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Owen Glendower and the Welsh Revolt by Paul Rance


Wales has often felt resentment at being ruled by the English, but there were occasions when the Welsh controlled its own destiny.

After the Norman Conquest, the border of England and Wales was called the Welsh Marches, and this was an area where neither the English or the Welsh had overall control. This, however, led to many disputes over the territory.

Llywelyn Fawr had become the first Prince of Wales, after the Magna Carta of 1215 had been quite beneficial to the Welsh nation. It wasn't until Edward I became King of England in 1272 that Welsh and English tensions broke out and had serious consequences.

Edward I launched the first invasion of Wales since the Norman Conquest, and succeeded in annexing the country, though he couldn't subdue the Scots. The Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, lost his life, and Wales became fully until English control.

To strengthen his hold on Wales, Edward built a series of castles, and made his son - who would become Edward II - Prince of Wales in 1301. The 14th Century was to prove to be a fairly quiet period in English-Welsh history, but the early part of the 15th Century was to be very different.

The Legendary Owen Glendower

Owen Glendower was probably the most famous Welsh figure remembered for fighting against the English. He became famous in 1400, when leading the Welsh Revolt. Glendower was also the last Welshman to have the title of the Prince of Wales.

Though Glendower was not to end up victorious, he goes down in Welsh history as one of the country's great leaders, and he and his army pushed the English as far east as Birmingham. One of his major achievements was also in unifying the Welsh nation, which was the major factor in the English meeting such stiff resistance.

The Welsh Revolt began in September 1400 against Henry IV, after Glendower's land had been seized by Baron Grey of Ruthin. Henry IV himself had usurped Richard II, and supporters of Richard had caused disturbances in Chester, after the execution of one of Richard's aides. Many of the population of Wales also favoured Richard over Henry.

The Welsh Revolt continued into 1401, as much of Wales came under Glendower's control. The more hardline the English became, the more the rebellion was stoked up. Glendower also captured his adversary Baron Grey of Ruthin in 1402.

France Helps the Welsh

France helped the Welsh, and many Welshmen living and working in England went back to Wales to fight the English. There were even Welshmen, who served in wars, fighting for England, who went back home to defend their homeland. By 1404, English resistance in Wales had become minimal.

Glendower formed a pact with two English noblemen, Henry Percy and Edmund Mortimer, whereby England and Wales would be divided between the three of them, and Glendower would keep all of Wales. At that time this meant nearly all of modern day Cheshire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire.

The Welsh formed a pact with France in 1405, and France invaded England in the same year. The French army reached as far as Worcester, but both they and the English army declined to fight a full scale battle.

English Regain Control of Wales

By 1406, the French became more in favour of peace, and Glendower's grip on power in Wales began to ebb away. In 1413 the new English king, Henry V, was crowned, and he was less hostile to the Welsh than his predecessors. Glendower himself was in hiding at this time, and the mystery of what happened to him has only served to maintain him as a legendary figure in Welsh and British history.

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