The Fate of Wales under Edward I

Despite a bitter campaign to preserve Welsh independence, Llywelyin and David were finally killed. The Welsh would have to wait for more than 100 years before Glendower made a fresh claim for the principality.

Edward arrived back in England from his crusade in August 1274, he had been proclaimed king on the death of his father without opposition reflecting the regard for his prowess and renown as a warrior, called in his time “the best lance in the world”. He was crowned in 1274 at Westminster Abbey.

With the barons now quiet, Edward was determined to enforce England’s claim to primacy in the British Isles and set out to return Wales to his rule. Wales at this time consisted of a number of princedoms broadly divided into the south, where the Welsh princes had an uneasy alliance with the English Marcher Lords who had been given the lands in Norman times to protect the English against Welsh raids.

The northern Welsh were based at Gwynedd and ruled by Llywelyin ap Gruffid, the Prince of Gwynedd, who in 1247 had agreed to hold the North Wales in fee to the king, but, seizing his advantage during the English civil war to consolidate his territory and his rule, which under the Peace of Montgomery confirmed his position as Prince of Wales. Llywelyn thereafter maintained that “the rights of the Principality were entirely separate from the rights of England” and refused to do homage or attend Edward’s coronation.

Finally running out of patience, Edward declared Llywelyn “a rebel and disturber of the peace” and in a short campaign, aided by Llywelyn’s brother David, defeated him. The rebellion broke out again in 1282 when Llywelyn, now joined with his brother, again attempted to reclaim his lands. All this ended in December 1282 with the death of Llywelyn in a chance skirmish at Builth where Llywelyn was forced to fight with a knight named Adam Frankton who killed him and sent his head to be displayed on London Bridge.

David was captured and executed for treason and has the dubious distinction of being the first recorded example of hanging, drawing and quartering. He was hanged for the murder of knights in Harwarden Castle, disemboweled for committing the crime on Palm Sunday and quartered for rebelling against his lord.

Under the Statute of Wales, in 1284 Wales was divided into the English framework of Shires and control was assured by the building of many castles. In the same year a son was born to Edward and Eleanor. This son, also called Edward was to be named Prince of Wales in 1301. There is a tale that Edward presented his son to the Welsh as “Prince of Wales who could speak no English”. This is unlikely however as he already had an elder son, Alfonso, alive at this time. Prince Edward was only named to the title following the death of Alfonso.

Jim Keys
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Jim Keys

Since his retirement Jim Keys has indulged his passion for history, writing two books on Britain’s past: The Dark Ages and The Bloody Crown. He is currently writing the last of the trilogy, Fighting Brits which covers Britain’s military struggles from the Armada to Afghanistan.

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