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  Owain Glyn Dŵr (c.1359–c.1416), seal [as prince of Wales] Owain Glyn Dŵr (c.1359–c.1416), seal [as prince of Wales]
Glyn Dŵr [Glyndŵr], Owain [Owain ap Gruffudd Fychan, Owen Glendower] (c.1359–c.1416), rebel leader in Wales, declared prince of Wales on 16 September 1400, was the acknowledged leader of the most serious and widespread rebellion against English authority in Wales since the conquest of 1282–3.

Lineage and estates

Born possibly in 1359, or earlier (an event later invested by Shakespeare with supernatural significance), Owain Glyn Dŵr's upbringing and early career reflect many of the conflicting forces at work in fourteenth-century Welsh society. Through his father, Gruffudd Fychan, lord of Glyndyfrdwy and Cynllaith, and his mother, Elen, daughter of Owain ap Thomas ap Llywelyn, coheir with Margaret, her sister, of the half-commotes of Iscoed Uwch Hirwen and Gwynionydd Is Cerdyn, Cardiganshire, he was descended of impeccable Welsh princely stock. The poet Iolo Goch (fl. 1345–1397), in a celebrated cywydd composed almost certainly before the rebellion, traces his pedigree in the paternal line to , and in the maternal line to , refers to the descent of his great-grandmother Gwenllian from the house of Gwynedd, and recites the common ancestry of these lineages in the legendary kings of early British tradition. Despite the family's native Welsh origins, however, marriage connections were also established with English or Anglo-Welsh families of the border. Glyn Dŵr's paternal grandmother was Elizabeth, daughter of John (V) Lestrange of Knockin; his sister Lowri married Robert Puleston, while Glyn Dŵr himself married Margaret Hanmer, daughter of Sir David Hanmer (d. 1387), king's serjeant and judge in king's bench, whose family, of English origin, had settled in Maelor Saesneg, the detached portion of Flintshire, and had long intermarried with Welsh families. His father's estates, to which Glyn Dŵr succeeded some time before 1370–71, when his mother is described as ‘lately (jadis) the wife of Gruffudd of Glyndyfrdwy’ (Shrewsbury Public Library, MS 5923), consisted of the lordship of Glyndyfrdwy, a relatively inhospitable terrain situated in the Dee valley between Corwen and Llangollen, and a moiety of the commote of Cynllaith, a fertile lordship to the south of the Berwyn range and bordering the Tanat valley. He inherited also his mother's estates in the county of Cardigan, for following his rebellion his lands in both north and south Wales were declared forfeit and he may have claimed part of the estate of his maternal grandmother at Trefgarn in the hundred of Pebidiog. His great-great-grandfather (Gruffudd ap Gruffudd ap Madog) [see under ], coheir of the principality of Powys Fadog, was one of the few princely survivors of the conquest of 1282–3, and by the early fourteenth century Gruffudd's son, Madog, was holding the lordships of Glyndyfrdwy and Cynllaith of the king in chief by Welsh barony, a landed estate that provided an income of some 300 marks. There is a contemporary note of Owain's ‘fine dwelling and park’ (Nicolas, ed., Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 2.61) in Glyndyfrdwy (or Glyn Dŵr: the lordship by whose name he was known), which may refer to a domestic establishment at Carrog, but his residence at Sycharth in Cynllaith, a modern, half-timbered, tiled, and chimneyed house, set on a motte, with chapel, bakehouse, and mill adjacent, is described in admiring if extravagant detail by Iolo Goch.

Career to 1400

Although early connections between Owain Glyn Dŵr and both Henry Bolingbroke and Richard II have been suggested, documentary evidence points clearly to the family's close associations with the Fitzalans, earls of Arundel, and lords of Bromfield and Yale (from 1347) and Oswestry and Chirk, the latter including the other half of the commote of Cynllaith. Glyn Dŵr's grandfather, described as Gruffudd, lord of Glyndyfrdwy, witnessed the charter granted by Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, to the lordship of Chirk, on 1 October 1324 (L. B. Smith, 162). His father, Gruffudd Fychan, was the earl of Arundel's steward of the lordships of Chirk and Oswestry and is described as such in deeds and account rolls, while the Arundel connection may have been strengthened by Glyn Dŵr's marriage to Margaret Hanmer, whose father served on the earl's marcher council in 1386–7. Owain and his brother Tudur are named among the esquires of the retinue of Richard (III) Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, mustered on 13 March 1387, and Owain's name headed the list of Arundel's esquires mustered for overseas service in May 1388, although he may not have served on the expedition. No evidence of a direct connection with Richard II has yet been produced. Glyn Dŵr's ‘Tudor’ cousins, however, Rhys ap Tudur and Gwilym ap Tudur, sons of Margaret, his mother's sister, from her second marriage, to Tudur ap Goronwy of Penmynydd in Anglesey, had close links of service with the king [see ].

Owain Glyn Dŵr's upbringing and career were, in so far as they may now be reconstructed, typical of a young man of gentle birth. English chroniclers noted his training as apprentice-at-law and record sources reveal his military service. As Howeyn Glyndourde and Tedyr Glynderde he and his brother served under Sir Gregory Sais at Berwick in 1384 (Glyn Dŵr's exploits there were commemorated in verse by Iolo Goch), in Scotland, and under Richard (III) Fitzalan at the blockade of Sluys in 1387. He had some knowledge of heraldry and, described as aged ‘twenty-seven years and more’ (Nicolas, ed., Scrope and Grosvenor, 1.254–5), gave evidence, along with Tudur, his brother, and John Hanmer and Robert Puleston, his brothers-in-law, to a court of chivalry held at Chester on 3 September 1386, when the rival claims of Richard, Lord Scrope, and Robert Grosvenor were ventilated. His legal training and his Hanmer connections are shown by his appointment in 1387 as joint feoffee of the Hanmer lands for the term of life of Sir David's widow, Angharad.

Outbreak of the revolt

Contemporary evidence for the causes of Glyn Dŵr's uprising is exiguous, but there is little doubt that for Glyn Dŵr himself, and for many of his adherents from among the Welsh uchelwyr, or squirearchy, the rebellion represented a significant breach with family traditions of loyalty and service to the crown and to marcher dynasties. The Annales Henrici quarti, of St Albans provenance, claimed that the rebellion was instigated by a territorial dispute, which parliament failed to redress, between the lord of Dyffryn Clwyd who succeeded in 1388, , and Glyn Dŵr, a conflict subjected to much later embellishment when the land in question is identified as common land called Croesau in the parish of Bryneglwys. The Vita Ricardi secundi, a work connected with Evesham, and a brief fifteenth-century Welsh tract recount the withholding by Grey of a summmons to a general muster addressed by the king to Glyn Dŵr. The harsh fiscal policies pursued by the crown and by marcher regimes, which caused tenant recalcitrance and opposition among local officials, the few opportunities for professional advancement available to ambitious laymen and churchmen, and resentment of privileged English settlers, especially those in the towns of the crown lands and the marcher lordships of north-east Wales, helped to fuel a broader support for armed insurrection. Less convincing is the alleged tide of support for Richard II, although his deposition in 1399 may have been instrumental in fomenting rebellion among the Tudurs in Anglesey.

A Shropshire jury, sworn on 25 October 1400, recited that an assembly of men, including Glyn Dŵr's brother, his son Gruffudd, his Hanmer and Puleston brothers-in-law, Hywel Cyffin, dean of St Asaph, and Crach Ffinant, described as ‘their prophet’ (eorum propheta), and many other Welshmen, had gathered at Glyndyfrdwy on 16 September, intending the death and disherison of Henry, king of England, and the prince of Wales, and the obliteration of the English language. They had ‘elevated … Owain as their prince’ and had proceeded ‘in warlike fashion like enemies’ to the town of Ruthin which they had plundered and burned, thence turning to attack the ‘English towns’ of Denbigh, Rhuddlan, Flint, Hawarden, Holt, Oswestry, and Welshpool which were likewise plundered and despoiled (Sayles, 114–15). Corroborative evidence of the gravity of the assault on Ruthin is provided by the lordship's court records which testify that the attack was launched on 18 September, the Saturday preceding the town's St Matthew fair, and that some 270 men were involved of whom, on the evidence of locational names, the largest number were drawn from surrounding Welsh lordships, notably the lordship of Denbigh. Although a brief but valuable near contemporary Welsh chronicle suggests that Grey was himself in the neighbourhood, it is unlikely that he took the field against Glyn Dŵr until the launch of a second attack upon Ruthin in the early months of 1402. Henry IV, hearing at Leicester of the Welsh rising, and making his way towards Shrewsbury, summoned on 19 September 1400 the levies of the midland and border counties of England, while on 24 September the rebels received a summary check, near the town of Welshpool ‘on the river Severn’, by Hugh Burnell, commanding the troops of the counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire. According to the Welsh chronicler Glyn Dŵr himself ‘escaped into the woods’ (Lloyd, 150) and little is known of his whereabouts over the winter. Early in October the king made a circuit of the whole of north Wales, arriving at Bangor on 7 October and at Caernarfon two days later. On 15 October an order was given that, although various men in north Wales had lately risen in insurrection, the king's lieges in south Wales should be allowed none the less to come and go into England provided they were of good behaviour. Offers of pardon were made to rebels over a wide area of north Wales including the lordship of Ellesmere (where Glyn Dŵr's father had once acted as keeper) and the lordship of Whittington, but excepting Glyn Dŵr himself and Rhys and Gwilym ap Tudur. Glyn Dŵr's lands in north and south Wales were declared forfeit in November 1400, together with those of his kinsmen. By May 1401 it was said that ‘the country of North Wales’ (le paiis de Northgalez; Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 1.150–51) was well intendant and obedient in all points to the law, except for rebels in the castle of Conwy, and that the people of the counties of Caernarfon and Merioneth were prepared to submit and to pay substantial payments for pardon.

Progress of the revolt, 1401–1404

Despite the illusion of containment there were, however, several portents of continued resistance. Although the military activity focused on Glyn Dŵr himself had all but abated by the autumn of 1400, the island of Anglesey had witnessed resistance by Rhys and Gwilym ap Tudur, cousins of Glyn Dŵr. Early in 1401 parliament heard that Welsh scholars at Oxford and Cambridge were leaving their studies to join Glyn Dŵr, and Welsh labourers in England were likewise returning to Wales and preparing for war. Several petitions emphasized the gravity of the situation in Wales and six punitive statutes were enacted, followed on 18 and 22 March by further supplementary measures taken on account of ‘the late insurrection in north Wales’ (CPR, 1399–1401, 469). The Tudur brothers, in a bold and unexpected stroke, were able to attack and to take the castle of Conwy on Good Friday (1 April) 1401 and hold it for some eight weeks, although it is not certain that this initiative or their earlier defiance was waged in association with Glyn Dŵr. Despite suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of John Charlton, who, it was said in a letter of 4 June 1401, had ‘discomfited Glyn dŵr’ (Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 1.153) and had killed many rebels, Glyn Dŵr won a signal victory ‘in the uplands of Ceredigion’ (Lloyd, 150) at Hyddgen Mountain, according to the Welsh chronicler, possibly at a spot marked to this day by two stones of quartz known to local tradition as the ‘covenant stones of Owain Glyn Dŵr’. It was a success that, so the same chronicler maintained, transformed Glyn Dŵr's fortunes such that ‘a great number of youths and fighting men [direidwyr] from every part of Wales rose and joined him, until he had a great host behind him’ (ibid., 150). A letter, known only from a late manuscript sent by Glyn Dŵr styling himself Owain ap Gruffudd, lord of Glyndyfrdwy, to Henry Dwn, a leading landowner, soldier, and administrator of the Lancaster lordship of Kidwelly, exhorting him to join in the movement to liberate the Welsh from their bondage, may belong to this period, although it may pertain to the events of 1403. Glyn Dŵr's appearance in ‘the marches of Carmarthen’ (Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 2.55) before the end of May signalled the opening up of a new sphere of hostilities and an escalation of the rebellion into a movement led by himself and which, it was now emphasized, posed a serious danger to the realm of England, its people, and its language.

By the anniversary of the first act of defiance the rebel cause, despite the initial setbacks, had taken firm root. A summons, dated 18 September 1401, to a general muster at Worcester stressed that Owain Glyn Dŵr and other rebels had risen in no small number, a view given substance by the alleged adherence of many landowners of the crown lands of the south-west to the rebellion. A royal expedition in the following month wrought considerable damage to the abbey of Strata Florida while a renewed attack on Welshpool, caput of the Charlton lordship of Powys, by Glyn Dŵr, signalled the return of the rebel leader to the northern parts. There was talk at this juncture, possibly encouraged by the Percys, that Glyn Dŵr was prepared to enter into a treaty, but no peace was concluded. The chronicler Adam Usk describes the siege of Caernarfon Castle and the town in November 1401 by the rebel army with Glyn Dŵr at its head, where his standard, a golden dragon on a white field, was unfurled. Although unable to take the castle, the administrative and military headquarters of English rule in the crown lands of north Wales, Glyn Dŵr began to seek external alliances, addressing letters in French to the king of Scotland and in Latin to the Gaelic lords of Ireland. Early in 1402, according to Adam Usk, a second attack was launched on the town of Ruthin and Reynold Grey, who had been appointed one of Prince Henry's five lieutenants in north Wales on 15 January, and who was almost certainly in the lordship on 21 February, was himself captured some time before 18 April and a ransom of 10,000 marks was demanded for his release. A foray into Maelienydd in the middle march of Wales in June resulted in a bloody slaughter of English troops led by Sir Edmund (IV) Mortimer, uncle of the young earl of March, Edmund (V) Mortimer, at Bryn Glas near the village of Pilleth, and the capture of Mortimer. A letter written at the end of 1402 by Mortimer to Sir John Greyndor, guardian of the Mortimer lordship of Radnor, and others, expressed the former's adherence to the cause of Glyn Dŵr (an alliance cemented by his marriage to Catherine, Glyn Dŵr's daughter), the intention of placing the earl of March on the throne if Richard II were not alive, and of restoring to Glyn Dŵr his right in Wales. Meanwhile a tripartite attack, directed from Shrewsbury, Chester, and Hereford and set in motion on 31 July, achieved little military success. However, parliament, when it assembled on 30 September 1402, enacted a series of statutes prohibiting public assemblies, the bearing of arms by the Welsh, the importation of victuals or armour, and the keeping of castles or the holding of office by Welshmen. Especial mention was made of those of the amity or alliance of ‘Owen ap Glendourdy, traitor to our sovereign lord and king’ (Luders and others, eds., 2.140–41), who, together with Englishmen married to Welshwomen, were likewise denied office in Wales. The appointment of Prince Henry as royal lieutenant in Wales on 8 March 1403, with the promise of financial support from the exchequer, although it presaged an increasing emphasis on paid military service, did little to assuage the grave military position. Glyn Dŵr had been seen in the region of Hopedale, but did not engage in hostilities. In early May, however, an expedition by Prince Henry destroyed and burned Glyn Dŵr's house at Sycharth, proceeded to Glyndyfrdwy, where the lodge and park were also razed, and advanced to ‘the fine and well-inhabited land of Edeirnion’ (Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 2.62) which met a similar fate before the army returned to headquarters at Shrewsbury.

By the summer of 1403 the activities of Glyn Dŵr himself, hitherto largely hidden from view, are revealed in a number of mainly undated letters which may reliably be ascribed to the month of July. The abortive siege of the castle of Brecon by the Welsh forces was followed by Glyn Dŵr's arrival in person in the Tywi valley, where he had been expected as early as 16 June, on account, it was said, of ‘want of victuals’ (CPR, 1401–5, 280). A number of responsible and prominent men of the region were named as his supporters. A letter written by John Fairford, receiver of the lordship of Brecon, referring to news sent to him by Jenkyn Havard, constable of the castle of Dinefwr, relates that Glyn Dŵr with a following of 300 men laid siege to the castle of Llandovery on Tuesday 3 July, was assured of the men of the district, except for those in the castle, and had spent the night at Llandeilo where the people of the county of Carmarthen and the lordships adjacent were ‘assured and sworn’ (assurez et jurrez; Hingeston, 139) to him. Although a march towards the town of Brecon was feared, his presence at the castle of Dryslwyn is attested on 4 July when John Scudamore, constable of Carreg Cennen Castle, who according to later report married Glyn Dŵr's daughter Alice, had spoken with the rebel leader under truce, and, in vain, had sought his safe conduct to remove members of his family from the castle. The castle of Carmarthen with its town (where about fifty inhabitants had died) and the castle of Newcastle Emlyn were ceded to him between 4 and 7 July, whence Glyn Dŵr proceeded to St Clears and to Laugharne, avoiding a pitched battle with forces led by Thomas, Lord Carew, who nevertheless inflicted heavy losses on the rebels. While he was still at Carmarthen it was said that Glyn Dŵr, true to his devotion to prophecy, had consulted a ‘maister of Brut’, named as Hopcyn ap Thomas ab Einion of Ynysdawe in Gower (fl. 1337–1408), a noted literary patron and connoisseur of manuscripts, who had forewarned him of his imminent capture between Carmarthen and Gower. The rebellion of Henry Percy (Hotspur), with whom it is possible that Glyn Dŵr had established an understanding as early as April 1403, was declared at Chester on 10 July. Percy, joined by a number of Welshmen, including men from the lordships of Denbigh and Dyffryn Clwyd and the county of Flint, and marching south to Shrewsbury, engaged and was defeated by royal forces on 21 July. Although there is no evidence that Glyn Dŵr was himself in the region when the battle was fought, the encounter may have served to divert his forces eastwards. There were fears of a Welsh attack on Shrewsbury and an invasion of Shropshire (a danger realized by the destruction of several manors in 1403) and the southern march was, likewise, under threat. A royal expedition was planned, to set out from Worcester on 3 September. The brief campaign that ensued passed through the valleys of the Usk and the Tywi, reaching Carmarthen by the end of September, while commissioners were appointed to receive the submitting Welshmen of Brecon, Cantref Selyf, and neighbouring lordships. The appearance of French and Breton ships off Kidwelly on 3 October and off Caernarfon in the following month, and the assaults made on both castles and towns, not only signalled the intervention of hostile foreign powers in the Welsh rebellion but also augured the conclusion of a formal treaty of alliance between Glyn Dŵr and Charles VI of France.

The apogee of revolt, 1404–1406

The years between 1404 and 1406 are generally regarded as the high-water mark of the Glyn Dŵr rebellion, but the movements and personal influence of the rebel leader himself on the formulation of policy remain as elusive as ever. The fall of Aberystwyth and Harlech castles, long under threat, into Welsh hands during 1404 (the castle of Aberystwyth was garrisoned by the English from March to November 1404) confirmed Glyn Dŵr's influence over a large swathe of western Wales, and endowed him with two key coastal fortresses and a refuge for family members after the destruction of Sycharth and Carrog. Glyn Dŵr's request for armed aid was conveyed to the French court in May 1404 by two proctors, John Hanmer, his brother-in-law, and the cleric Gruffudd Young, described as his chancellor, in a document sealed with Glyn Dŵr's privy seal and dated in the fourth year of his principate. The ensuing treaty, dated 14 July 1404, ratified on 12 January 1405, ‘in the sixth year of our principate’ (Matthews, 39) at the castle of Aberystwyth, and sealed with his great seal, bound king and prince in a bond of true covenant and friendship against Henry of Lancaster, both parties promising that neither would enter into a separate peace with Henry and that disputes arising between their subjects on land or sea should be amicably settled. No formal promise of military assistance was given or received although a French chronicler recorded that a list of ports and seaways had been provided by Glyn Dŵr. In 1404, according to Adam Usk's derisory comment, Glyn Dŵr assembled the first of his known parliaments at Machynlleth, while to the second, held at Harlech in Ardudwy in August 1405, according to contemporary report, he had summoned four good men from each commote of Wales that acknowledged his rule. The so-called tripartite indenture, a document of uncertain authenticity, concluded between emissaries of Glyn Dŵr, Edmund Mortimer, and Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland (d. 1408), agreed the division of England and Wales, with Glyn Dŵr taking as his share a greatly extended Wales which stretched to the source of the Trent and to the Mersey. A document dated at Pennal on 31 March, ‘in the sixth year of our rule’ (1406) and reciting the deliberations of an assembly that included the ‘proctors of the nobles and prelates of our principality and others’, committed the Welsh, a nation ‘oppressed by the fury of the barbarous Saxons’ (Matthews, 53), to the obedience of the Avignon pope, Benedict XIII (r. 1394–1417), and pressed for the advancement of a number of specific proposals concerned with the status of the church of Wales. They included the restoration of the church of St David's to its original dignity as metropolitan church, and the institution not only of the Welsh dioceses but also those of Exeter, Bath, Hereford, Worcester, and Lichfield as its suffragans, the provision of clergy who knew the Welsh language to ecclesiastical office in Wales, and the establishment of two universities, one in north Wales and the other in south Wales in places to be determined by Glyn Dŵr's ambassadors. References to letters patent and close, to a council, chancellor, secretary, notaries, and proctors, to the prince's privy seal (a quartered shield charged with the four lions rampant of the princes of Gwynedd), to his great seal (with, on its obverse, a ruler enthroned and sceptred and, on its reverse, a warrior on horseback, in armour and surcoat), suggest a prince of an emerging state who could call on the services of a trained and experienced bureaucracy. A like impression is conveyed by the formal and elegant diplomatic language of the documents issued in his name, his intitulation as ‘prince of Wales by the grace of God’ (Matthews, 42), and by the formal holding of parliaments. The advent of increasing numbers of churchmen from 1404 onwards to the rebel cause may have influenced the formulation of policy and strengthened the administration of the nascent Welsh state.

Creative and imaginative endeavours in state-building did not, however, eliminate the need for opportunistic assault and prudent defensive measures. In the south-east, raids on the town of Newport in 1403, the fall of the town and castle of Cardiff (one of whose residents, John Sperhauke, had earlier been executed for his support for Glyn Dŵr) to Welsh troops in 1404, and the attack on Coety Castle where its lord, Sir Lawrence Berkerolles (d. 1411) was besieged for some weeks, betokened the serious threat to English power and to the revenues of baronial holders of marcher lordships in the region. In June 1404 the Welsh rebels in great number attacked Archenfield in the county of Hereford. The Welsh defeat on Campstone Hill in the parish of Grosmont, an event assigned by the Welsh chronicler to this year, was answered by a Welsh victory at Craig-y-dorth near Monmouth, where the English were chased to the town gate. In the northern march punitive raiding expeditions were launched into Shropshire, whose inhabitants complained of the destruction wrought by the rebels and concluded a truce with ‘the land of Wales’ (Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 1.236). The French dispatched troops, which landed at Milford Haven early in August 1405, and the south-western regions came under assault with the attack on the castle of Haverfordwest and the capture of the town by the Welsh, followed by assaults on Carmarthen and Cardigan which, according to French sources, also fell into Welsh hands. Combined Welsh and French forces were at Woodbury Hill outside Worcester by the end of the month, at a place which according to Camden was known in the seventeenth century as ‘Owen Glyndŵr's camp’, but, although strong English forces were mustered under the king's command, no battle was fought and the Welsh troops withdrew into Wales. The seizure of the king's baggage train, loaded with provisions and jewels, by the rebels as a royal expedition advanced to attempt the relief of Coety Castle, and the conclusion of a truce with the men of the county (comitatus) of Pembroke, who yielded up £200 of silver, brought welcome financial windfalls to the rebel cause. Despite the apparent success of the rebels, however, there were also Welsh losses. In a battle fought at Pwll Melyn near Usk against Richard, Lord Grey of Codnor (d. 1419), Welsh troops were heavily defeated, Glyn Dŵr's son Gruffudd was taken prisoner, and, according to legend, Glyn Dŵr's brother Tudur was killed. The turning tide of rebellion in 1405 was graphically portrayed by the Welsh chronicler who noted that at this time ‘Glamorgan made its submission to the English, except a few who went to Gwynedd to their lord’ (Lloyd, 152).

The final years, 1406–1415

To characterize the course of the rebellion from 1406 onwards as one of inexorable decline obscures not only the serious structural weaknesses exposed even in the years of apparent triumph but also the capacity for resistance that Glyn Dŵr continued to command. At no point during the rebellion could he claim the entire support of his people. Although his movement had attracted adherents from prominent, respectable, and interrelated families, the successes enjoyed in the summer of 1403 coupled with the Percy rebellion, which also commanded support in north Wales, confirmed the movement's appeal to influential members of the class of uchelwyr. But committed adherents were balanced by intransigent foes drawn not only from townsmen and English families settled in Wales but from native Welsh lineages. In geographical terms, the area under his direct command was a limited one while his power outside a western zone stretching roughly from Ceredigion to Anglesey, despite the fact that his supporters were widely disseminated, was confined to brief shows of strength as he and the crown competed for the allegiance and loyalties of communities. His financial base was at all times uncertain, given the demands on his income, although it is likely that ransoms, such as those demanded and paid for the release of Reynold Grey and Dafydd Gam of Brecon (d. 1415), payments for negotiated truces, and the profits of pillage and plunder may have helped fill his coffers. Lines of communication, running mainly from east to west, tended to favour the English invader more than a Welsh ruler hoping to impart a measure of geographical unity. Sea power, in which the Welsh (apart from sporadic French aid and the efforts of individual rebels) were deficient, had long been identified as the key to the conquest and retention of Wales by the English and was instrumental once more in combating the Glyn Dŵr rebellion. With the exception of Aberystwyth and Harlech the English-built castles stood firm or were lost only briefly, and those of south Wales and the march were deployed as headquarters of mounted troops capable of offensive sallies on the Welsh rebels. On the other hand, the rebels' reluctance to commit their troops to pitched battle, preferring instead the lightning strikes and the raids of a guerrilla campaign, enhanced their capacity to resist final defeat and frustrated English attempts to contain the rebellion. Moreover, despite the formal submission in 1406 of the communities of Gower, Ystrad Tywi, Ceredigion, and Anglesey, followed in the ensuing years by those of several north-eastern lordships, pacification was by no means complete. In 1409 Glyn Dŵr with a large following of rebels was said to be devastating far and wide. A great raid was launched on the Shropshire borders about the same time, while in 1412 Welsh rebels in the lordship of Brecon were able to take captive and ransom no less a person than the redoubtable warrior Dafydd Gam. As late as 1415 Welsh rebels were present in the county of Merioneth, an area long identified as a source of disturbance. The imprisonment of two Scottish merchants at Caernarfon in 1410, and the evidence contained in an undated letter referring to assemblies in desolate places and expected landings of men from the outer isles of Scotland at Barmouth and Dyfi, suggest persistent Welsh hopes of rekindling external alliances.

A number of forces combined to effect the rebels' ultimate defeat. The castle of Aberystwyth, besieged by troops led by Prince Henry, fell to the English by the end of 1408. By February 1409 not only had Harlech fallen to troops led by Gilbert Talbot and his brother, John, but Glyn Dŵr's own family, including his wife, two of his daughters, and his granddaughters lodged in the castle had been taken prisoner and dispatched to London. The loss of several of his loyal adjutants, including a Tudur kinsman, in the ill-fated Shropshire raid, coupled with the loss of one of his sons who, according to the Annales Henrici quarti, met his death in an earlier encounter on St George's day, depleted his inner core of support. Meanwhile a determined and dogged English campaign was achieving its aims. A regular money supply from a healthier exchequer, the creation of a defensive bulwark in the march, the safeguarding of supply routes to the English while, at the same time, those of the Welsh were severed, ensured, at length, the success of the military response. On the wider political front the beginnings of negotiations for truce between England and France, from which Glyn Dŵr was specifically excluded, stilled any hopes that might have remained of a positive French intervention. In the north of England the defeat of the earl of Northumberland who, it was said, had been in collusion with the Welsh rebels early in 1406, removed from the scene a potential source of support, while the heir to the Scottish throne was held captive in England. The exceptionally hard winter of 1407–8 may also have helped to reduce to still further misery a countryside already depleted and ravaged by war.

Glyn Dŵr's own influence on the turn of events in these final years of rebellion is a matter of uncertain conjecture. The Welsh chronicler, on doubtful authority, records that he went into hiding on ‘St Matthew's day in harvest’ (Lloyd, 152)—21 September—1415 and a brief fifteenth-century memorandum associated with the lordships of Oswestry and Chirk and which relates material of local interest gives the ‘day of St Matthew, apostle, 1415’ (ibid.) as the day of Glyn Dŵr's death. An agreement concluded between the men of Powys, Gwynedd, and Deheubarth which is dated in ‘the sixth year after the revolt of Owain ap Gruffudd, the year of Christ, 1421’ (NL Wales, Peniarth MS 86, fol. 186) suggests that the year 1415 was later regarded as the end of the rebellion if not the year of Glyn Dŵr's death. On 5 July 1415 Gilbert Talbot was appointed to receive Owain Glyn Dŵr and other rebels into the king's obedience and it is possible that Glyn Dŵr was believed to be alive at that date. On 24 February 1416 a second commission was given to Talbot to negotiate with Glyn Dŵr's son Maredudd, and to receive Glyn Dŵr and any other rebel who sought pardon, but there is no mention of the father in the pardon offered to Maredudd on 30 April 1417 and it may be presumed that, by then, Glyn Dŵr was dead. His refuge in his final days and the place of his burial were matters of great speculation. Two, possibly three, daughters survived him, of whom the marriages of two, namely Alice, who married John Scudamore of western Herefordshire, and Gwenllian, said to be an illegitimate daughter who married Philip ap Rhys of Cenarth in Gwrtheyrnion, are known from contemporary evidence. Several local traditions connect his last days with Herefordshire locations. It is possible that his surviving son, Maredudd, had already assumed the leadership of the faltering rebellion before his father's death. An undated letter, almost certainly of 1411, written by the outlaw Gruffudd ap Dafydd ap Gruddudd to Reynold Grey, refers to the fact that he was under the protection of Maredudd ab Owain and suggests that, when it was written, Glyn Dŵr, if indeed he was still alive, had retired from active leadership of the movement. Maredudd himself may have served with the king in Normandy and in April 1421 received letters patent granting him pardon for all offences, ‘as on the testimony of the Holy Writ, the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father’ (CPR, 1416–22, 335).

Posthumous reputation

Although much of the credit for Owain Glyn Dŵr's rehabilitation as a national hero has been accorded to Thomas Pennant, who in his Tours in Wales (1778) searched out the legends and topographical detail associated with his name, the centuries since his death had not been without sympathetic portrayals of his endeavours. If the nineteenth-century writer William Owen of Caernarfon is to be believed, an Anglesey physician, David Bulkeley, had, as early as 1520, written an account of Glyn Dŵr, although no trace of the manuscript survives. Shakespeare's portrayal, perhaps the most influential in shaping Glyn Dŵr's image among an English public, presented him not only as a fierce warrior endowed with supernatural powers, but also as a cultured and dignified figure ‘not in the roll of common men’ (1 Henry IV, III.i). George Owen (1552–1613), the Elizabethan antiquary of Henllys in Pembrokeshire, while he regretted the rebellion's stultifying consequences for the well-being of pre-union Wales, nevertheless emphasized that Glyn Dŵr had opposed a usurper whose actions had generated the dynastic conflicts of fifteenth-century England. While the comments of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers (with some significant exceptions) are largely censorious, the renascent patriotism of the last decades of the nineteenth century encouraged a more positive and approving assessment. For the exponents of Welsh liberal ideals Glyn Dŵr was identified as the prime inspiration of their own cherished aims—a Welsh parliament, a reformed and liberated church, and a national university—while a number of studies aimed at a popular audience depicted him as a leader of a peasant movement and as the hero of the common man. The publication in 1931 of the biography by Sir John Edward Lloyd (1861–1947), with its avowed intention of removing the ‘undergrowth of legend and error’ that had gathered around the name of Glyn Dŵr, not only signalled the advent of an authoritative, scholarly study but also established the rebel's credentials as a national hero and as a Welsh statesman of vision and imagination.

Llinos Smith


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A. Turner, portrait, 1916, City Hall, Cardiff · seal, NMG Wales [see illus.]