and mercenaries from France). The army was accompanied by 500 woodsmen and   labourers and carried with it siege equipment, such as trebuchets, to lay siege to captured castles. A fleet of 42 ships supported the army. Roger de Somery III was ordered to muster with his retainers at Rhuddlan Castle, from where Edward launched his attack.

        Once more Edward’s navy cut off Anglesey, depriving the rebels of supplies. Then the army launched a three-pronged attack into south, central and north Wales. Llywelyn and Dafydd’s forces were unable to fight on three fronts at the same time. They were forced to retreat and concentrate their forces around Gwynedd,  allowing Edward’s army to surround them.

        On 11 December 1282, Llywelyn was killed in a skirmish with English soldiers near Builth. His head was cut from his body and sent to London where it was paraded through the streets  before being taken to the Tower of London to be mounted on a spear and raised above the walls. He was buried at Cym Hir Abbey. The Welsh poet Gruffydd ab yr Ynad Coch described Llywelyn’s death as: "A disaster of cosmic proportions ".

        Edward then invaded Gwynedd. The conflict was a bitter one. English troops were paid a shilling for each rebel they killed. They provided evidence by presenting the severed heads to the King’s officials.

        In June 1283, Edward sent an army of 7,000 men into Snowdonia searching for Dafydd. The Welsh   rebels surrendered in their droves. Betrayed, Dafydd was handed over to English troops by Welshmen and then taken to England under armed guard. At a parliament held at Shrewsbury on October 2, Dafydd was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. His head was sent to London where it was displayed at the Tower alongside the rotting head of Llywelyn.

        Llywelyn’s and Dafydd’s children did not escape.             

       Llywellyn’s daughter, Gwenllian, was sent to a convent at Sepringham, Lincolnshire where she spent the rest of her life, dying at the age of 56 without having spoken a word of her native language.  Dafydd’s sons, Owain and Llywelyn were imprisoned in Bristol Castle. Llywelyn died in 1287. Owain, only 7 when imprisoned, received a financial allowance  and servants to   provide for his needs, however, orders from King Edward I to the Constable of Bristol Castle, October 1305 state:

        “…Owain son of Dafydd ap Gruffudd, who is in the  Constable’s custody in the castle, should be kept more securely than he has been previously, he orders the Constable to cause a strong house within the castle to be repaired as soon as possible, and to make a  wooden cage bound with iron in that house in which Owain might be enclosed at night.”

        Years later, Owain wrote to the Kings Council:

        "Owain, son of David ap Griffin, shows that whereas he is by Order of the King detained in the Castle of Bristol in strong and close prison, and has been since he was seven years old for his father's trespass. He prays the King that he he may go and play within the wall of the castle if he cannot have better grace of the King."

This was written by a man of approximately thirty-six years who may not have seen daylight since his imprisonment as a child. The King's Council must have been startled because a Latin inscription appears across the letter "Let it be enquired who sues this petition."

        Owain was last reported to be alive in 1325.The date of his death is unknown.

        In 1284, the Statutes of Wales were drawn up at Rhuddlan. They set out to enforce English rule in Wales. Under the statutes, the regions of Wales were made into shires as in England: Gwynedd became Flintshire; Powys, Caernarfonshire; Dyfedd, Cardiganshire and Camarthenshire. The appointed Governors were all English.

Edward was determined to ensure Wales would never rise against him again and added more links to his chain of castles. In 1283 work began at Conwy, Harlech and Caernarfon and in 1284, Denbigh, Hawarden, Holt and Chirk. Former Welsh strongholds at   Dolwyddelan, Hope, Castle y Bere and Criccieth were refurbished.

        To emphasise his domination, Edward destroyed or carried off the royal regalia and holy relics of the defeated Princes of Gwynedd. He ate from a plate made from Llywelyn’s silver and melted down his seals of office. He displayed Llywelyn’s princely coronet in Westminster abbey and paraded the holy relics through the streets of London. He demolished Aberconwy Abbey, the burial place of Llwelyn the great and his family to make way for Conwy Castle.

        In 1284, Edward arranged to have his son Edward, later Edward II, to be born within Caenarfon castle, where he was proclaimed “Prince of Wales” in 1301.



J.Hemingway 2006) An Illustrated Chronicle of the Castle and Barony of Dudley. Friends of Dudley Castle.

K.Maund (2000) The Welsh Kings: The Medieval Rulers of Wales.   Tempus.

J.Beverley Smith (1998) Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales. University of Wales Press.

R. Turvey (2002) The Welsh Princes: The Native Rulers of Wales 1063-1283. Pearson.

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