Friday, March 1, 2013

Guest Post from Marko Bosscher: Gruffydd Survives Fall

On the first of March 1244 Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr fell from the Tower of London, where he had been held hostage by Henry the Third. The next morning a Yeoman of the Guard found sheets hanging from his window and bloodstains on the ground below, Gruffydd had been too heavy for his improvised escape ladder.

Rumors soon spread. Some said that Gruffydd had died, others that he had been allowed to escape by King Henry to ferment a civil war against his half-brother Dafydd. In fact Gruffydd had been badly injured in the fall (he would never regain the use of his left arm, and walked with a limp), but he was whisked away by men loyal to Daffyd and would publicly proclaim his loyalty in Daffyd’s court several months later.

His relationship to his brother was difficult. Their father Llywelyn the Great had greatly expanded the old realm of Gwynedd and proclaimed the principality of Wales, but he had selected the younger brother Daffyd (the son of his new English wife Joan) to be his heir. In exchange for peace and the acknowledgement of his claims by the English king Gruffydd had been given as a hostage to King John the First.

Gruffydd would spend many long years as a “guest” to the English King, while in Wales his half-brother was being groomed to take over from their father, In 1237 Llywelyn suffered a stroke and Daffyd ruled on his behalf, and when Llywelyn died three years later he formally became the ruler of the Gwynedd. Gruffyd was allowed to return to Wales, where he was held in captivity by his brother, to prevent him from making a claim to the Gwynedd.

But trouble was brewing on the horizon, the English King would not recognize Daffyd’s claim outside the Gwynedd, and things came to a head in 1241. King Henry invaded Wales and forced Daffyd to accept a treaty that involved giving up his claims to the lands outside, and sending his half-brother to England as a hostage. Which is how Gruffydd came to be locked up in the Tower in 1244.

With his half-brother by his side and unrest brewing in the English half of Wales Daffyd formed an alliance with the other Welsh nobles and invaded the English lands. During 1245 he dealt King Henry several defeats, but in february 1246 he suddenly died.

Because Daffyd had left no heirs his older brother succeeded him, with one of his sons still held hostage by the English and the military campaign floundering because of the death of his half-brother Gruffyd agreed to negotiations. Because he was unwilling to yield the gains made by Daffyd hostilities soon broke out again.

In order to bolster his support Gruffyd proclaimed himself Prince of Wales the following year. He himself was was no commander, but he had the luck that his son Llywelyn was a great military leader and Henry suffered several defeats before finally agreeing to a treaty.

By the time of his death in 1257 Gruffyd had been acknowledge as Prince of Wales by all the Welsh nobles, if not the English King. He was succeeded by his younger son Llywelyn.

Henry released Owain, who had been in English captivity all this time, in the hopes of fostering civil war. Despite his strong claims Owain found little support among the war-weary Welsh, and his small army was quickly routed. He was imprisoned by his brother and lived in captivity for most of the rest of his life.

In 1264 the Baron’s Revolt broke out in England, Llywelyn saw an opportunity. Proffering his fealty to Henry he offered to send an army in his support. Henry reluctantly accepted and recognized the title of Prince of Wales. Although this plan seemed to backfire when the Barons scored several victories, in the end Henry won and his son Edward I would further strengthen the position of the Prince of Wales in exchange for soldiers to fight the Scots.

In reality: Gruffydd fell to his death trying to escape from the Tower. His son Llywelyn would be recognized as Prince of Wales by the Welsh and the English, but Edward I quashed the nascent principality.

Marko Bosscher tours Natural History museums at .

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter