79 Conqueror and Statesman

The second Anglo Welsh war was very different in character to the first. Here was a genuinely national uprising against rule by the English. Here was a war with no compromise – where Edward clearly decided from the start that the only long term issue was complete conquest. 


79 Conqueror and Statesman

Edward's second Anglo Welsh War – Conquest


Between 1277 and 1282, the Welsh had their defeat rubbed firmly in their faces. The new towns set up in the shadow of the new English castles at places like Flint and Rhuddlan excluded the Welsh from trade. The administrators were English and made few concessions to Welsh law and nationhood. And then, there were personal grievances; Daffyd in particular had wanted to become the Prince of Gwynedd at least, not just to be given 2 cantrefs. 

It starts…

Caernarfon CastleIn 1282, Daffyd and his allies launched a series of surprise attacks at Hawarden, Aberystwyth, Flint and Rhuddlan. The English towns burnt. This presented Llewellyn with a problem – did he join or stay aloof? Afterall, given the experience of 1277 surely the revolt was doomed from the start. He dithers. But then in June, his wife bore him a daughter, not a son to carry on his line; and then Eleanor died as well. Llewellyn decided he had nothing to lose, and threw his lot in with his brother.

The war

Edward's attack followed the previous model – 3 separate attacks, south west, East and north. The Welsh had some early success – de Clare was defeated in the south, William de Valence held up at Aberystwyth.

But in the north, Edward's advance was relentless, including building a bridge of boats across the Menai straits to Angelsey. Holed up in Snowdonia, Llewellyn tried to break out with an attack in central Wales – only to be killed in the resulting battle, have his head hacked off, crowned with Ivy and nailed to the Tower of London. 

Daffyd was now Prince of Wales, but the winter of 1282-3 gave him no relief as he expected – uniquely, Edward kept the fight going. Daffyd was chased from stronghold to stronghold until at last his own countrymen handed him over to Edward. 

A new brutality in political life

In October 1283 Daffyd was accused of Treason. It's not that Treason was unknown – but it had never been used for this kind of rebellion, and never for the high born. Here's how the chronicler described a hideous death: 

Daffyd…was captured by the king’s men together with his wife, two sons and 7 daughters and was tried subsequently by the magnates of England.  He was a fomenter of evil, a most vicious tormenter of the English and deceiver of his own race, and ungrateful traitor and a warmonger.

The death of a traitor is indeed shameful! Daffyd was dragged at a horses tail through the streets of Shrewsbury, then hanged and finally decapitated. Afterwards his body was hacked into 4 portions, his heart and intestines were burned and his head was taken to London to be displayed at a stake on the Tower next to his brother’s head. The 4 quarters of his headless corpse were despatched to Bristol, Northampton, York and Winchester  

4 thoughts on “79 Conqueror and Statesman

  1. Hello again David. Another great episode, but there is a small error.
    At around 15:40 you say that Carnavon Castle was built to resemble Constantinople as it was close to the site of a Roman fort constructed by the emperor Maximus “the father of Constantine”. This can’t be the case. Magnus Maximus was born around AD325, but Constantine was born in AD272. Constantine was actually the son of the emperor Constantius Chlorus.
    The Roman fort may have been built by Magnus Maximus, as he was governor of Britain and known to have been active in Wales.
    At around 18:15 you say that Edward found the body of Maximus. This definitely a piece of Plantagent propaganda. In AD383, Maximus usurped the western empire from Gratian and his successor Valentinian II. But he was subsequently defeated by the combined forces of Valentinian and Theodosius I, the eastern emperor, at Aquileia. It’s highly unlikely that his body made it back to Britain.

  2. Hi Graham – and everyone. Graham is, of course, absolutely correct; curses, I knew I should never get involved in anything Roman…
    So I am mixing up two things. There is an old Welsh text which survives in other, later transcribed histories, called The Dream of Emperor Maximus. In the dream, Maximus dreams of 3 wonderful castles in Wales, wakes, and finds them exactly as he dreamed them. So in Caernarfon, Edward was consciously trying to recreate these Roman forts, and through the colour scheme evoking the walls of Constantinople.
    The other thing is that yes, the body Edward conveniently found was that of Constantius…despite the fact that I think he died in York.
    Sorry, and thanks for pointing it out…I shall have to publically wear sackcloth and ashes in the next episode but one.

  3. Oh, so I was hearing “wynn-wynn-wynn” correctly. What a weird name. Makes me want to come up with an awful pun. Like, it was a Gwynnwynnwynn situation.

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