Episode Six: A Sticky End…
Acting quickly, Edward again appointed three Marcher lords to command forces on the border while he fielded an even bigger army than for the previous war. Setting out again from Chester in early July, he headed for his damaged castle at Rhuddlan which would function as his operations base. But this time he wasn’t interested in submission or homage from Llywelyn. He was past caring about that. Instead he had bigger ideas. Now he intended to conquer the whole of Wales.
As before, a division of Edward’s army secured the vital crops on Anglesey, but this time the king went a step further. Shipping in hundreds of carpenters and materials including timber, rope and nails from Chester, he ordered a unique bridge of boats to be constructed that would link the island to the mainland and give his men access to Snowdonia from the rear. The rebels took refuge in the mountains they knew so well, but Edward was not about to give up.
The conflict went on for months. Even the archbishop of Canterbury’s intervention failed to bring about a negotiated settlement. Talks between Edward and Llywelyn conducted through his mediation were a resounding flop, and a reconciliation was now clearly beyond hope. The people of Snowdonia, Llywelyn said defiantly, “do not wish to do homage to a stranger, of whose language, manners and laws they are entirely ignorant”.
So amid more Welsh resistance and uprisings, Llywelyn left his brother in the North to strike out with his army southwards towards Builth to seek help. But either by chance or betrayal, the English were there, waiting for him, and on 11th December at a nearby place named Cilmeri, the ensuing battle saw Llywelyn meet his end. At first, no-one realised who he was, but when the bodies were checked in the aftermath of the fighting Llywelyn’s identity was finally revealed. The commander of the division sent a letter to Edward with the news of the prince’s death, along with his head, which was sent on to London to be displayed as a warning to any other would-be rebels.
Now after Dafydd for his treachery, Edward invaded Gwynedd in March 1283. Dafydd fled to the mountains and then hid out at his dead brother’s castle at Llanberis near Mount Snowdon. But it was all to no avail; he was captured and carted away to captivity to await his sentence. Edward felt that Dafydd’s level of betrayal warranted a new punishment, one befitting a turncoat who had committed high treason, the most heinous crime of all. After some creative thinking it was, therefore, Dafydd ap Gruffud who was the first person to be executed by hanging, drawing and quartering, the ultimate traitor’s death that was to be the go-to sentence for centuries to come.
After the defeat of the last of this troublesome dynasty, Edward ordered his master mason, Master James of St George, to build three new castles all at once. To be positioned 20 miles apart, the new fortresses would stamp the king’s permanent badge of ownership on the late prince’s northern territory. The locations chosen were Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech, and these were all begun in 1283. The first two were not only to be castles, Edward instructed, but more ‘bastides’, this time surrounded by formidable defensive walls. The intention now was not only to subdue, but also to colonise the conquered Wales. The Welsh were cut out, allowed access inside the walls only to trade. The work began apace on the new castles, and the shape of North Wales, along with its population, began to be remodelled to a grand English design.
Finally Edward could rest assured that the Welsh had come under his full control. What he couldn’t have seen coming was that the people of Wales had one last trick up their sleeve…
Quest Update: A Bay of Mists
After the searing heat of Thursday, it had been raining when we set out today, making for much cooler and fresher conditions for a walk. After exploring the beautiful, misty landscape of Great Orme, we set off from Llandudno and headed along the coast to Conwy, passing the site of Deganwy, Henry III’s castle that Llywelyn had captured and destroyed prior to the Treaty of Montgomery. There’s nothing left now save a few rocks on the craggy hills the castle occupied, but these dramatic bumps in the land still cut a commanding presence over the surrounding area.
A haunting mist hung over the scenery, making the mouth of the Menai Straits look like a setting for Camelot, and as we rounded the headland and approached Conwy Bay, I caught sight of the next castle on the Quest: the magnificent edifice that is Conwy.
I can’t wait to delve into its stories and wander round it’s many walls and towers in what promises to be a wonderful castle questing day. But before I report on my findings, one more chapter of the story needs to be told…