Owain Glyn Dwr, ‘Prince of Wales’
In the last years of the C14th disagreements began to emerge between Owain Glyn Dwr, a descendent of Lllewellyn The Great, Prince of Wales and the Marcher lords, who held land and privileges over the border marsh lands between England and Wales.
This disagreement was the closest Wales ever got to overthrowing English rule since it had been conquered in 1282 when Edward I marched his armies in and defeated the Welsh lords.
Owain Glyn Dwr was born around the 1350s into an Anglo-Welsh gentry family.
- A man of many skills and a charismatic personality he fought well, joining the English army and taking part in an invasion of Scotland.
Maybe this exposure to the English army, convinced him there was an opportunity to be taken because when he retired to his estates in Wales, he escalated a land dispute with a neighbour Reginald Grey,a Marcher Lord, that then grew into a more organized rebellion.
When Richard II was overthrown by Henry Bolingbroke in England and English lordship in Wales collapsed, Owain allied himself with England’s enemies including the French, the Scotts and the native Irish and sought to grasp power for himself in Wales by proclaiming himself ‘Prince of Wales’.
- There were several fierce attacks by Glyn Dwr supporters on English border towns and a more general outbreak of rebellion in north-west Wales.
- Henry Bolingbroke, now Henry IV, was spurred into action and led multiple campaigns into Wales to defeat the rebels but was unsuccessful.
- The acts of Welsh rebellion continued.
- They captured Conwy Castle in April 1401.
- In June 1402, at the Battle of Pilleth on Bryn Glas Hill, Glyn Dwr led his troops to victory over an English army led by Edmund Mortimer.
Henry V, then Henry, Prince of Wales, took over the campaign but chose a more successful method of warfare, that of attrition. He left a relatively small army in Wales whose aim it was to remain in constant conflict with the rebels, led by Glyn Dwr, who was still drumming up support form England’s other enemies. The attrition included an economic blockade and it was this that quite possibly was the ultimate undoing of the Welsh. Using the castles that remained in English control he gradually began to retake Wales while cutting off trade and the supply of weapons.
- In 1404 a French expeditionary force landed at Milford Haven and joined with the Welsh to march towards Worcester, capturing several important castles as they went. They met the English army just ten miles from Worcester.
- The armies took up battle positions daily and viewed each other from a mile without any major action for eight days. It appears each army eventually retreated for reasons that are unclear.
- In 1406, the French withdrew their support
- Henry’s campaign of attrition continued to take it’s toll and the English began to regain control of Wales as support for the revolt faded.
- By 1408, the rebellion was all but over, with the remaining groups of supporters of Glyn Dwr engaged in guerrilla tactics but Owain Glyn Dwr was a leader on the run.
Henry then did a very clever thing, he drew the Welsh into the fold, whereas before they were at the margins of the Kingdom, Henry now recruited many Welsh soldiers into his ranks, to join him on his campaigns in France.
- The Welsh were excellent fighters and particularly gifted archers and now Henry had them in his pay.
What became of Owain Glyn Dwr and his claim?
He is last mentioned in papers in 1416 when terms were offered for his surrender but after that there is no more mention of Owain Glyn Dwr, the last to claim the title of independent Prince of Wales.