Prince of the house of Gwynedd, grandson to Llywelyn-ap-Iorwerth
( Llywelyn The Great ), acquired the title of Prince of Wales
through his skill of arms. He won every bloody encounter against
his brothers, with the most bloody of all being the final battle
at Bryn Derwin on the Lleyn Peninsular in the spring of 1255.
Victory by Llywelyn that day caused his brother Owain to be imprisoned
in Cricieth castle, while Dafydd his other brother fled from the
battlefield into English hands.
weeks of his final victory Llywelyn, before turning his attention
to the rest of Wales, set about bringing all of Gwynedd under
his control. In 1256 he attacked Gruffudd
ap Gwenwynwyn, the prince of Powys, forcing him to flee for protection into the arms
of the Anglo/Norman garrison at the castle in Shrewsbury. He then
in wrested Builth castle from its castellan Mortimer, before recovering the
counties of Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire for the Welsh cause.
1267 Llywelyn's position as Prince of Wales and overlord of the
Principality was duly recognised at the Treaty of Montgomery by
Henry III, king of England. For the next ten years Llywelyn was to continue to excerpt pressure on the princes of the Principality, cajoling
some, threatening others; through all this time the threat of
English intervention lay just across the border.
Edward Ist ascended the throne of England in 1272 the coexistence
between Wales and England ceased to exist, for Edward Ist demanded
that Llywelyn should become subservient to him; so it really was
of no surprise to anyone that by 1280 Llywelyn was in open rebellion,
in fact in 1281, hearing that Edward was planning to mount a campaign
against him, he ordered a general mobilization.
winter of 1281 was a particular cold one, heavy snow and frosts
made the ways over the mountains treacherous, but nevertheless
it did not stop the men of north Wales answering his call. All
though the Winter they struggled over many secret ice bound mountain
paths to reach Castell y Bere, as for Llywelyn himself, along
with his family he moved from the palace of Aberffraw on Anglesey
to the fortress of Cricieth. There over the festive season he
began to plan for a campaign into south west Wales. Having been
told that Edward was planning to move against him when the flowers
of summer began to bloom in 1282, Llywelyn after Xmas, in an attempt to pre-empt Edward's
move left his family at Cricieth and moved to his battle headquarters
of the castle of Bere in the Desenni valley.
When the melting snows of winter flooded the Desenni plain and
the mountain passes became free, so heralding the coming of summer,
Llywelyn in direct defiance of a directive by Edward,
marched south out of the valley ahead of an army many thousand
strong. The summer was spent raiding and destroying those English castles along the south Ceredigion coast, which had
been rebuilt after his last destruction of them
When in response
to his raids units of an English Army advanced north from south
Wales in early Autumn, Llywelyn threw caution to the wind, engaged and
successfully defeated them. His victory however, only festered
his ambition, that of recreating the whole of Wales as a state.
It was this driving ambition which saw him march south eastwards
across the Cambrian mountains in early December. O if he had only
December 11th 1282:
the first rays of light shone over the Welsh countryside that
morning the army of Wales and its C-i-C, were to be found encamped
atop of a high ridge to the west of Builth Wells. To the east
of them the river Irfon, running in spate, Builth castle and English
Army Group Center under the command of a one Roger L' Estrange.
L' Estrange, the English Castellan of the rock fortress of Montgomery,
on having been told that Llywelyn was marching for Builth, had
immediately ordered his army into the field and marched south
with the aim of bringing him to battle.
December 12th 1282. Llywelyn
awoke to find that it was a dry, cold, frosty morning. In the
distance to the east, through the wispy gray mist rising off the
Irfon river, ( as it has on so many winter mornings down through
time ) he could see the battlements of Builth castle. His hope
was that it would be in his hands before midday, for during the
night he had held a secret meeting with members of a local group;
who intended as dawn broke to attack and seize it on his behalf.
As soon as he knew the castle was his, Llywelyn intended to advance
across the river and occupy the castle and the high ground upon
which it sat. From there, after consolidating his position, he
proposed to launch an attack on L' Estrange and his battle group.
Having washed and donned his amour, Llywelyn ate a hearty breakfast
while conferring with his commanders before setting out to tour
his encampment. He was pleased to find that his men were confident,
their spirits high and they were ready to face whatever challenge
the day would bring.
December 12th 1282:
Midday came and then went, with it went
Llywelyn's nerve. Increasingly concerned that no news had reach
him over the fall of Builth, to the woe of his field commanders
he set out, without
amour on, with twelve lifeguards for the only bridge to span the
river Irfon. That afternoon some five miles to the Northwest of
the high ridge, twenty trustworthy but anxious men held the way
across Orewin bridge on behalf of the men of Wales, Their anxiety
deepened when they observed riders approaching from their rear
their anxiety however, lasted for but a short while when they
discovered that the riders were none other than Llywelyn and his