| Tywysog Cymru (Prince of Wales): a potted history || Mar 20, 2005 |
The first Prince of Wales to be recognised by the Pope was Dafydd ap Llywelyn, son of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, known as Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great). There were many Welsh kings and princes before this, including Hywel Dda – Howel the Good – who produced 35 manuscripts of law written in Latin and Welsh. Hywel Dda, it is said, was the leader of all of Wales, but Wales was essentially decentralised and split into small kingdoms.
Llywelyn Fawr was the Prince of Gwynedd in North Wales. He entered into a power struggle with Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Powys (Powys once extended into what are now the English Midlands). The conflict between the two was exploited by King John of England. King John succeeded in obtaining an undertaking to pay homage from Llywelyn who married Joan, the King's daughter. John was at the same time engaged in a policy of conquest and colonisation in many parts of Wales.
Llywelyn Fawr allied himself with the English barons who were rising in revolt against John – resulting in the Magna Carta, in which the King undertook to return the occupied lands in Wales. Llywelyn also won his power struggle with Gwenwynwyn. In 1218 Llywelyn entered into an agreement with Henry III, concerning the lands of Powys and the Welsh princes, apparently came to accept the supremacy of Gwynedd. The effects of this can be felt to this very day.
The princes of Wales recognised Dafydd (David), son of Llywelyn and Joan, as Llwelyn's successor. The succession was also recognised by the King of England and the Pope. Dafydd was known in Wales as Dafydd II (there having been an earlier prince by the name of Dafydd).
On the death of Llywelyn Fawr the Norman English returned to their old tricks. The heir of Gwenwynwyn, Gruffudd (Griffith) was not satisfied either. Dafydd came under pressure and ceded the lands returned under Magna Carta to the English. The lands in Powys were returned to Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn. From this time until Dafydd's early death in 1245 there was constant fighting with England (that is the Normans).
Another leader then emerged, Dafydd's nephew by his half-brother Gruffudd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, also known as Llywelyn II or Llywelyn the Last. Llywelyn succeeded in driving out the Normans from many parts of Wales again (but not, for example, Gwent in the south-east), uniting the Welsh princes behind him again (with the exception of Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn) and getting them to pay homage to him as Prince of Wales.
Llywelyn allied himself with the Scots and also with the famous Simon de Montford (who summoned the first English Parliament at Westminster in 1265). Llywelyn married Eleanor de Montford, Simon's daughter. They had only one child – Gwenllian who has become something of a legend.
De Montford was defeated at the battle of Evesham by Henry III.
In 1267 Llywelyn and Henry III drew up the Treaty of Montgomery. Llywelyn was to pay homage to the king while the English king recognised the right of Llywelyn and his heir to be recognised as Prince of Wales.
However Llywelyn refused to give homage to Edward III who was giving sanctuary to Dafydd, Llywelyn's brother. Dafydd, apparently, had been engaged in a plot to kill Llywelyn together with Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn. Dafydd had a grievance about some land that he was claiming under Welsh law.
Llywelyn also alleged that Edward was breaking the Treaty of Montgomery. Edward was also holding Eleanor (who had been sent from France to marry Llywelyn) in captivity. Edward prepared an attack on Wales in 1275. He took so much land that Llywelyn was left only with part of Gwynedd. Edward had effectively re-conquered Wales, but Llywelyn still held on to his title.
In order to avoid further attack Llywelyn became submissive, trying to make further progress through the courts rather than through battle. Eleanor de Montford was released and married Llywelyn in the presence of the King.
The final blow came when Dafydd, having been given his land, rose in rebellion against Edward. On Palm Sunday 1282 he captured Hawarden castle. The Welsh princes were behind him, deciding in favour of war as they were no longer prepared to tolerate Norman/English rule.
Llywelyn, as Prince of Wales, was forced into battle again. Edward then unleashed a massive force against Wales. He now demanded complete and unconditional surrender from Llywelyn, that he leave Wales and accept land in England under the title of an Earl.
Llywelyn replied that "No subjects of his, noble or freeman, would allow him, even if he wished, to consent to it". (Powicke, quoted by Gwynfor Evans:
"The reply of the Welsh was based on appeal to history and right…..They repudiated the English offer of lands in England, for it came from men set on the Prince's disinheritance, so that they might have his lands in Wales. They would, in no case recognise the exchange of Snowdon for land in England, a bargain which would require them to do homage to a stranger, of whose speech, manners and laws they were entirely ignorant."
"Let this be clearly understood" (continued the statement) his council will not permit him to yield…. And even if the prince wishes to transfer [his people] into the hands of the king, they will not do homage to any stranger as they are wholly unacquainted with his language, his way of life and his laws. If they were to accede they may have to suffer imprisonment and cruel treatment as have the inhabitants of other cantrefi……in ways harsher than those of the Saracens". (quoted by John Davies).
After these negotiations, conduced through John Pecham, Archbishop of Canterbury, Llywelyn was killed in mysterious circumstances on the banks of the river Irfon at Cilmeri near Builth Wells, which is well outside Gwynedd. The date was 12 December 1282. Llywelyn's head was severed from his body and sent to London. Edward sent off a messenger to Rome at top speed, hurrying over the Alps in the dead of winter, to inform him that Wales no longer had a ruler.
The response in Wales was as if an enormous catastrophe had occurred, which is evident from the poetry of the time.
However Dafydd continued his fight. He now took the title Prince of Wales himself and is known to the Welsh as Dafydd III. Dafydd was captured in June 1283. He was horribly executed in Shrewsbury.
Gwenllian, just a few months old, was removed from Gwynedd and incarcerated for life in a convent in Sempringham.
Dafydd's infant daugher Gwladus was sent to the nunnery of Sixhills in Lincolnshire.
Dafydd's young sons were locked up for life in Bristol Castle.
In 1301 Edward proclaimed his eldest son Prince of Wales.
The Mab Darogan (Son of Prophecy)
In 1372 Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri, a great-nephew of Llywelyn, also known as Owain Lawgoch or Yvain de Galles (to the French with whom he fought), launched an invasion on Wales with a fleet given to him by Charles V, King of France. The fleet was stranded on the island of Guernsey. Owain was assassinated by an English spy in Bordeaux in 1378.
The Welsh saw in Owain Lawgoch their Mab Darogan, the Son of Prophecy or the Deliverer, as they did in Owain ap Gruffydd, or Owain Glyndwr, who, being descended from both the line of Gwynedd, the line of Powys and the line of another Welsh kingdom, Deheubarth, was proclaimed Prince of Wales in a small ceremony at Glyndyfrdwy (near Llangollen) on 16 September 1400.
Glyndwr put an end to castle rule in Wales.
He was crowned Prince of Wales (Owynus dei gratia princeps Wallie) in Machynlleth in May 1404 in the presence of envoys from France, Scotland and Castile.
Although Owain's independent Wales was overrun again by England, many people in Wales acknowledge no other prince to this very day. He is still seen as the Mab Darogan, as is expressed in a song by Dafydd Iwan (now President of Plaid Cymru):
Myn Duw, mi wn y daw (By God, I know he will come).
He certainly seems to have been in Cardiff yesterday.
This has been written with the greatest accuracy possible, but does not claim to be an academic work. Nor do I claim to be a historian.
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