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Introduction ~ Owain ap Gruffudd ~ Rhys ap Gruffudd ~ Llywelyn ap Iorwerth ~ Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ~ Owain Glyndwr
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In an attempt to strengthen his hand against the forthcoming rebellion, the evil and twisted mind of the English king sort him to convene a meeting on the 15th of March 1215 with Llywelyn, Maelgwyn, Gwenwynwyn and Madog ap Gruffydd on the Welsh march just south of Shrewsbury. Its purpose to try to persuade the Welsh princes to range their forces alongside those of the barons of the march, which included Walter Lacy, John of Monmouth, Hugh Mortimer, Peter fitz Hubert, who were loyal to him.

Llywelyn was amused when he was asked to join the king's coalition, for he was being asked to fight alongside his traditional enemies. Within days of the meeting he had allied himself and his troops alongside those of the king's enemies. It was when they entered London on the 17th of May, that Llywelyn marched upon Shrewsbury castle and town, both of which surrendered to him without a fight.

In south and west Wales Maelgwyn and Rhys swept through those area's which the did not already control, but they failed to take the powerful stronghold of Pembroke the home of the Earl Marshal. Afterwards, while Rhys overran an area from the mouth of the river Tywi to the Neath river, Maelgwyn and Owain ap Gruffudd went north to swear fealty to Llywelyn and secure his aid.

Cricieth Castle built by Llywelyn in north west Wales

In England on the 15th of June 1215 the dispute between the Barons and king John reached its climax. At Runnymede in Surrey, seated before the great barons of the land he was forced to sign the Magna Carter, the great document which set out the liberties, rights and concessions between the king and his subjects. Llywelyn however, was not present, for it was he not John that was now involved in a great programme of castle building.

There was and excited feeling in Wales at the time, prospects of a free Wales appeared to be good as Llywelyn began to consolidate his position of Prince of Wales.

When December of 1215 came however, Llywelyn once again donned his war bonnet and marched south from the 'Eyrie', this time he was ahead of an army which comprised of troops from every Welsh kingdom which was free of English rule. There was Hywel ap Gruffudd ap Cynan and his men, those of Llywelyn ap Maredudd ap Cynan, Gwenwynwyn of Powys, Maelgwyn, Rhys Gryg, the sons of Gruffydd ap Rhys, Maelgwyn ap Cadwallon and the personal bodyguard of Madog ap Gruffydd.

On the 8th the force attacked Carmarthen, by the 13th it had fallen. Then the castles of Kidwelly, Llanstephan. St. Clears, Laugharne, Narberth and Newport all fell in quick succession. But the two biggest prizes were secured on the 26th, Cardigan was recaptured and Cilgerran overrun. Now with his son-in-law ruling over the former De Broase lands Wales was virtually free from English holdings. Determined that the new areas should be divided up equally between all the princes of the south, Llywelyn called a meeting at Aberdovey early in 1216, perhaps this was the first parliament who knows. It was a great success for all of the men of importance in Wales at the time were there, and each was satisfied with the outcome.

One man however broke once again with the concept of a united Wales, for he had seen his ambition to be Prince of Wales destroyed. Gwenwynwyn of Powys allied himself once again with king John. O how foolish the man was, for Llywelyn was quick to react. Ahead of a thousand men he entered southern Powys and drove Gwenwynwyn into permanent exile.

The tyrant King John died on October 19th 1216 and Llywelyn awaited the coronation of a new king with just a little trepidation, but he had nothing to fear. For the new king Henry III had wise councilors about him and saw no reason to provoke Llywelyn into open warfare, especially as he swore an oath of allegiance to Henry at Worcester.

It is possible that from that point in time, with peace settled over the land, Llywelyn could have quietly and patiently returned Wales to complete independence which we may have seen today. It was not to be, for greed, deceit and misfortune were to raise their heads once again in the Welsh Marches.

It was the granting of the border fortress of Montgomery by the king to Hubert de Burgh on the 27th of April in 1228 that sowed the seeds of war. When de Burgh ordered the clearing of Kerry Forest thus depriving many of the village of Kerry their livelihood, that troops loyal to Llywelyn placed Montgomery castle under siege. Llywelyn however, was not in attendance and in fact Joan met the king at Shrewsbury castle to apologise on behalf of Llywelyn for the acts of his troops. That may have been the end of the affair had it not been for the stupidity of man.

No sooner had the dust settled on the incident than Henry invited the Barons of the march, which included the Earls of Pembroke and Gloucester, William de Broase and Roger Clifford to assemble at Montgomery with the intentions of invading Kerry once again. This they duly did and upon securing the ground upon which to build it, Henry ordered the construction of a castle to begin. When the walls had risen to some six metres so did Llywelyn and his men strike. O what 'bloody' retribution was reeked, hundreds of the king's men died in the assault, others were killed while abroad in the forest searching for food. William de Broase was captured as he tried to escape from the forest with his lifeguards, all in all it was a great victory for Llywelyn, more so when the king agreed to raze the castle to the ground.

In 1229 William de Broase was set free upon the promise of a ransom payment of £2500, but Llywelyn had a suspicion that whilst in captivity William had been having an affair with his wife Joan. This was confirmed when Broase was staying at Aberffraw one night, and Llywelyn burst into his wife's bed chamber and found them in bed together. Joan was thrown into jail whilst de Broase was placed in chains until a few days later when Llywelyn had him hanged from a tree in front of over a thousand people.

But even this event did not cause the embers of war to break into flames, however, they were certainly smoldering. Hubert de Burgh had become the King's Justiciar and his treatment of the Welsh throughout south Wales was causing concern to Llywelyn, however, it was the beheading of twenty one Welsh prisoners by the garrison at Montgomery castle that was the last straw.

With almost three thousand troops Llywelyn marched south from the 'Eyrie', Montgomery, Radnor and Hay on Wye were consigned to flames. Next it was Brecon before he crossed the mountains into Glamorgan, there to be met by Rhys ap Gruffudd, Hywel ap Maredudd, Morgan Gam and their men. Into their path fell the town and castle of Neath, not a stone was left standing or a piece of timber not burnt after they had crossed the river Neath and headed north.

In west Wales too the men of the Deheubarth dynasty had answered his call. Maelgwyn ap Maelgwyn, Rhys Gryg and Owain ap Gruffydd had first battered their way through the gates of Cardigan town, then burnt it and razed what stone they could find to the ground. Two days later the battered, bewildered remnants of the castle's garrison surrendered. They were a pitiful sight, but that did not stop them from being put to the sword.

So Cardigan, that proud fortress standing on the north bank of the mouth of the river Teifi, was back in Welsh hands. It had been eight long years since it had been so, and Llywelyn's authority in west Wales had suffered because of its loss.

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