< < The image on the left is Owain Glydwr's seal
The motto reads;
OWYNUS DEI GRATIA PRINCEPS WALLIAE
Owain, by the grace of God, Prince of Wales'.
The Prince of Wales
Owen of the Glen of Dee Water
Owain ab Gruffydd, Lord of Glydyvrdwy in Merioneth
|In the english tongue :|
Owen Lord of Glendower / Owen Glendower / Glendower
An extract from the play "Henry IV part 1"
At my nativity The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,Of burning cressets; and at my birth The frame and huge foundation of the earth Shaked like a coward.....all the courses of my life do show I am not in the roll of commen men.
But as well as that boasting, Shakespeare also writes in Owen's script:
I can speak English, lord as well as you ; For I was train'd up in the English court,Where, being but young, I framed to the harp many an English ditty lovely well...Glendower's ally Harry Hotspur constantly teases Owen but son-in-law Edmund Mortimer says of him: In faith, he is a worthy gentleman, exceedingly well read,and profited In strange concealments; valiant as a lion, and wondrous affable; and as bountiful as mines of India...
'strange concealments' refers to the way that Owain and his men were able to attack and then vanish back into the Welsh mountains.
No name is so frequently invoked on Wales as that of Owain Glyndwr (c. 1349-1416), a potent figurehead of Welsh nationalism ever since he rose up against the occupying English in the first few years of the fifteenth century. Little is known about the man described in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I as "not in the roll of common men." There seems little doubt that the charismatic Owain fulfilled many of the mystical medieval prophecies about the rising up of the red dragon. He was of aristocratic stock and had a conventional upbringing, part of it in England of all places. His blue blood furthered his claim as Prince of Wales, being directly descended from the princes of Powys and Cyfeiliog, and as a result of his status, he learned English, studied in London and became a loyal, and distinguished, soldier of the English king, before returning to Wales and marrying.
Glyndwr was a member of the dynasty of northern Powys and, on his mother's side, descended from that of Deheubarth in the south. The family had fought for Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in the last war and regained their lands in north-east Wales only through a calculated association with the powerful Marcher lords of Chirk, Bromfield and Yale and the lesser family of Lestrange. They thus rooted themselves in the Welsh official class in the March and figured among its lesser nobility.
Glyndwr was comfortably placed. He held the lordships of Glyn Dyfrdwy and Cynllaith Owain near the Dee directly of the king by Welsh Barony. He had an income of some L200 a year and a fine moated mansion at Sycharth with tiles and chimneyed roofs, a deerpark, henory, fishpond and mill. He was a complete Marcher gentleman and had put in his term at the Inns of Court. He must have been knowledgeable in law; he married the daughter of Sir David Hanmer, a distinguished lawyer who had served under Edward III and Richard II. He had served in the wars and retinues of Henry of Lancaster and the earl of Arundel, and served with distinction in the Scottish campaign of 1385.
But he was more than a Marcher. He was one of the living representatives of the old royal houses of Wales, an heir to Cadwaladr, in a Wales strewn with the rubble of such dynasties. Wales in the late 14th century was a turbulent place. The brutal savaging of Llywelyn the Last and Edward I's stringent policies of subordinating Wales had left a discontented, cowed nation where any signs of rebellion were sure to attract support. In 1399-1400 Glyn Dwr ran up against his powerful neighbor, Reginald de Grey, Lord of Ruthin, an intimate of the new king, Henry IV. The quarrel was over common land which Grey had stolen. Glyndwr could get no justice from the king or parliament. This proud man, over forty and grey-haired, was visited with insult and malice. There are indications that Glyndwr made an effort to contact other disaffected Welshmen, and when he raised his standard outside Ruthin on 16 September 1400, his followers from the very beginning proclaimed him Prince of Wales.
The response was startling and may have even startled Glyndwr himself. Supported by the Hanmers, other Norman-Welsh Marchers and the Dean of St Asaph, he attacked Ruthin with several hundred men and went on to savage every town on north-east Wales. There was an immediate response from Oxford, where Welsh scholars at once dropped their books and flocked home. Even more dramatic was the news that Welsh laborers in England were downing their tools and heading for home. The English Parliament at once rushed ferociously anti-Welsh legislation on to the books. Henry IV marched a big army right across north Wales, burning and looting without mercy. Whole populations scrambled to make their peace. Over the Winter, Glyndwr, with only seven men, took to the hills.
But in the spring of 1401 as the Tudors snatched Conwy Castle by a trick, Owain's little band moved into the centre and the south. Once more, popular insurrection broke around them, and hundreds ran to join the rebellion. It was during 1401 that Glyndwr became aware of the growing power of the rebellion as men of higher rank began to defect to the cause. In his letters to south Wales he declared himself the liberator appointed by God to deliver the Welsh race from their oppressors. The English king, Henry IV, despatched troops and rapidly drew up a range of severely punitive laws against the Welsh, even outlawing Welsh-language bards and singers. Battles continued to rage, with Glyndwr capturing Edmund Mortimer, the earl of March, in Pilleth in June 1402. By the end of 1403, Glyndwr controlled most of Wales.
The twelve-year war which ensued was, for the English, largely a matter of relieving their isolated castles. Expedition after expedition was beaten bootless back. Henry IV, beset by Welsh, Scots, French and rebellious barons, sent in army after army, some of them huge, all of them futile; he never really got to grips with it and the revolt largely wore itself out, in a small country blasted, burned and exhausted beyond the limit of endurance. For the Welsh, it was a Marcher rebellion and a peasant's revolt which grew into a national guerrilla war. The sheer tenacity of the rebellion is startling. Few revolts in contemporary Europe lasted more than some months; no previous Welsh war had lasted much longer. This one raged in undiminished fury for ten years and did not really end for fifteen.
In 1404, Glyndwr assembled a parliament of four men from every commot in Wales at Machynlleth, drawing up mutual recognition treaties with France and Spain. At Machynlleth, he was also crowned king of a free Wales. A second parliament in Harlech took place a year later, with Glyndwr making plans to carve up England and Wales into three, as part of an alliance against the English king: Mortimer would take the south and west of England, Thomas Percy, earl of Northumberland, would have the midlands and the north, and himself Wales and the Marches of England. The English army, however, concentrated with increased vigor on destroying the Welsh uprising, and the Tripart Indenture was never realized.
Disaster struck in 1408 when the castles of Aberystwyth and Harlech fell to the forces of the king, and Glyndwr's own family was taken prisoner. The Welsh nation that had existed for four years took once more to the woods with its prince once more an outlaw. Owain, with his son Meredudd, and a handful of his best captains, together with some Scots and Frenchmen, was at large throughout 1409, devastating wherever he went. No one knows what happened to Glyndwr, but, like Arthur, he could not die; he would come again. Henry V, the new king, twice offered the rebel leader a pardon, but the old man was apparently too proud to accept.
What is more remarkable than the civil war the revolt inevitably became, is the passion, loyalty and vision which came to sustain it. Glyndwr's men put an end to payments to the lords and the crown; they could raise enough money to carry on from the parliaments they called, attended by delegates from all over Wales - the first and last Welsh parliaments in Welsh history. From ordinary people by the thousands came a loyalty through times often unspeakably harsh which enabled this old man to lead a divided people one-twelfth the size of the English against two kings and a dozen armies. Owain Glyndwr was one Welsh prince who was never betrayed by his own people, not even in the darkest days when many of them could have saved their skins by doing so. There is no parallel in the history of the Welsh.
The draconian anti-Welsh laws stayed in place until the accession to the English throne of Henry VII, a Welshman, in 1485. Wales became subsumed into English custom law, and Glyndwr's uprising became an increasingly powerful symbol of frustrated Welsh independence. Even today, the shadowy organization that surfaced in the early 1980s to burn holiday homes of English people and English estate agents dealing in Welsh property has taken the name Meibion Glyndwr, the Sons of Glyndwr.
Since 1410 most Welsh people most of the time have abandoned any idea of independence as unthinkable. But since 1410 most Welsh people, at some time or another, if only in some secret corner of the mind, have been "out with Owain and his barefoot scrubs." For the Welsh mind is still haunted by it's lightning-flash vision of a people that was free.
Gwyn A. Williams, "When Was Wales," Penguin Books, London, 1985.
Wales - The Rough Guide, Mike Parker and Paul Whitfield, Rough Guides Ltd, London, 1994.
To learn more about Glyndwr, visit the Cymdeithas Owain Glyndwr web page.
[ Owain's war song ]
Welsh History Part 20: by David Walter Fortin
The Revolt of Owain Glyn Dwr
Who was Owain Glyn Dwr? Owain Glyn Dwr was a member of the uchelwyr, that strata of Welsh society which had done fairly well for itself after the conquest. Owain personally held lands in northeastern Wales, and was by the day's standards, one of the wealthier native Welshmen. His family seat was at Sycarth (Chirkland), where he was able to construct a very nice moated house, as well as having an estate in Merioneth where he drew some of his income from (which was about 120 pounds per year--in comparison, the large Mortimer estates were bringing in around 5-6000 pounds per year, so he wasn't rich by English standards, but wasn't exactly going poor either). Owain came from a ffine pedigree, something which the poets of the day made much of. He could trace an ancestry which connected to the royal lines of Deheubarth and Powys. As such, he was a patron of the poets, rewarded for such patronage by a number of praise poems, especially from Iolo Goch.
Owain was an accomplished soldier, having been involved in the campaigns against Scotland and France, and was known to be an avid hunter. His wife was a Hanmer, the daughter of a chief justice of the King's Bench. Based upon his pre-1400 activities and associations, it is an intriguing question as to why a person who was living a good life by the day's standards and had been essentially a country squire, should lead such a revolt. The answer probably lies in the social tensions of the 14th C (discussed in Part 19) and that the poets and members of the native Welsh society saw Owain as the focus of native loyalty, especially after the death of Owain Lawgoch, who could claim direct descent from the royal line of Gwynedd, in 1378 at the hands of an English assassin.
Be that as it may, here's what happened.
The tensions described in the previous posting exploded into a general revolt on 16 September 1400, when this country squire with the royal
pedigree was proclaimed Prince of Wales by some of his followers at Glyndyfrdwy. Initially, Owain and his supporters (most notably his cousins Rhys and Gwilym ap Tudur) were making trouble in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire. The English king at the time was Henry IV, a man of incredible lust for power, Henry had only just recently usurped the crown from Richard II and committed regicide (1399).
Adam of Usk states the following:
"On the feast of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist (29 Aug) the king returned to England; while at Leicester he heard that Owen lord of Glendower, being put forward by the men of North Wales to be their prince, had risen up in rebellion and had seized numerous castles, and weas everywhere plundering and burning towns inhabited by the English who lived amongst them, and forcing the English to flee; so, assembling his young warriors, the king led his troops into North Wales, where he overcame them and put them to flight, leaving their prince to spend almost a year hiding away on cliffs and caverns with no more than seven followers."
This outbreak could easily have been crushed by the king, but he failed to capture Owain. Additionally, the king made the woeful mistake of holding judicial inquiries in northern Wales, with the intent of imposing large fines on those communities which were found to have supported the rebellion. Additionally, Parliament passed several penal laws against the Welsh people which were very racial in nature (prohibition of Welshmen acquiring land in England or in English towns in Wales, Englishmen being protected from civil suits brought by Welshmen, etc.).
The king left Wales thinking that he was richer and had quashed the revolt. Instead, on Good Friday 1401, Gwilym and Rhys ap Tudur captured Conway Castle, one of the strongest castles in Wales by ruse. They then proceded to hold out for two months. At the same time, Owain came out of hiding, began making a series of raids and by the fall of 1401, he had established himself in north-west Wales well enough to threaten Harlech and Caernarvon castles. Additinally, they captured the Lord Reginald Grey, who had been a long-time enemy of Owain's, and ransomed him for 6,000 pounds.
In October 1401, Henry IV returned to Wales on another punitive expedition.
Adam of Usk has the following to say:
"During the autumn Owen Glendower, supported by the whole of North Wales, Cardigan and Powis, continually assailed with fire and sword the Englsih living in those regions and the towns they lived in, especially the town of Welshpool. A great host of English therefore invaded the area, ravaging and utterly destroying it with fire, sword and famine, sparing niether children nor churches; even the monastary of Strata Florida, in which the king himself stayed, along with its church and choir, right up to the high altar, was converted into a stable, and was completely stripped of its plate; they carried off with them to England more than a thousand children, both boys and girls, whom they forced into service for
them; and they left the countryside desolate. Yet Owain inflicted considerable losses on the English..."
Things were starting to get very nasty.
In 1402, Owain pulled off a coup. Edmund Mortimer, one of the primary landholders of the March and in England, was captured by Owain's forces. Upon negotiations, Owain forged a marriage alliance between Edmund and his daughter, thus forging an alliance between the powerful Mortimer family and Glyn Dwr's revolt. Owain then extended the sphere of his military activity to the east and south-east of Wales, where he inflicted a severe defeat upon the English at Pilleth, and by the end of the summer had extended the revolt to Glamorgan and Gwent.
In August 1402, a third royal expedition went into Wales from three directions, but failed miserably, most of the expedition being swamped in
heavy rains. Around this time the following occurred:
"Having been pardoned their lives, the people of Cardigan deserted Owain and returned, though not without great suffering, to their homes; they
were nevertheless--even though the English had decreed that it should be suppressed--allowed to use the Welsh tongue...
"Intending to lay seige at Caernarvon, Owain raised his standard, a golden dragon on a white field..."
1403 was an advantageous year for Owain. He extended his sway into south-west Wales, was laying seige to castles from Brecon to Aberystwyth, Beaumaris to Cardiff. In the meantime, Henry IV led yet another fruitless expedition into south Wales. Additionally, Owain was able to utilize the Mortimer alliance to secure another alliance with the Percy family, long a powerful family along the Scottish border. This was led by the earl of Northumberland's son, Hotspur. Despite Hotspur being killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury (21 July 1403), the alliance set the stage to embrace discontented elements within England against Henry IV.
The other avenue of aid was to come from the French. In October 1403, forces from France and Brittany beseiged Kidwelly, and later that month, a French fleet showed up at Caernarfon and assaulted the castle. By combining the elements of dissatisfaction within England and bringing in the French, Owain was hoping to either force Henry IV to recognize his title, or to topple the English king.
1404 continued to see the rise of Owain's star. Effective English control of Wales was now limited to a few coastal strips, isolated castles, and
some lowland areas. Harlech and Aberystwyth fell, Cardiff was burnt to the ground. Owain was able to summon a parliament of his own, in an attempt to demonstrate the legitimacy of his title and also to consolidate his position within native Wales. Additionally, the Bishops of Bangor and St. Astaph came over to Owain's side, thus giving him two experienced clerics. A formal alliance with France had been forged on
14 July 1404, which provided arms and money (but no troops yet).
1404 was Owain's best year. 1405 saw the turning of the tide. Domestic discord within England had been further enhanced, leading to the fleeing of the Lady Despenser in an attempt to bring the Mortimer heirs with herslef into exile in Wales. They were stopped, which was good for Henry, for the Mortimer heirs could claim a purer lineage to the English throne than he. During this year, the Tripartite Indenture was concluded, where Owain, the Mortimers and the Percies drew up an agreement which would divide England amongst the three of them. This was more of an act of fanatsy than reality, as the hopes of such an alliance bearing any fruit really had been destroyed at Shrewsbury (though see Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part 1 for an interesting, though factually incorrect account. I rather thought Shakespeare did a good job of showing the rather mystic quality of Glyn Dwr and how the Welsh were perceived as being different.)
In early August 1405 the French landed a sizeable force at Milford Haven, marched upon and captured Carmarthen, and speedily marched eastward to within eight miles of Worcester. Unfortunatley, this expedition petered out and the French disembarked from Wales. This was primarily due to the French and Welsh having troubles corrdinating their activities and goals.
(I'd give Adam of Usk's account, but he was in Rome by this time and offers little direct evidence).
Owain's luck then began to turn. In 1405, he suffered a series of military defeats, one of which led to the capture of his brother-in-law and
close supporter, John Hamner, and Owain's son. In 1406, Owain declared for the Avignon papacy (to secure the French treaty), but this was of no avail, as the French were unable to muster any more hard support for Owain's revolt. Henceforward, he would have to go it alone, especially after the defeat and deaths of the earl of Northumberland and Lord Bardholf in 1407. Additionally, due to his defeats in the southeast, Gower, the Tywi vale, Ceredigion and Anglesey had all surrendered to the English and submitted. In 1408, Harlech and Aberystwyth were recaptured.
Owain Glyn Dwr's revolt continued to be active until 1415. Glyn Dwr himself was never captured and continued to lead raids from the mountains of Snowdonia, which prompted English travellers to always go with an armed escort. However, the glory days were gone, the people and land exhausted from 15 years of continual fighting. Owain disappears from history in 1415, leaving the Welsh to spin legends around his person and adding him to the pantheon of Welsh heroes.
A Timeline of the Welch Rebellion
of Owain Glyn Dwr
The Prince of Wales
King Henry went to Scotland and with him a great host. While he was unoccupied there, one of his lords told him he had better have faithful men in Wales, for he said that Owain ap Gruffydd would wage war against him. Therewith Lord Talbot and Lord Grey of Ruthin were sent to make sure of Owain and they understood the task. But the man escaped into the woods; the time was the feast of St.Matthew in autumn (September 21). The following summer Owain rose with 120 reckless men and robbers and he brought them in warlike fashion to the uplands of Ceredigion; and 1,500 men of the lowlands of Ceredigion and of Rhos and Penfro assembled there and came to the mountain with the intent to seize Owain. The encounter between them was on Hyddgant Mountain, and no sooner did the English troops turn their backs in flight than 200 of them were slain. Owain now won great fame, and a great number of youths and fighting men from every part of Wales rose and joined him, until he had a great host at his back.
Lands claimed by Owain Glyn Dwr and Lord Grey of Ruthin are awarded to Lord Grey by English Royal Courts
Owain Glyndwr revolts over a land dispute between himself and Lord Grey of Ruthin.
Laws pased in England to prevent Welshmen from owning property in the Welsh boroughs
Owain Glyndwr forces under Gwylym and Rhys ap Tudor take Conwy castle
Owain Glyndwr unsuccessful trying to take Caernarfon castle
Glyndwr's forces attack Cwmhir Abbey
Old Courthouse built at Ruthin
In May:, Sir Roger Clarendon, allegedly a natural son of Edward I, the Black Prince, and half-brother to King Richard II is imprisoned on charges of spreading the rumor that Richard is still alive.
The summerweather is unusually harsh, with many violent storms.
Bangor Cathedral damaged by forces of Owain Glyn Dwr
Saint Asaph's cathedral damaged by forces of Owain Glyndwr
In April , Owain and his host went and attacked in the neighbourhood of Ruthin and Dryffryn Clwyd, and Reginald Grey, lord of that region, took the field against him Owain ambushes his party. And lord Grey was there captured and long held a prisoner by Owain in wild and rocky places; at last ( in1403 )he was ransomed for 11,000 marks.
On June 22 Owain Glyn Dwr defeats Edmund Mortimer near Pilleth on the river Lugg when Edmund's Welsh archers refuse to fire on Owain's force. Edmund is taken prisoner.
Sir Edmund Mortimer marries Owain Glyn Dwr's daughter, Catherine, and allies himself with Owain
Welsh forces defeat English at Vyrnwy and Pilleth
Glyndwr's forces sack Castell Newydd (Newport Castle)
Owain rose with a great host from Gwynedd, Powys, and the South, and made for Maelienydd; where the knights of Herefordshire gathered together against him. The battle between them was fought near Pilleth, and there Sir Robert Whitney and Sir Kinard de la Bere were slain and Sir Edmund Mortimer and Sir Thomas Clanvow were captured and most of the English host slain. In the following August Owain came to Glamorgan and all Glamorgan rose with him; Cardiff and Abergavenny were burnt.
Owain Glyndwr unsuccessful in a second attempt to take Caernarfon castle
Glyndwr forms an alliance with Henry Percy the Earl of Northumberland
Glyndwr captures Carmarthen
Glyndwr captures Dryslwyn, Llanstephan and Carreg Cennen
Reginald Grey ransomed by Owain Glyndwr for around £7,000
Prince Henry burns and destroys houses at Glyndyfrdwy and Sycharth
Glyndwr captures Harlech, Aberystwyth and Cardiff
Slaughter of the Welsh on Campstone Hill and another of the English at Craig y Dorth, between Penclawdd and Monmouth town. Here the more part of the English were slain and they were chased up to the town gate.
Glyndwr makes a formal alliance with France
Owain Glyndwr sets up Welsh Parliament in Machynlleth
Owain Glyndwr makes Gruffydd Young his chancellor
French land at Milford Haven
Lewis Byford becomes Bishop of Bangor and supports Owain Glyndwr
Tretower castle defended by Sir James Berkeley against forces of Owain Glyndwr
Owain' suffers a series of military defeats
Glyn Dwr's forces suffer defeat at Battle of Crosmont and Usk, a slaughter of the Welsh on Pwll Melyn Mountain, near Usk, where Owain's son Gruffydd ab Owain and Owain's close supporter, brother-in-law John Hamner were taken prisoner and imprisoned in Tower of London. It was now the tide began to turn against Owain and his men. At this time Glamorgan made its submission to the English, except a few who went to Gwynedd to their master.
Forces from Dublin land at Holyhead and defeat Glyndwr's forces on Ynys Môn at Rhos-meirch
Gower and Ystrad Twyi and most Ceredigion yielded and took the English side.
Ynys Môn submits to English forces.
Glyn Dwr gives support to Benedict 13th (the Avignon pope)
The English prince came with a great host to lay siege to Aberystwyth castle, nor did he retire until he had received a promise of the surrender of the castle after a short interval, with four of the most puissant men in the castle as pledges of the bargain. Before the day Rhys the Black went to Gwynedd to ask Owain's leave to surrender the castle to the English. Owain kept Rhys with him until he had gathered his power around him and then went with Rhys to Aberystwyth, where he threatened to cut off Rhy's head, unless he might have the castle; whereupon the castle was given to Owain.
Gruffydd Young appointed by Benedict 13th as Bishop of Bangor
Now befell the second siege of Aberystwyth castle and, without stirring from the spot, it was won; thence the host went to Harlech, where many gentlemen of Wales met their death; at last the castle was perforce given up to the English.
Thomas Roubery appointed sheriff of Aberystwyth
Henry Chichele appointed by English crown as bishop to Saint David's
Owain's wife Margaret captured and sent to the Tower of London
Decline of Owain Glyndwr
The men of Owain made an attack on the borders of Shropshire and ther Rhys the Black and Philip Sudamore were captured. The one was sent to London and the other to Shrewsburym to be drawn and quartered. Thenceforth Owain made no great attack until he disappeared.
Edmund Mortimer , son in law and ally of Owain dies as the seige of Harlech
Glyndwr's forces attempt a raid in Shropshire
Owain's son, Gruffydd, dies in the Tower of London
Owain Glyndwr's forces capture Dafydd Gam at Brecknock.
Rhys ap Tudor of Anglesey and Ednyfed his brother were captured. They were executed in Chester.
Henry IV dies, succeeded by his son, Henry V
Owain Glyndwr disappears
Owain's daughter, Catherine, dies in the Tower of London
Pardons given to many Welsh for their part in Glyn Dwr's rebellion
Owain went into hiding on St. Matthew's Day in Harvest (September 21), and thereafter his hiding place was unknown. Very many said that he died; the seers maintain he did not.
Owain is offered a pardon by Henry 5th
Gruffydd Young appointed as bishop of Ross in Scotland
Gruffydd Dwnn of Kidwelly (former supporter of Glyn Dwr) fights at Agincourt
Priory founded at Abergavenny
Priory founded at Monmouth
Pardon granted to Owain Glyndwr's son
Compiled and edited for the Bowen family web by Ben Bowen .
Gwyn A. Williams 1985; Wales: The Rough Guide, 1994
Welsh History Part 20: by David Walter Fortin
Derived from RR Davies "Conquest, Coexistance, and Change",
John Davies, "A History of Wales".
Primary source, The " Chronicle of Adam of Usk, 1377-1421"
Owen Glendower - Owen Glyn Dwr, by John Edward Lloyd (Oxford, 1931).
The Bowen family web