Edward I campaign to conquer Wales from 1282 to 1283

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Gwynedd after the lost war of 1277

The campaign of Edward I against Wales 1282-1283 was a war between the Welsh principalities under Llywelyn ap Gruffudd , the Prince of Wales , and the English King Edward I. It ended with the conquest of Wales by the English king.

Wales after 1277

In 1277 Edward I had led a first campaign against Llywelyn ap Gruffydd , after he had regarded him as a defiant vassal. The campaign ended with a clear English victory. In the Treaty of Aberconwy Llywelyn had to pay homage to the king, he had to accept considerable losses of territory and lost the supremacy over most of the other Welsh princes. For the next several years, Llywelyn made sure to meet the terms of the Aberconwy Treaty. Still, he doesn't see the contract as an ultimate defeat. Similar to the 1250s, he tried to expand his position through collusion. As early as May 1278 he is said to have received five lords of the smaller Welsh dominions in Deheubarth and Ceredigion in Dolwyddelan Castle , although he was no longer their overlord. Also in May 1278, the abbot of Aberconwy Abbey and the dean of Arllechwedd declared that Llywelyn was ruler of Powys Wenwynwyn from the right , since his prince Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn had submitted to Llywelyn in 1274. This submission is still legally valid, and as a result, his influence in Powys Wenwynwyn to increase. To this end, he formed a secret support alliance with the administrator of Wenwynwyn, Gruffudd ap Gwen of Cyfeiliog. Llywelyn achieved another diplomatic success when he concluded a defense alliance with the Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer on October 9, 1281 . Roger Mortimer had been one of his bitterest opponents so far, and the new alliance was directed against all attacks except against the English king. In return, Llywelyn Mortimer handed over disputed areas in Gwrtheyrnion. Llywelyn was favored by the fact that large parts of the Welsh population resisted the unfamiliar and strict, sometimes tyrannical rule of the royal officials and the Anglo- Norman Marcher Lords . Still, Llywelyn herself was believed to have been surprised by the outbreak of the 1282 uprising.

Welsh uprising in March 1282

Llywelyn's brother Dafydd ap Gruffydd started the uprising . Dafydd had fallen out with Llywelyn and had accompanied the English king in the campaign of 1276. In the Treaty of Aberconwy, Edward I had given him the rule of Rhufoniog and Dyffryn Clwyd in Perfeddwlad , which was otherwise under English rule , and Dafydd was a loyal vassal of the English king until the end of 1281. Roger de Clifford , the English commander of Hawarden Old Castle , had invited Dafydd to the castle for the celebration of Easter in March 1282. However, on the night of March 22nd, Palm Sunday , Dafydd and his warriors raided the castle. Clifford was taken prisoner in bed by the attack and wounded. Numerous members of the English garrison were killed in the attack. On the same day, Palm Sunday, a Welsh force led by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Maelor and his brother Gruffydd Fychan , two lords of Powys Fadog, raided Oswestry in Shropshire and sacked the town. Two days later, on March 24th, Gruffydd ap Maredudd , a lord of Ceredigion, by trickery captured Aberystwyth Castle in west Wales. On March 26th, Carreg Cennen and Llandovery Castle were also captured. The uprising thus extended over several regions, it was apparently well planned and prepared and came as a complete surprise to the British occupiers. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd declared that he had nothing to do with the uprising, but his troops soon joined Dafydd's forces. They participated in attacks on Rhuddlan and Flint Castle , and eventually Llywelyn took over the leadership of the rebels.

The uprising extended over large parts of north and central Wales, but not over southwest or south-east Wales, from where the English used large contingents of Welsh troops to suppress the uprising. The Welsh Lords Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn of Powys Wenwynwyn and Rhys ap Maredudd of Dinefwr Castle did not join the uprising, but supported the English king. However, the uprising encompassed large parts of the Welsh population across regional, dynastic and social borders. Dafydd and the other leaders of the uprising probably hoped that, similar to the war between 1256 and 1258, English rule in Wales would collapse quickly and that they could defeat the English troops by a guerrilla war .

Preparations for the English counter-attack

Eduard I reacted indignantly and resolutely to the news of the outbreak of the uprising. Unlike in 1277, the Treaty of Aberconwy meant that Llywelyn was now not only considered a defiant vassal, but also an unfaithful traitor and the leader of an unfaithful people. The king was now determined not only to subdue a defiant vassal, but to conquer Wales once and for all.

Compared to his campaign of 1277, however, the king could not prepare his campaign as carefully, as he feared that the uprising would spread to other parts of Wales. Just four days after the outbreak of the rebellion, he appointed three of his confidants as military leaders and tasked them with suppressing the rebellion: Reginald Gray in Chester, Roger Mortimer in Central Wales and Robert de Tibetot in West Wales. The English feudal army was called to Worcester on May 17th . The Cinque Ports had to provide 40 ships to transport supplies and reinforce the garrison of the island of Anglesey . The king hired an elite troop of 1,500 crossbowmen from Gascony to support local troops from Wales and the west of England , and additional reinforcements were brought in from Ponthieu , Gascony and Ireland. All parts of England had to deliver supplies and provisions to the two collection points Chester and Whitchurch . As early as May 31, over 1,000 workers and 345 carpenters were ordered to Chester to be available for construction work. No expense was spared for the campaign and large loans were taken out from the Ricardi bankers, and Edward I had no qualms about using funds and donations made available for a crusade to the Holy Land for his campaign against Wales. For his first campaign of 1277 the king is already over 20,000 pounds are spent. The exact cost of the king's second campaign cannot be determined; the figures vary between over £ 98,000 and over £ 150,000.

The campaign of Edward I in 1282

Course of the English campaign

The king's strategy for his second campaign to Wales was similar to that of the 1277 campaign. It was well coordinated for medieval campaigns and, with a few setbacks, was successfully implemented. The local commanders had some freedom in carrying out their orders, but the king personally oversaw the implementation of the overall strategy. The king led his troops cautiously and forbade his commanders to take unnecessary risks. When a force of the Earl of Gloucester suffered heavy losses in an ambush on June 16, 1282 at Llandeilo Fawr in the valley of the Tywi , the king did not hesitate to remove his powerful vassals from command, generally he hired knights of the royal household like Robert de Tibetot , Otton de Grandson or Roger Lestrange with commands.

As in 1277, the Welsh outside Gwynedd were first conquered. In contrast to 1277, the advance of the English armies was more difficult, as the Welsh resisted tenaciously and did not quickly submit again. Nevertheless, by the end of the summer the resistance in Ystrad Tywi and Ceredigion had died down, while Central Wales was not yet finally conquered. In north-east Wales in August the king had an army of about 750 knights and 8,000 foot soldiers at his disposal. First Perfeddwlad was occupied up to the Conwy , which took three months to complete. Conquered castles like Hope Castle were immediately repaired so that they could serve as a base of their own. Ruthin Castle was captured in September and Denbigh Castle in October . Then, knowing that his supply and communications links to Chester were secure, the king could begin the attack on Snowdonia , the impassable heartland of Gwynedd. In return, he had warm winter clothing carried for his troops, which no English king had done before him. As in 1277, the island of Anglesey was of crucial importance as the granary of Wales. The king had commissioned an army under Luke de Tany , a former steward of Gascony, to sail with a fleet to Anglesey and strengthen the English garrison there. This time, however, the troops were not only supposed to secure the island, but also to cross over from the island to the mainland and thus open a second front if the main royal army were to approach from the east.

Gwynedd was thus threatened by English troops advancing from the south, southeast, east and from Anglesey to the north, while the Welsh troops themselves were cut off from supplies and reinforcements. Under similar circumstances, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd had sought peace in 1277, but Edward I was determined in 1282 to completely conquer North Wales and drive the House of Gwynedd from rule. In the face of atrocities such as the burning of St Asaph's Cathedral by English troops, John Pecham , Archbishop of Canterbury, tried to mediate between the King and Prince of Wales in October. The king stuck to his goals, however, his ultimate offer to Llywelyn was to swap Gwynedd for land in England, which brought in an annual income of £ 1,000, and the title of hereditary earl. Dafydd was offered a kit with which he could go on a crusade to the Holy Land, from which he could only return with the permission of the king. The king made only vague promises to the Welsh people of Gwynedd and Perfeddwlad that they should have surrendered to royal mercy. This offer was unacceptable to Llywelyn. He replied that as a descendant of mythical princes he was fighting for the freedom of Wales and that the Welsh would rather die than submit to a stranger to whom their language, customs and laws were unknown. While the Welsh won an important moral victory over Luke de Tany in a battle on the Menai Strait on November 6 when he tried to cross a boat bridge from Anglesey to Gwynedd, they had little hope of winning the war. The king reacted to this defeat by drawing in more troops and more supplies and prepared for a longer campaign.

Llywelyn set his hopes on opening a new front in Mid Wales. The mighty Roger Mortimer had died in October and Llywelyn wanted to try to lead the Welsh open resistance in Mid Wales. Not far from Builth , however, his army encountered an English force led by Edmund Mortimer , the son of Roger, John Giffard and Roger Lestrange. In a small skirmish at Orewin Bridge , Llywelyn was killed on December 11th, with the English not discovering who was among the fallen until after his death. Llywelyn's brother Dafydd carried on the war in Gwynedd, which the king also carried on cautiously but with undiminished energy. Dafydd sent the captured Roger de Clifford to the king to plead for peace, but the king insisted on complete submission and sent Clifford back into captivity. In January 1283 the royal army crossed the River Conwy, and little by little the Lords of Deheubarth surrendered. On January 18th, Dolwyddelan Castle was captured, the troops from Anglesey were now able to cross the Menai Strait and overrun Snowdonia. The king, sure of victory, moved his headquarters from Rhuddlan to Aberconwy on March 13th. On April 25, the occupation of Dafydd's last major base, Castell y Bere , surrendered after ten days of siege against the troops of Roger Lestrange and William de Valence . Dafydd was able to maintain the resistance for a few more weeks, but he was eventually betrayed and captured with his last companions on June 21, 1283. In July, meetings were held in each cantref of North Wales where local leaders pledged peace and submission.

Wales according to the statute of Rhuddlan 1284

After the conquest of Wales

Dafydd, who was captured, was executed on October 2, 1283, and his sons were imprisoned for life. His daughters and Llywelyn's young daughter Gwenllian were allowed to end their lives as nuns in English monasteries. Most of the other Welsh lords were captured or driven from their estates. In the Rhuddlan Statute , the King declared Wales conquered, and Gwynedd and other areas came under direct royal administration as the Principality of Wales . He gave other territories to his magnates, including Bromfield and Yale to the Earl of Surrey and Denbigh to the Earl of Lincoln .

In the Principality of Wales, the King introduced a new legal system modeled on English common law , which replaced traditional Welsh law. To secure his rule over Gwynedd, the king continued his castle building program and built his "iron ring" of mighty fortresses around Gwynedd.


  • Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1991, ISBN 0-19-820198-2
  • David Walker: Medieval Wales. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990, ISBN 0-521-32317-7

Individual evidence

  1. ^ David Walker: Medieval Wales . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990. ISBN 0-521-32317-7 , p. 128
  2. ^ Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415 . Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 1991. ISBN 0-19-820198-2 , p. 343
  3. ^ Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415 . Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 1991. ISBN 0-19-820198-2 , p. 343
  4. ^ JB Smith: Dafydd ap Gruffudd (d. 1283). In: Henry Colin Gray Matthew, Brian Harrison (Eds.): Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , from the earliest times to the year 2000 (ODNB). Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-861411-X , ( oxforddnb.com license required ), as of 2004
  5. ^ Michael Prestwich: Edward I. University of California Press, Berkeley 1988. ISBN 0-520-06266-3 , p. 182
  6. ^ Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1991, ISBN 0-19-820198-2 , p. 348
  7. ^ Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1991, ISBN 0-19-820198-2 , p. 349
  8. ^ Michael Prestwich: Edward I. University of California Press, Berkeley 1988. ISBN 0-520-06266-3 , p. 189
  9. ^ The Castles of Wales: The Financial Cost of War. Retrieved June 10, 2014 .
  10. ^ David Walker: Medieval Wales . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990. ISBN 978-0-521-31153-3 , p. 138
  11. ^ Michael Prestwich: Edward I. University of California Press, Berkeley 1988. ISBN 0-520-06266-3 , p. 190
  12. ^ Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1991, ISBN 0-19-820198-2 , p. 352
  13. ^ Michael Prestwich: Edward I. University of California Press, Berkeley 1988. ISBN 0-520-06266-3 , p. 194