1. From now on
imperialism would be the passion which was to possess the English for centuries to come.
Their obsession would be to confer on the conquered the blessings of English civilisation,
and the English language in particular and to uproot the conquered people from their own
language and customs; to turn Celtic people into Englishmen.
The Welsh were not hankering after such a change however. High taxes and
oppression were not to their liking. When the people rose on the side of Glyndwr, their
clear desire was to be allowed to be themselves: to desire to be a free nation was burning
in their breasts. This alone explains the remarkable success of Glyndwr.
Owain Glyndwr was a nobleman of royal descent and represented in
his blood line almost every region of Wales. He received the best education of Wales and
England but he was a Welsh-speaking Welshman and happiest amongst his own kind. It was
this third Owain who, in the opinion of the bards, was now their Mab Darogan.
On September 16, 1400
Owain Glyndwr was proclaimed Prince of Wales before a small company of noblemen at
From there they marched out and attacked the English boroughs of
Denbigh, Rhuddlan, Flint, Hawarden and Holt and then on to Oswestry and Welshpool.
After this the armies of the nearby English counties met and
defeated them, but not until Henry IV had commanded the armies of the ten counties to
assemble at Shrewsbury.
In Anglesey Gwilym and Rhys, the sons of Tudur ap Gronw of
Penmynydd, had entered the fight, forcing the king to lead his armies through the
northern counties to Anglesey. Rhys Ddu had attacked the English army there, who then
burnt down the Franciscan monastery of Llanfaes in retaliation for the monks' support of
Glyndwr. The English then proceeded to Caernarfon, and back to Shrewsbury through the deep
valleys of Dinas Mawddwy.
Seal of Owain Glyndwr
2. The experienced Gwilym and Rhys of Penmynydd and brother
Maredudd, Glyndwr's cousins; played a prominent part in this war from the beginning.
They were typical of the powerful experienced noblemen, ready to venture everything for
Owain and Wales. On the next level down, there was total support from the commotal
officials and churchmen too lent their support. So also many
of the gwerin were quick to show their support and
Welsh students being threatened in English colleges returned home to join the swelling
ranks. Labourers and soldiers followed suit. It was a people's war and so was more cruel
than the wars that had been fought by the small professional armies.
In London the English parliament legislated severely
against the Welsh, and Henry, the English Prince of Wales settled into Chester with his
council under the directorship of Percy, Earl of Northumberland (Hotspur). In Wales,
meanwhile, Gwilym and Rhys Tudur captured Conwy castle, and the Welsh of the surrounding
area attacked the town. Percy had to come to terms with them. Glyndwr moved to Deheubarth,
to the land of Rhys ap Tewdwr, his grandfather. In May it was reported in parliament that:
`Owain Glyndwr and other have newly made
insurrection and have gathered together in the marches of Carmarthenshire. They conspire
to invade the realm and destroy the English.'
Henry Dwn in Dyfed had fought beside John of Gaunt
and Richard II. A powerful man and Steward of Cydweli castle he supported Owain. In the
summer a great host of English were defeated by Owain with a small army on the banks of
the Hyddgen in one of the valleys of Pumlumon. The king called the levies of 14 counties
to meet him in Worcester, but he did not march until October. He plundered the south and
took children prisoners before returning to England.
When Edward returned executions followed and he
punished the monks support of Owain by burning the Cistercian monastery of Strata Florida
and filling the church with his soldiers.
Owain was, however, gaining control of the counties
of Caernarfon and Anglesey; he attacked Welshpool, and requested help from Ireland and
Scotland, to rid themselves of their common foe, the English.
In April 1402 he took Reginald de Grey, lord of
Rhuthun prisoner and two months later he took Edmund Mortimer prisoner at Bryn Glas,
Maeliennydd, where Welsh archers of the English army joined their Welsh brethren.
Now, with his army swelling Glyndwr was master of
Gwynedd and Powys, and appearing in Gwent and Morgannwg, he led the Welsh of the valleys
and attacked the English towns of Abergavenny, Usk, Caerleon, Newport and Cardiff.
The king came back to Wales with three armies and
inflicted severe damage on the people and countryside but to no avail.
Glyndwr received ten thousand for the release of
Grey and made an ally of Edmund Mortimer who married his daughter Catrin. Mortimer
was the brother-in-law of Hotspur so Glyndwr made an important connection to this
3. In 1403 the Welsh of
Brycheiniog attacked Brecon castle, and the men of Ystrad Tywi recognised Owain as Prince
of Wales and rose with him under the leadership of Rhys ap Gruffydd (the constable of
Dryslwyn) and Henry Dwn.
In July Glyndwr came to Llandeilo
with eight thousand men and was joined by men from the Conwy valley, Ceredigion, and
Cydweli. He captured Castell Newydd Emlyn; Dryslwyn, Carreg Cennen and Llansteffan and
finally Carmarthen surrendered to him. He suffered heavy losses at Lacharn (Laugharne) yet
still remained strong.
Hotspur proclaimed war on the king in Chester but Henry, the
English Prince of Wales, moved quickly and defeated and killed him at the Battle of
The king assembled his forces in Worcester to move once again
against the Welsh who were threatening England. His goal was Carmarthen and then returned
to Hereford. Henry Dwn, with Frenchmen and Bretons in his army, arrived in force beside
The French gave added strength to the Welsh in Gwynedd too,
helping them to gain more than one small victory. Caernarfon was in great danger:
Aber and Harlech were similarly threatened. English
reinforcements from Bristol were sent for but the two castles fell. Owain was master of
Wales from Caernarfon to Cardigan establishing his court and home in Harlech.
He was powerful enough to convene his first parliament in
summoned representatives from each commote in Wales. Wales
was an independent nation. It had a Prince and a
government, armed forces, a civil and diplomatic service, a treasury, a legal system and a
parliament. Owain had two immediate objectives: first, to strengthen his position by
acquiring powerful and reliable allies; and secondly, to develop a national policy. There
was little hope of help from the Irish. He had already appealed to their leaders, and to
the Scots, where the king of France too tried to find help in 1401 when he sent a Welsh
knight, Dafydd ab Man Goch, to the king of Scotland. To the court of France, therefore,
Glyndwr sent his ambassadors, John Hanmer, his brother-in-law, and Gruffudd Young, his
chancellor who was probably the main architect of the Welsh state. In a document which is
kept in Paris and which was andwritten in Dolgellau in May 1404, Glyndwr - `Owynus dei
gratia princeps Wallie' - attempted to secure a formal alliance. He succeeded. The
agreement was signed in France on July 14.
A second parliament was called in Harlech in August
but it was in the Pennal Parliament, in March 1406, when it was decided to transfer the
homage of the Welsh to the Pope in Avignon, that the nature of the policy he developed
began to emerge.
Then the English recaptured
the borderland. But so long as Aberystwyth and Harlech were standing
firm there was hope of saving the situation. The English concentrated on
these two castles. The English armies with their great guns were under
the direction of their prince who, bearing the name of Wales, was to
lead in a years time a great army of Welshmen to victory on the field of
Agincourt. Henry succeeded in occupying Aberystwyth by September I408,
and Harlech early in 1409, after Mortimer had starved to death there.
But although his family were taken into captivity Owain himself escaped,
and the government continued to worry about the situation; a number of
Scots and Frenchmen, together with some of his chief captains and
counsellors, remained loyal to Glyndwr, and marcher lords continued to
make agreements with him. His last considerable effort was an attack in
1410 on the outskirts of Shrewsbury from the north.of Powys where he
remained strong. He lost the battle; Rhys Ddu, Philip Scudalnore and
Rhys ap Tudur were taken prisoner and executed as traitors. The
government continued to station substantial troops in Wales, and even in
June 1412 Owain was powerful enough to capture Dafydd Gam of
Brycheiniog, a well-known quisling.
The followers of Glyndwr
remained faithful to the end. In 1415 Gruffudd Young was still working
for him in 1415 in France; it was he who maintained in the Council of
Constance, the assembly which ended the scandal of papal schism, that
the Welsh were a nation and that they should have a vote there. There
was not one attempt to supplant Owain as leader throughout his career,
nor one attempt to betray him at the end of his life. Not one Welsh word
of criticism of him has survived from that century. It is known that he
was not alive in 1417, but no one knows where he died. He disappeared in
dignified silence. The poets refused to believe that he was dead; so not
one of them composed an elegy to his memory. To them, and to a host of
Welsh people, he will never die. His spirit lives on like an
unquenchable flame, a symbol of the determination of the Welsh to live
as a free nation.
says J. E. Lloyd, 'his name is the symbol for the vigorous resistance
of the Welsh spirit to tyranny and alien rule and the assertion of a
national character which finds its fitting expression in the Welsh
For the Welshman of all
subsequent ages, Glyndwr has been a national hero, the first, indeed, in
the country's history to command the willing support alike of north and
south, east and west, Gwynedd and Powys, Deheubarth and Morgannwg. He
may with propriety be called the father of modern Welsh nationalism.'
The Welsh believed he would
return when needed by his people. His spirit is needed today. As the
nation matures in loyalty towards its own country, it can echo the words
used by Dafydd Iwan in his great song:
"Myn Duw, mi wn y daw."
"By God, I know he will come."