The Conquest of Wales – After the strong rule of William I, a succession of weaker Kings of England gave Wales an opportunity of fight for independence. Two men came to the fore. Both came from the country around Mount Snowdon; both were named Llywelyn.
Llywelyn the Great earned his title at a time when English kings – Richard I, John and Henry III – had other things on their minds. Llywelyn the Last had the misfortune to oppose Edward I.
The fact that Richard I spent most of his time abroad, and that John and (later) Henry III were busy with their barons, gave Llywelyn the Great freedom to unify Wales – to turn it, virtually, into a sovereign state. He married one of John’s daughters, and was shrewd enough to recognize teh English king as his master. At the same time, however, he ruled Wales as though it were his own. The result was that he remained in power for nearly fifty years, and died peacefully in his bed in 1240.
Llywelyn the Last was one of his illustrious namesake’s three grandsons. When he came to power, Henry III was still having trouble with his barons; there seemed no reason why Wales should not continue to profit from the English monarchy’s misfortunes. Llywelyn even proclaimed himself Prince of Wales, and Henry recognized him as such.
But then came Edward I. He was brilliant, brave, and determined to rule all four corners of Britain’s mainland. Llywelyn must have underate him. He refused to pay the necessary tributes; he even married the daughter of an English rebel. Llywelyn was taken to London, mocked and humiliated. When he was allowed to return, he was a very angry man.
In Wales itself, conditions were bad. The king’s officials showed a marked lack of tact. New laws curbed the people’s independence. By 1282, the country was in chaos. Sooner or later, there was bound to be an uprising. Llywelyn’s brother, Dafydd, began it by seizing the Cheshire town of Hawarden, Llywelyn joined in. But now Edward was driving into Wales with a three pronged attack. At the same time, his fleet was cutting off the rich farmlands of Anglesey.
Llywelyn the Last died in a skirmish with a small force of knights -after he had been separated from his main force. His head was removed and displayed on a spike at Conway Castle. Dafydd was quickly captured. Edward had no mercy to offer him; he was hanged, drawn and quartered.
The uprising was over. Edward I built many castles to keep the natives in their place. The dream of independence was dead.