The Eve of a Quest and Episode One

So this is it. I’m now in Chester. In a few short hours I’ll be off on my Welsh Castle Wander at last. Departing from Chester Castle, we’ll head out towards the Dee estuary, just as Edward did with his army at the same time in 1277. I’ll be walking all day and will report on all our adventures as the Quest progresses, but for now, to set the scene, the start of a compelling medieval story needs to be told…

Episode One: In the beginning…

Once upon a medieval time there was a king and a prince that didn’t get on.
The king was Edward Plantagenet, who had become Edward 1st of England (reigned 1272-1307) and the prince was Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (known as ‘Llywelyn the Last’ – you’ll see why later), the second of four brothers from a dynastic line of Welsh leaders whose lands centred around Gwynedd in the north, and he had ambitions to expand his rule. But in doing so, the prince trod on the king’s toes once too often. The result was a series of wars that ultimately led to England and Wales being ruled by the English king, and Edward’s subjugation of the Welsh was to be instrumental in forging the beginnings of a United Kingdom, an incipient Great Britain that would hold sway to this day.

But to tell the story of how it all happened, we need to travel even further back in time to before Edward came to power and his father, Henry III was the unpopular incumbent English king.

Edward

King Edward 1st: This time in 1277, he was just about to invade Wales…

In the 1260’s, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was expanding his territories from his powerbase of Gwynedd while Henry III was busy scrapping with his own barons in England. In 1263, Llywelyn secured his grip on power in the region by capturing two of the king’s castles at Dyserth and Deganwy, of which nothing of any substance remains. But owing to the ongoing challenges Henry was facing to his authority in England, he wasn’t in a position to deal with an incursion into his lands in far-off Wales. Instead, the next four years saw him grant a series of temporary truces, until 1267 when he finally took the then Prince Edward and his court to meet Llywelyn on the Welsh border to sort things out once and for all.

The negotiations came down heavily on Llywelyn’s side, and the resulting Treaty of Montgomery not only acknowledged him as feudal overlord of most of the other Welsh lords, but he was also allowed to keep the lands he’d captured from Henry as well as a fair chunk belonging to Edward. Finally, and possibly most significantly, the treaty formally recognised Llywelyn in the title role he’d adopted for himself in 1258, an achievement that had eluded all his predecessors. He became the official Prince of Wales.

In return for all this glory and formal recognition, Llywelyn was required to pay. Twice. A huge sum of money was to be paid to Henry in annual instalments, but he also had to pay Homage to the king, recognising Henry as his overlord. This was nothing new as it had been a tradition stretching back generations, but this particular act declaring everlasting allegiance and submission to the English crown now secured Llywelyn’s hold on Wales. So at the ford in Montgomery in 1267, the Welsh prince happily knelt before Henry and the solemn oath was made. But nothing in the Middle Ages is ever so cleanly cut and dried…

See you in Chester…

49 thoughts on “The Eve of a Quest and Episode One

  1. Wish I was on my way into Wales – perhaps when I get back down to one job (the part-time one), I can finally get down there. But I’ve also promised my friends in the Outer Hebrides I’ll finally go and visit them too…

    Liked by 1 person

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