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Introduction ~ Owain ap Gruffudd ~ Rhys ap Gruffudd ~ Llywelyn ap Iorwerth ~ Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ~ Owain Glyndwr
Llywelyn ap Iorworth ~ page two
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So Llywelyn was poised to strike hard into Powys, but before he could do so the Bishops of Valle Crucis and St Asaph intervened and saved Gwenwynwyn. Llywelyn, beside himself with rage because is attack had been thwarted, struck at the only minor prince who had not supported him. Prince Elise was disposed of the castle of Bala and treated as a serf. He did not to refuse to support Llywelyn again. Now in control of Bala and its lands, Llywelyn garrisoned it for it now gave him a secure base south of Snowdonia for his next attack on Gwenwynwyn and his kingdom. Both did not have to wait to long before it happened.

There was however a new king in England called John who craftily balanced Llywelyn and Gwenwynwyn against's one another, first giving favour to one then the other. He was in fact doing the same in south Wales with the sons of lord Rhys. It was a bloody time in Deheubarth as John set one son against another, many ended up in the quiet precincts of Strata Florida Abbey with their only company, a rough wooden cross with their name hewn upon it.

By the year of 1208, the friendly situation between Gwenwynwyn and king John was on the decline, as was the one between the king and the lords of Radnor, Builth. Brecknock, Upper Gwent, Glamorgan and the Gower. When it appeared that the Lords would break out into open rebellion Llywelyn struck. He marched into Powys and overran the kingdom in a campaign which lasted less than a fortnight.

On receiving the information that his ally Gwenwynwyn of Powys had been overrun by Llywelyn, Maelgwyn ap Rhys the primary ruler in the kingdom of Deheubarth in west Wales, attempted to put a scorched earth policy between himself and Llywelyn. After ordering his castles of Aberystwyth, Ystrad Meurig and Dinerith to be pulled down and crops destroyed, he retreated with all his available forces to his castle and town of Cardigan.

Llywelyn ap Iorwerth - Llywelyn The Great

Llywelyn certainly had reason to cross the Cambrian mountains. His great nephews Rhys and Owain ap Gruffudd, had suffered badly at the hands of both Maelgwyn and Rhys Gryg, their uncles. Rhys had even attacked and burnt their castle of Llangaddog.

So when Llywelyn and his men entered the region around the Ystwyth river, he ordered the castle of Aberystwyth to be rebuilt as a defensive shield against Maelgwyn, before continuing his advance south west to the Aeron river.

When the area had been secured and new border lines had been set, control of it was handed to his two young great nephews, with warnings to both Maelgwyn and Rhys Gryg that should they even consider attacking the two then they would suffer his full wrath.

Meanwhile in the court of king John, there were many who were concerned about the growing power of Llywelyn, not so the king for John was confident that he could control his son-in-law and remained on good terms with him. So when John ordered Llywelyn to pay homage to him at Woodstock in October of 1209, and Llywelyn duly did so, it silenced many of those that openly criticised his power.

It now seemed that Llywelyn could do no wrong but with enemies at John's court, dark clouds would soon gather over Llywelyn's head.

On 17th of June in 1210 king John set sail from Milford Haven to land near Waterford in Ireland for a military campaign against the Earl Marshall, Earl Hugh of Ulster, his brother Walter Lacy and William de Broes. he returned by way of Fishguard on the 26th August. Here he met with Maelgwyn ap Rhys, who's castle protected the northern approach to what was now the royal port of Fishguard. When the meeting was over and agreement had been reached on several topics, the king left for his homeward journey via Carmarthen and Bristol.

Strange events now began to take place in west Wales. Rhys Gryg on the 8th of September with the help of royal troops, despite the warning he had received from Llywelyn, attacked the Castle of Llandovery belonging to Rhys and Owain ap Gruffudd. The garrison soon surrendered to the superior force. As September turned into November king John restored Gwenwynwyn to kingdom of Powys. When Maelgwyn ap Rhys received the the news he had long waited for, he advanced north with the intentions of engaging the two young allies of the prince of Gwynedd.

Rhys and Owain ap Gruffudd however, were not as naive in the ways of war as they had been months previously. When Maelgwyn settled into a night camp just north of Cilcennin, accompanied with a highly mobile force of over five hundred men the two princes struck with devastating results. Maelgwyn just managed to escape with his life, his nephew Cynan ap Hywel and chief counselor, Gruffydd ap Cadwgan were captured and six hundred of his men were killed. The result of the action, nothing in the overall picture of west Wales but it did result in king John strengthening Builth castle and increasing the size of the garrison station there. Now the young princes were threatened from the east as well as the west.

Llywelyn, six weeks after the engagement by the two young princes, was camped at Conway and unbeknown to him king John called for a general mobilisation of Welsh allies. Not only did Llywelyn's enemies answer the call such as Gwenwynwyn, Maelgwyn and Rhys Gryg, but surprisingly former allies such as Hywel ap Gruffydd and Madog of northern Powys. The first time that princes of northern Powys had turned away from the flag of the princes of Gwynedd

Twice the alliance marched against Llywelyn, twice they failed to capture him or destroy his army, for Llywelyn and his men simply faded into the mountains of the 'eyrie' and no army commander was prepared to march into what was 'Fortress Snowdonia'. But after the second attempt at his capture Llywelyn was left in a precarious position, surrounded as he now found himself on all sides by his enemies. In was only the intervention of Joan with her father king John that allowed Llywelyn to retain that he had secured in the north.

In south Wales the situation was no better, for the king's men had swept all before them. Having done so they had then turned on Llywelyn's young allies in west Wales. With no support to call on, they soon surrendered. The two were sent in chains to make peace with the King.

Now royal castles, the symbols of John's power, began to appear across the country, many garrisoned by 'bloody' mercenaries who killed and tortured the local population for no reason at all. It was however, when Falkes of Breaute built a new castle at Aberystwyth in the name of the king, that the princes in south and west Wales realised the terrible treachery they had committed against their fellow Welshmen by supporting king John.

Maelgwyn ap Rhys and Rhys Gryg, desperate to undo the damage they had done, struck at Aberystwyth castle with fury in late autumn of 1211. The garrison were killed to a man, the castle was pulled to the ground and the timbers burnt. Yes! it appeared that a new national uprising was in the offering and the princes of the south waited to see if the Prince of Gwynedd would lead them.

Back on amicable terms with his father-in-law king John, Llywelyn accompanied Joan to Cambridge at Easter in 1212. Once there he was not slow to discover that John was at loggerheads with most of the Barons of the realm, so on returning to Aberffraw he informed the princes of the south that he to was ready to once again brake out into open revolt and lead them.

While he himself swept across north Wales and ravaged and destroyed every English castle and garrison other than Rhuddlan and Deganwy. He dispatched troops from Bala to assist Gwenwynwyn in the recovery of Powys and some to assist Rhys Gryg in his recovery of west Wales for the Welsh cause. His troops also accompanied those of Rhys Gryg during the destruction of the town of Swansea, but all was done in the name of Llywelyn, now Prince of Wales.

John was furious, involved in the preparation for an attack on France, he now switched his resources to Chester for an immediate campaign against Llywelyn. His Barons were ordered to meet him at Nottingham for a council of war, but few attended, for they themselves were preparing for another war, that of one against John himself.

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