Llywelyn from Iorwerth

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Statue of Llywelyn Fawr in Conwy , North Wales

Llywelyn the Great ( IPA - phonetics [ ɬ ə wel ɨ n]) (also Llywelyn ap Iorwerth1173 in Tomen Castell , †  11. April 1240 in Aberconwy Abbey ) was Prince of Gwynedd in North Wales. Over the years he rose to rulership over large parts of Wales . Through a combination of skillful diplomacy and campaigns, he ruled Wales for forty years. For this reason he is called Llywelyn I of Wales and is one of only two Welsh rulers who were given the nickname "the Great" ( Welsh : Llywelyn Fawr ).

When he was a child, two of Llywelyn's uncles ruled Gwynedd. After the death of Llywelyn's grandfather Owain Gwynedd in 1170, they agreed to divide the kingdom among themselves. From a young age, Llywelyn began to assert his rightful claims to rule. Campaigns brought the first increases in power. In 1200 he rose to become the sole ruler of Gwynedd. In the same year he concluded an agreement with King John I of England , which enabled good relations between the rulers for the next ten years. Llywelyn married Johann's illegitimate daughter Johanna in 1205 . In 1210 relations deteriorated and in the following year Johann marched into Gwynedd. Llywelyn was forced to enter into negotiations that resulted in the loss of the lands east of the River Conwy .

Alliances with other Welsh princes enabled him to regain the lost lands. He also sought connection with the English barons who had forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 . In 1216 he had risen to become the most influential ruler in Wales. After the king's death, Llywelyn had to negotiate the Treaty of Worcester , which confirmed his position in Wales, in 1218 with his successor, King Henry III. finalize. During the next 15 years Llywelyn found herself repeatedly exposed to fights with the regional rulers of the border brands, but also with the English king there were armed conflicts. Llywelyn managed to forge alliances with influential princes of the border marches. The clashes ended in the Peace of Middle in 1234. The armistice that was concluded there for two years was repeatedly extended by one year until the end of his rule. Llywelyn remained Prince of Gwynedd and the most powerful Welsh ruler of his time until his death in 1240. His son Dafydd ap Llywelyn succeeded him.


Lineage and early years

Dolwyddelan Castle, built by Llywelyn

The son of Iorwerth Drwyndwn , Llywelyn was born around 1173 in Gwynedd, probably in Tomen Castell near Dolwyddelan. His grandfather Owain Gwynedd ruled Gwynedd until his death in 1170. Llywelyn was a direct descendant of Rhodri Mawr ("Rhodri the Great") and belonged to the royal house of the Aberffraw.

Little is known about Llywelyn's father, Iorwerth Drwyndwn. For this reason, it is believed that Iorwerth Drwyndwn died when Llywelyn was in infancy or toddlerhood. There are also no known records of Iorwerth participating in the power struggles for the empire that followed the death of his father Owain Gwynedd. Tradition has it that he was excluded from rulership due to a physical disability or deformity.

In 1175 the kingdom of Gwynedd was divided between two of Llywelyn's uncles. Dafydd from Owain held the area east of the River Conwy, while Rhodri from Owain ruled the western part. Both came from Owain Gwynedd's second marriage to Cristin ferch Goronwy. The Church denied marriage validity because Owain and Cristin were first cousins ​​and canon law did not allow marriage between such close relatives. The clergyman Giraldus Cambrensis then named Iorwerth Drwyndwn as the only legitimate descendant of Owain Gwynedd. After Iorwerth's death, only Llywelyn had legitimate claim to the throne of Gwynedd in the eyes of the Church.

His mother Marared, sometimes called Margaret, was the daughter of Prince Madog ap Maredudd of Powys . After Iorwerth's early death, Marared married into the Corbet family. Llywelyn probably spent at least part of his youth with the Shropshire family.

Rise to power

In his Welsh travelogues from 1188 Giraldus Cambrensis mentions that the young Llywelyn is already arming against his uncles Dafydd and Rhodri. With the help of his cousins Gruffydd ap Cynan and Maredudd ap Cynan , Llywelyn fought against Dafydd, defeated Dafydd in 1194 in a battle at the mouth of the Conwy and ruled the land east of the river from then on. The defeated Dafydd was captured by Llywelyn in 1197, but was released a year later on the intercession of Hubert Walters , Archbishop of Canterbury , and withdrew to England, where he died in May 1203. The lands west of the Conwy, over which Rhodri ruled, took Gruffudd and Maredudd after his death in 1195 in their possession.

In Llywelyn's time, Wales was divided into the "pure Wales" ( Pura Wallia , or also English Wales Proper , called) and the Welsh border marks ( Marchia Wallia , English Welsh Marches ). While the original areas of Wales in the west were ruled by Welsh princes, Norman barons, the Marcher Lords , ruled the border march . After Owain Gwynedd's death in 1170, the southern kingdom of Deheubarth had risen to be the most powerful of the Welsh empires and its ruler Rhys ap Gruffydd to become the leader of the Pura Wallia . After his death in 1197, however, there were inheritance disputes among his sons, which led to the division of the empire among the warring parties. Gwenwynwyn ab Owain , the Prince of Powys Wenwynwyn , endeavored to take over his father's position as leader of the Welsh princes and assembled a large army with which in 1198 he built the Painscastle castle of Baron William de Braose , one of the Marcher Lords, besieged. Llywelyn supported the siege and sent her own troops. However, Gwenwynwyn's army suffered a heavy defeat in August by an army led by Justiciars Geoffrey fitz Peter, 1st Earl of Essex , which enabled Llywelyn to establish himself as the leader of the Welsh princes. In 1199 he took the important fortress of Mold and from then on carried the title of "Prince of all North Wales", although at that time he was not yet the ruler of all of Gwynedd.


Consolidation of power

The death of Gruffydd ap Cynan in 1200 left Llywelyn as the sole ruler of Gwynedd. In 1201 he annexed Eifionydd and Llŷn from Maredudd ap Cynan in the north . In July of the same year, Llywelyn signed a treaty with King John of England. This document is the oldest written agreement between an English king and a Welsh ruler. Under the terms of the contract, Llywelyn must swear fealty to King John and pay homage to the king. In return, the English King confirms Llywelyn's possessions acquired by conquest and allows further disputes regarding Llywelyn's property claims to be heard under Welsh law.

Llywelyn's claim to leadership challenged Gwenwynwyn from Owain of Powys. Llywelyn was forced to attack his main rival, and so in August 1202 crossed the borders of Gwynedd for the first time. The clergy stepped in and brokered a peace between the two princes, which averted the invasion. Elise ap Madog, Count of Penllyn was, in the invitation to Llywelyn armed conflict not complied with, which is why this nearly deprived him of a punishment all the land.

In 1205 Llywelyn was able to further consolidate his position by marrying King John's illegitimate daughter Johanna. Previously he had already with Pope Innocent III. negotiated a wedding with his uncle Rhodri's widow, daughter of Ragnald , King of the Isle of Man . Efforts were futile when he was offered the more advantageous alliance with Johanna.

Gwenwynwyn ap Owain fell out with King John of England in 1208. This ordered him to Shrewsbury , arrested him there and robbed him of his lands. Llywelyn took advantage of this incident: He annexed the south of Powys and the north of Ceredigion and rebuilt Aberystwyth Castle . In the summer of 1209 he accompanied King John on his campaign against the Scottish King Wilhelm I.

Setbacks and regains

Wales in 1217 - with lands of Llywelyn and the princes allied with him

From 1210 the relations between Llywelyn and King Johann deteriorated. According to the Welsh historian JE Lloyd, the reasons for the break lay mainly with Llywelyn himself. He had formed an alliance with William de Braose, whom he fought in 1198, although he knew that Johann had fallen out of favor with Johann and robbed him of his lands had been. While Johann led a campaign against Braose and his allies in Ireland, Llywelyn had to defend himself against the armies of Earl Ranulph of Chester and the Bishop of Winchester, Peter des Roches , but could not prevent the invasion of Gwynedd. Llywelyn then destroyed his own castle at Deganwy and withdrew across the River Conwy to the west of Gwynedd. Llywelyn repaid the Count of Chester's rebuilding of the castle with the devastation of the Count's property. King John supported Gwenwynwyn in his plan to regain control of the south of Powys by sending troops. In 1211 Johann marched himself into Gwynedd with the aim of dethroning Llywelyn and completely destroying it . He found support from almost all other Welsh princes.

With the first attempt at the invasion Johann failed, returned in August of the same year with a larger army, crossed the River Conwy and invaded Snowdonia . The royal army set Bangor on fire and captured its bishop. Llywelyn sent his wife Johanna, the king's daughter, to negotiate with the king. Johanna was able to persuade her father not to dethrone her husband completely, but she could not prevent the loss of territory east of the River Conwy. Further conditions were the payment of high tributes in the form of cattle and horses, as well as the handing over of hostages, among them his illegitimate son Gruffydd. In addition, if Llywelyn did not have a legitimate descendant with Johanna, his land should go to the king.

Innocent III.
(Fresco in the Benedictine monastery of Subiaco , Latium, around 1219)
Copy of the Magna Carta from 1225

By this time Llywelyn was at the lowest point of his power, but soon regained power. With his policy, King John disappointed the Welsh princes who had previously supported him, so that they were forced to switch sides. Together with Prince Gwenwynwyn of Powys and the two most powerful princes from Deheubarth, Maelgwn ap Rhys and Rhys Gryg , Llywelyn forged an alliance against King John. The alliance found support from Pope Innocent III, who had been involved in the conflict for several years. Innocent pronounced an interdict over the Kingdom of England and released the princes of the Alliance from their oaths of allegiance to John. Furthermore, the Pope lifted the interdict in the areas they controlled. In 1212 Llywelyn conquered almost all of Gwynedd except for the castles of Deganwy and Rhuddlan in just two months .

In August of the same year Johann planned another invasion of Gwynedd. According to one account, he had already started executing some Welsh hostages handed over to him the year before when he received two letters in which both his own daughter Johanna, Llywelyn's wife, and William I of Advising Scotland against it. They pointed out the powerful magnates in his own kingdom who could take advantage of the campaign to kill him or turn him over to his enemies. Since King John then abandoned the invasion, Llywelyn was able to take the two remaining castles Deganwy and Rhuddlan in 1213. He further strengthened his position by entering into an alliance with the French king Philip II and joining the barons who rose against John. Together they marched on Shrewsbury and took it in 1215 without resistance. When King John was forced by his revolting nobility to sign the Magna Charta , Llywelyn managed to negotiate benefits for Wales, including the release of his son Gruffydd, who had been held hostage in England since 1211.

Llywelyn had managed to establish himself as the leader of the independent princes of Wales. As a seneschal he installed Ednyfed Fychan , with whom he worked closely until the end of his reign. In December of 1215 he and his army, in which all lower-ranking princes were united, conquered the castles of Carmarthen , Kidwelly , Llansteffan , Cardigan and Cilgerran . Another indication of his growing power came when the episcopal seats of St Davids and Bangor had to be reoccupied and Llywelyn was able to obtain the consecration of Welsh compatriots.

In the spring of 1216 Llywelyn summoned the Welsh princes to Aberdyfi Castle . There he succeeded in reaching an agreement with the heirs of Lord Rhys on the division of Deheubarth, at the same time they recognized his sovereignty and renewed their loyalty to the alliance and their homage. In the same year Gwenwynwyn moved from Powys again to the side of the English King John, whereupon Llywelyn called the regional princes of Wales to campaign against him. They drove him one more time from south Powys and he fled to England, where he died that same year, leaving an underage heir. King Johann also died in 1216, and since his heir, King Heinrich III, was not yet of legal age, a Regency Council initially took over the affairs of state.

Border conflicts

While King John was still alive, Llywelyn began negotiations with the English crown about his claim to rule over the conquered territories. After the king's death, the negotiations under King Henry III. brought to a conclusion. The Worcester Treaty of 1218 confirmed Llywelyn's claims to power and reinforced Llywelyn's dominant position in Wales. Although there were always clashes with the Marcher Lords, Llywelyn was able to maintain his position in Wales until his death. Hostilities developed particularly with the Marshal family, Hubert de Burgh and occasionally with the king. Through marriage policy, Llywelyn tried to form alliances with some of these families. His daughter Gwladus Ddu was already married to the marcher Lord Reginald de Braose von Brecon and Abergavenny . However, Reginald turned out to be an unreliable partner, so Llywelyn married his daughter Marared to Reginald's nephew John de Braose von Gower . He found a loyal ally in Ranulf de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester , whose nephew and successor John the Scot had been the husband of Llywelyn's daughter Elen since 1222. A connection with the powerful Mortimer family came about when Gwladus Ddu married Ralph de Mortimer after Reginald's death.

Llywelyn was careful enough not to provoke an unnecessary argument with the English crown or a Marcher Lord. As an example, in 1220 he forced Rhys Gryg to return areas in south Wales to their Anglo-Norman owners. Between 1220 and 1230 most of the castles that were built to fortify the border and are assigned to Llywelyn were built. The stone castles - such as Criccieth , Deganwy or Dolwyddelan Castle - were among the most highly developed castles of their time. Llywelyn is also believed to have promoted the development of town-like settlements that became commercial centers in Gwynedd.

The first hostilities with the Marshal family occurred in 1220. Llywelyn responded to the attacks by William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke , by destroying the castles in Narberth and Wiston and burning Haverfordwest . William Marshal could only avert an attack on Pembroke Castle by paying £ 100. At the beginning of 1223 Llywelyn crossed the Shropshire borders and occupied the castles of Kinnerley and Whittington. Llywelyn's military engagement in Shropshire was used by the Marshals for a campaign in south Wales. An army assembled in Ireland landed at St Davids in April and was able to capture Cardigan and Carmarthen without resistance. In their campaign, the Marshals found support in the Royal Army of England, which annexed Montgomery. In October 1223, Llywelyn and King Henry made an agreement in Montgomery. The land occupied by the Marshals in the south was returned to Llywelyn's allies there, and Llywelyn himself renounced his conquests in Shropshire.

Llywelyn was also involved in the campaign of Welsh princes against the Justiciar of England and Ireland, Hubert de Burgh. Hubert de Burgh had received the lordship and castle of Montgomery from the king. In 1228 there were repeated border violations and encroachments on the part of de Burgh. When Hubert faced a Welsh campaign, King Henry had to stand by him with an army. This built a new castle in the area of Ceri for defense . In October the English army was forced to withdraw. King Henry agreed to the demolition of the half-finished castle at Ceri in exchange for a payment of £ 2000 to Llywelyn. This raised the amount by demanding a ransom in the same amount for William de Braose , the son of Reginald de Braose, who was captured in the fighting .

Family conflicts

After William de Braose the Younger was captured, he switched to Llywelyn's side. The new alliance was to be sealed by a marriage between William's daughter Isabella de Braose and Llywelyn's son Dafydd. Around Easter 1230, William visited Llywelyn's farm and was found in Llywelyn's apartments with his wife Johanna. On May 2, William de Braose's death sentence was carried out. As a special humiliation for a nobleman, Llywelyn made him suffer death by hanging. He placed Johanna under house arrest for a year.

In a letter from Llywelyn to William's widow, Eva de Braose , written shortly after the execution, Llywelyn asked if she would continue to support Isabella and Dafydd's marriage. The marriage was concluded and Johanna forgave her misconduct the following year. She got her position as princess back.

Until 1230 Llywelyn carried the title "Prince of North Wales" ( princeps Norwalliæ ), but then changed it to "Prince of Aberffraw and Lord of Snowdon" to underline his powerful position over the other Welsh princes. However, he officially did not lead to the title of Prince of Wales ( Prince of Wales ), even if its plenitude of power which entirely corresponded.

Peace of Middle

In 1231 further fighting broke out in the border marches. Llywelyn feared the growing power of Hubert de Burgh. Some of his men had already been captured and beheaded by the Montgomery garrison. Llywelyn, in turn, burned Montgomery , Radnor , Hay and Brecon before he could take the castles of Neath and Kidwelly. He ended his campaign by retaking Cardigan Castle. King Henry punished Llywelyn for this action with an invasion and the building of the castle of Painscastle, but could not penetrate far into Wales.

The negotiations lasted until 1232, when Hubert de Burgh was disempowered as a result of internal English conflicts and was eventually imprisoned. The resulting power vacuum was largely filled by Peter de Rivallis and took control of numerous castles in South Wales. Llywelyn's strong opponent, William Marshal the Younger, died in 1231, and his brother Richard Marshal succeeded him as Earl of Pembroke. Armed conflict broke out between Richard Marshall and Peter de Rivallis in 1233. Since Peter de Rivallis received support from the English king, Richard Llywelyn asked for assistance. In 1234 Richard Marshal and Llywelyn took Shrewsbury together. Although Richard was killed in Ireland in April of that year, the king agreed to peace negotiations with the rebels. On June 22, the parties concluded with Llywelyn the peace of Middle ( Peace of middleware ). They agreed to put the guns on hold for two years, and Cardigan and Builth would remain in Llywelyn's possession. The armistice was extended for an additional year each year until the end of Llywelyn's reign.

Late years

Clarification of the succession to the throne

In his later years, Llywelyn turned his attention increasingly to securing the succession in Gwynedd. His only legitimate son Dafydd should inherit the throne and not his older brother Gruffydd , who was excluded from the line of succession due to his illegitimate parentage. This represented a break with Welsh tradition. The fact that Gwynedd was not divided among the brothers was not unusual, but the exclusion of Gruffydd as an inheritance was. Welsh law at the time made no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children as long as they were recognized by the father.

In 1220, Llywelyn achieved Dafydd's recognition as his successor by the reign of the underage King Henry. In a petition to Pope Honorius III. from 1222 he also obtained church support for his project. The Pope was a thorn in the side of Welsh law, which made no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children, and so welcomed Llywelyn's intentions to change the law. In 1226 Llywelyn convinced the Pope to declare his wife Johanna to be the legitimate daughter of King John in order to strengthen Dafydd's position. In 1229 the Crown of England accepted Dafydd's homage to the lands he would inherit from his father. At the council Llywelyn held at Strata Florida Abbey in 1238, the Welsh prince Dafydd swore loyalty.

The illegitimate Gruffydd was a prerogative granted in Meirionnydd and Ardudwy. His tyrannical rule led in 1221 to Llywelyn withdrawing these areas from him. His father even imprisoned him in 1228 and only released him in 1234. When he was released, Llywelyn gave him control of parts of Llŷn. His conduct as ruler had apparently improved, for in 1238 all of Llŷn and large areas of Powys were granted to him.

Death and succession

Joan of Wales died in 1237. In the same year, Llywelyn had to recover from a stroke that had left her paralyzed. From then on, his successor Dafydd took on an increasingly important role in the rule of Gwynedd. He disempowered his brother Gruffydd, took the lands Llywelyn had given him, and later imprisoned him with his eldest son Owain at Criccieth Castle.

Llywelyn's stone coffin from OM Edwards: The story of the nations: Wales

Llywelyn died on April 12, 1240 in the Cistercian monastery of Aberconwy Abbey . He once had the monastery built, and it was here that he found his final resting place. The Cistercian monastery was later moved to Maenan near Llanrwst . Llywelyn's stone coffin still stands in the parish church of Llanrwst.

The rule of Gwynedd passed to Llywelyn's son Dafydd. The English King Henry III. was unwilling, however, to accept Dafydd's supremacy in the rest of Wales as was still granted to Llywelyn. Forced to sign a contract with Heinrich that took away much of his power, Dafydd also had to hand his brother over to the king, who thus had the opportunity to play the two off against each other. After Gruffydd was killed trying to escape from the Tower of London in 1244, Dafydd had no other claims to power to fear. However, he himself died two years later without male offspring.


See also: House Gwynedd

Llywelyn had children from different women, some of whom are unclear. Of the nine children who survived him, only Elen ferch Llywelyn and Dafydd ap Llywelyn are considered undisputedly legitimate. There are contradicting statements about Llywelyn's daughter Gwladus Ddu. In some cases, the sources show her as the daughter of Johannas, others count her among the illegitimate children of Llywelyn's mistress Tangwystl Goch (around 1168 to 1198), who is considered the mother of most of Llywelyn's illegitimate children. His eldest son Gruffydd was born around 1196 and is assigned to her, as is his sister Marared. The mother of the third son Tegwared is known only as Crysten.

Children with Johanna:

Elen, Dafydd and Gwladus are ancestors of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

Children who are assigned to Tangwystl:

  • Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (about 1196 to 1244) - married Senena of Anglesey. Children: among others Llywelyn ap Gruffydd .
  • Marared ferch Llywelyn (around 1198 to after 1263) - married John de Braose von Gower ( Braose House ) and in second marriage Walter Clifford von Bronllys and Clifford.
  • Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn - married William de Lacey.
  • Angharad ferch Llywelyn - married Maelgwn Fychan .
  • Susanna ferch Llywelyn - was sent to England as pledge in 1228, no further information is known.
  • Tegwared ap Llywelyn - son of Crysten.

The legend of Gelert is related to Llywelyn's children .


Llywelyn was the dominant figure in Wales for over forty years. Because of this, he is one of only two Welsh princes who have been nicknamed the Great , the other being Rhodri the Great. The first, it seems, was the almost contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris Llywelyn nicknamed the Great.

The Welsh historian Sir John Edward Lloyd (1861–1947) wrote about the historical significance of Llywelyn:

“Among the chieftains who battled against the Anglo-Norman power his place will always be high, if not indeed the highest of all, for no man ever made better or more judicious use of the native force of the Welsh people for adequate national ends; his patriotic statemanship will always entitle him to wear the proud style of Llywelyn the Great. "

“Among the leaders who fought against Anglo-Norman supremacy, his position will always be among the foremost, if not the first, for no one understood, the native strength of the Welsh people better or more sensible for an appropriate national goal to use; his patriotic statecraft will always entitle him to bear the proud nickname Llywelyn the Great. "

David Moore, on the other hand, is more sober:

“When Llywelyn died in 1240 his principatus of Wales rested on shaky foundations. Although he had dominated Wales, exacted unprecedented submissions and raised the status of the prince of Gwynedd to new heights, his three major ambitions - a permanent hegemony, its recognition by the king, and its inheritance in its entirety by his heir - remained unfulfilled. His supremacy, like that of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, had merely been personal in nature, and there was no institutional framework to maintain it either during his lifetime or after his death. "

“When Llywelyn died in 1240, his kingdom in Wales was on shaky foundations. Although he dominated Wales, achieved unprecedented subjugations and raised the prestige of the Princes of Gwynedd to unknown heights, his three main goals - permanent supremacy, its recognition by the king and its inheritance as a whole to his successors - remained unfulfilled. His superiority, like that of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn , was purely personal, and an institutional superstructure that could have maintained it did not exist in his lifetime or after his death. "

Notes and sources

  1. Coflein: Tomen Castell, Dolwyddelan. Retrieved November 16, 2014 .
  2. In the older historiography, Dolwyddelan Castle is often mentioned, which is not possible because he had it built first.
  3. ^ Pryce, p. 445.
  4. ^ Henry Richards Luard (ed.): Matthaei Parisiensis, Monachi Sancti Albani, Chronica Majora. Volume 5: AD 1248 to AD 1259. Longman et al., London 1880, p. 718 ( Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores or Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages 57, 5).
  5. ^ John Edward Lloyd: A history of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest. Volume 2. Longmans, Green & Co., London et al. 1911, p. 693.
  6. ^ David Moore: The Welsh wars of independence c.410 – c.1415. Tempus, Stroud 2005, ISBN 0-7524-3321-0 , p. 126.


  • RR Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415. Reissued. Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 2000. ISBN 0-19-820878-2 .
  • Huw Pryce (Ed.): The Acts of Welsh rulers, 1120-1283. University of Wales Press, Cardiff 2005, ISBN 0-7083-1897-5 .

Web links

Commons : Llywelyn Fawr  - collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Dafydd from Owain Prince of Gwynedd
Dafydd ap Llywelyn
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 2, 2007 .