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Introduction ~ Owain ap Gruffudd ~ Rhys ap Gruffudd ~ Llywelyn ap Iorwerth ~ Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ~ Owain Glyndwr
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That's how the situation may have remained had not two scouts arrived in the camp with what they thought was disastrous news forty eight hours later. They had observed a vast army marching north east along the lake side at Bala, Owain was distraught for he thought Henry had outflanked him and that now he faced an enemy on two fronts. He hastily arranged his army to face the new danger that was confronting him.

O if the scouts had only waited just that little longer it would have saved much consternation. When the advancing army unfurled its banners, in preparation for what Owain suspected was an attack, they proved to non other than the banners of the army of Lord Rhys of Deheubarth, O what joy and celebration there was as the men of the south met those of the north. Now the fighting men of Wales were united against a common enemy, and for Owain the arrival of Lord Rhys to fight under his command was a sign to all of Wales that he truly was the Prince of Wales.

So arrayed at Corwen were nearly all the fighting men of Wales, but against them an English army was marching who were many thousands stronger. Henry had chosen to advance from Shrewsbury to a tented camp at Oswestry, from there his line of march took him into the thick forest growth of the Ceiriog valley just as the first heavy rains of Autumn began. Horses began to slip and break their legs, wagons overturned, men were becoming fed up of being wet through for there was no chance of getting dry for Henry forbid the lighting of fires. Then Lord Rhys and his men struck.

There had been much discussion at Corwen as to the tactics that should be used against the king. On discovering that Henry intended to cross the Berwyn mountains by advancing up the Ceiriog valley Rhys, because his men were used to fighting among the trees of the forests of west Wales, advanced from Corwen into the trees of the steep sided valley to await the arrival of the king. Each yard gained by Henry resulted in the loss of many many men, as the men from west Wales cut them down from the shelter of the trees; with the result that Henry ordered his men to clear the complete valley sides and use the timber to create a roadway along which he could safely move his men and material. The road is still there today know as 'Ffordd y Saeson' ---- the English Road; thus having cleared Rhys and his men from the trees and secured a passage so Henry and his army began to ascend the 2000 feet of the Berwyn range.

O but mother nature was fighting with the Welsh force too. The heavens remained open and cold north west wind swept the heavy rain down from the Berwyn's, which helped to take its toll. Men died from dysentery, starvation and injuries, all in all they were becoming more demoralized by the day and many began to slip away under the cover of darkness. Those that chose not to desert were still faced with the prospect of confronting the men of Wales.

Henry eventually reached the mountain top, but mother nature was not about to give up. For another three days it continued to pour down turning the camp into a quagmire, gale force winds blew the tents away, food ran out with no hope of acquiring any in enemy territory; after which seething with rage Henry took the decision to retreat. As he did so men continued to die, it was a rag tag army that finally arrived back at Shrewsbury a fortnight later and Henry's anger was still prevalent. Having seated himself in the great hall before a huge fire he ordered twenty two hostages to be brought before him, they included two of Owain Gwynedd's sons and one of Rhys. Having called for a blacksmith Henry then ordered him to blind all of them with red hot irons from the fire, a dastardly event; one that would cost what English holdings that were left in Wales very dearly.

When news of the dastardly events in Shrewsbury castle reached Corwen, so the gathered princes swore to return to their homes and take revenge; and take revenge they did. Within days of his return to the Tywi, Rhys smashed every English holding in Ceredigion. The castles of Cardigan, Cilgerran and Emlyn all fell to his advance - and yes he took revenge on the occupants for the death of his son.

In north Wales Owain was more deliberate about his choice of targets, however he was no less purposeful than Rhys. He first attacked Basingwerk and took it, then scattered to the four winds the force of the Earls of Leicester and Essex who tried to retake it. Then he set his sights on the mighty castle of Rhuddlan and called on the support of Rhys in a bid to take it. For three months the forces of the two princes put it under siege, inside the castle as its garrison tried to hold out was complete devastation. Finally as Christmas approached that year the garrison surrendered, I remember its members were a pitiful sight.

Now north Wales from the Llyen peninsular to the estuary of the Dee was in Owain's hands, but Father Time was beginning to catch up with the elder statesman of Wales. Yet at this late stage of his life Owain entered into another conflict, not a military one but a religious one. When Meurig the Bishop of Bangor died he wanted Arthur one of the clergy of the diocese to to take on the task, but here to he was opposed by Henry the king. A bitter struggle ensued between the Pope in Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the king that saw no Bishop established at Bangor for many a year.

So finally to the year 1170 and that cold and bitter night of November 23rd, Old father time at last caught up with the man who had become discrete, wise and preeminent among the Princes of Wales. A man who without doubt had gained for the nation, with the help of nature, a great victory over a Norman king.

Despite being excommunicated Owain ap Gruffudd; Owain - Gwynedd was buried with all honours as befitting a Prince of Wales in an arched tomb in Bangor Cathedral. So gone was the man who for sixty years had guided the ship of state through both turbulent and calm waters, but he could rest in peace, for he had left the Nation with the greatest legacy of all, that of being free. O yes it was free, and even the Nation itself was at peace.

So with the death of Owain, it was that for the first and only time that the captaincy of the ship of Wales passed to the south, to Rhys ap Gruffudd of Deheubarth.

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