Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Pacification of the Welsh 3

To emphasise the end of Welsh independence, Edward went on a triumphal progress through Wales, from Chester to Chepstow. On the way he stayed at Oystermouth Castle (we assume that Swansea Castle was still in disrepair). In addition, he took to himself the symbols of Welsh princely power - Llewelyn's coronet and seal, the jewel or crown of Arthur, and the most cherished relic in Wales, the piece of the True Cross known as Y Groes Naid. Edward did the same to Scotland when he removed the Stone of Scone.

Rhys ap Meredudd, in the south west, had defected to the king during the early fighting, but was unhappy with the settlement and rose in rebellion in 1287. It was put down, in part, with the help of the great siege engine owned by William de Breos mentioned in chapter 2. It was used to capture Dryslwyn and was then instrumental in winning the siege of [Newcastle] Emlyn without any loss of life. The whole bill for the engine, the men to maintain and man it, and the siege works, came to over £18. In addition to the siege engine, William had seven mounted knights and sixty three foot soldiers in his personal following and raised an additional twenty one horse, twenty one crossbowmen and four hundred foot. In total, an army of over 25,000 men was mobilised to crush this rebellion.

The last great Welsh rebellion, in 1294, was more serious because it was more widespread. In addition to the oppression and exploitation by Edward's officials in administering Wales, the whole country was called to provide men and funds for Edward to fight in Gascony for his land there. Those Welsh leaders who did raise bands of knights and foot soldiers gave them arms which they then used against the English, and many of the lords were already away preparing to sail for France.

Once again Edward was forced to march armies into Wales, and by March 1295 the Welsh resistance was exhausted. Edward's castles had proved their worth, and sucked up the Welsh assaults and drained their strength. Ifor Rowlands in the book 'Edward I and Wales' summed it up well: "Three campaigns within twenty years had deprived the Welsh of their natural leaders, drained them of resources and destroyed their capacity for resistance. An economically under-resourced, militarily backward and politically divided people - ever a volatile element within the Plantagenet dominions - had been ground to submission by an infinitely more powerful neighbour."

To cap it all, Edward's son (also called Edward), born in Caernarfon in 1284, was invested as Prince of Wales in 1301.

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