Norman Conquest of Wales

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Map of the Welsh Kingdoms towards the end of the 11th century

The Norman conquest of Wales was the attempt by the Normans to conquer parts of the Welsh principalities after the conquest of England after 1066 . In return for the conquest of England, however, it was not the king who undertook the fight against the Welsh directly, but rather individual nobles on behalf of the king. The main focus of the Norman kings, however, lay in securing their rule in England and Normandy . The limited means of the individual nobles meant that the fighting dragged on for several decades and yet did not lead to the complete conquest of Wales. By the time King Henry I died , large parts of South Wales and parts of North and Central Wales had been conquered. Due to the Welsh uprising after the death of King Henry I , large areas were again liberated from the rule of the Normans. During the Anarchy , the controversy between King Stephen and Empress Matilda , the princes of Deheubarth and Gwynedd in particular were able to recapture further territories. King Henry II tried to restore Norman rule or supremacy through several campaigns, but it was not until 1283, over 200 years after its beginning, that the conquest of Wales by the Normans or Anglo-Normans by King Edward I was completed.

Course of the conquest under Wilhelm the Conqueror and Wilhelm Rufus

Even before the Norman conquest in 1066, the Anglo-Saxons, under the leadership of Harold Godwinson , the Earl of Wessex, tried to conquer south-east Wales. In the fight against the Anglo-Saxons, the Welsh king Gruffydd ap Llywelyn , who had been ruler of all of Wales from 1055, was killed in 1063. His empire fell apart again after his death, so that the Norman conquerors were not faced with a single Welsh prince, but a multitude of princes or kings, some of whom were fiercely fighting each other. King William the Conqueror wanted to avert the danger of Welsh raids on England, as they had happened in the 1050s, and on the other hand wanted to prevent rebellious Anglo-Saxon magnates from being supported by Welsh princes, as was the case with Eadric Cild and Edwin von in 1067 Mercia happened who were supported by Bleddyn ap Cynfyn from Powys . Ultimately, Wilhelm wanted to resume Harold Godwinson's attempt to conquer south-east Wales. To implement these goals, the king entrusted three of his confidants to the Welsh Marches , the areas along the Welsh border. In the course of the conquest, however, none of the Norman magnates prevailed, but a large number of larger or smaller baronies formed in the Welsh Marches. The owners of the baronies, the Marcher Lords , were not subject to English law, but William the Conqueror made sure that they remained vassals of the English king.

England and Normandy in the 11th century; green the Welsh border marks

Conquest of South Wales

Shortly after the Norman conquest of England William the Conqueror appointed in 1067 William FitzOsbern the Earl of Hereford and asked him to offensive border defense against South Wales. William FitzOsbern secured Norman rule over Herefordshire on the Welsh border by building several castles , and he began building Chepstow Castle on the Welsh side of the River Wye as early as 1067 . Chepstow became the starting point for the conquest of the Welsh Kingdom of Gwent . Around 1070 the Normans under FitzOsbern defeated a Welsh army from Prince Rhys from Owain , his brother Maredudd from Owain and from Cadwgan ap Meurig von Gwent in Brycheiniog . After the death of William FitzOsbern in 1071, he was followed by his son Roger de Breteuil , who, however, lost his possessions in 1075 due to a rebellion against the king. Even if a single leader was missing on the Norman side as a result, the Normans in south Wales advanced further west. Turstin FitzRolf Caerleon Castle built on the Usk River in 1086 at the latest . The next attacks by the Normans came from the River Usk on the Kingdom of Morgannwg and from Clifford on Brycheiniog . In 1081 King William undertook a campaign in Wales with a strong army. He led his troops as far as St Davids in west Wales, so that contemporary chroniclers only described the campaign as a pilgrimage. Nevertheless, this campaign was an open show of force by the king, which led to Rhys ap Tewdwr , the king of Deheubarth , paying homage to him. In return, Wilhelm I. Rhys confirmed the possession of Deheubarth.

After the death of William the Conqueror in 1087, his son and successor Wilhelm Rufus supported or at least tolerated new attacks by the Marcher Lords on South Wales. Bernard de Neufmarché conquered the kingdom of Brycheiniog in 1093 , and Rhys ap Tewdwr, who had supported the king of Brycheiniog, was also killed in the decisive battle on the River Honddu . Bernard founded Brecon Castle as the center of his new rule Brecknock, and castles such as Hay , Bronllys and Tretower Castle were established as border castles . The kingdom of Morgannwg, south of Brycheiniog, had been attacked by Robert Fitzhamon as early as 1091 . Fitzhamon defeated King Iestyn ap Gwrgan and expanded Cardiff Castle to Glamorgan as the center of his new rule . Glamorgan initially extended to the River Ogmore, where Ogmore , Coity and Newcastle were built as border castles. After Fitzhamon's death in 1107, his son-in-law and heir Robert of Gloucester continued to conquer the country, but the mountainous regions of Glamorgan remained under Welsh rule. There the descendants of Lord Caradog ap Gruffydd could hold the rule of Gwynllŵg , the descendants of King Iestyn ap Gwrgan the hill country of Afan between the River Taff and the River Neath . A third Welsh domination was in the hill country of Senghenydd on the eastern border of Glamorgan.

Further west, the sheriff of Devon, William FitzBaldwin landed at the mouth of the Tywi in 1093 and built the castle of Rhyd y Gors near present-day Carmarthen .

The moth of Wiston Castle , one of the 12th century Norman castles built in South West Wales

Attacks on Mid Wales

William the Conqueror made another of his confidants, Roger de Montgomerie , Earl of Shrewsbury in 1071 . From his new Shrewsbury Castle , Roger secured the border with Mid Wales, as well as numerous castles of his followers. In Montgomery in Wales built a mighty Roger, today Hen Domen said Motte . From Montgomery, attacks were made on the Welsh areas of Arwystli , Ceri and Cydewain. Nevertheless, the attacks on Central Wales were initially limited to the regions near the border. Roger named Warin the Bald his sheriff . Warin married a niece of Earl Roger and continued the attacks on Wales. After Warin's death, he was succeeded by Reginald de Bailleul of Oswestry as Rogers Sheriff. As early as 1073, Reginald launched an attack across the sea on the distant Ceredigion in West Wales, where he built the first castles in Din Geraint (Cardigan) and Pembroke . This first expansion to West Wales was followed by a further attack by Roger's son Arnulf in 1093, who rebuilt Pembroke Castle in 1093 . Roger de Montgomerie's son and successor, Hugh , was killed in an attack on the island of Anglesey in 1098 . His brother and successor Robert of Bellême lost his lands as a supporter of Duke Roberts Curthose after a failed rebellion against King Henry I in 1102.

Attacks on North Wales

The third base for attacks on Wales William the Conqueror chose Chester , where he at 1069 Chester Castle built in 1071 and Hugh d'Avranches the Earl of Chester appointed. This conquered with his Norman followers, especially with his cousin Robert of Rhuddlan, the Welsh Cantref Tegeingl and other areas along the coast of North Wales . In 1081 Robert of Rhuddlan captured the king of Gwynedd , Gruffydd ap Cynan . Gruffydd ap Cynan was only released again around 1094, during which time the Normans were able to occupy large parts of Gwynedd and build castles in Caerleon , Bangor and Aberlleiniog. Hugh d'Avranches died in 1101, his heir was his seven-year-old son Richard , who did not come of age until 1114.

Welsh uprising from 1093 to 1098

The Norman conquest of Wales was slow but steady. In open field battles the Normans had usually shown themselves to be superior to the Welsh, but the extension of the Norman conquests to Pembroke had made the supply and supply lines very long and thus susceptible to raids. Presumably as a result of the brutal rule of the conquerors, a series of uprisings among the Welsh population were provoked from 1094 onwards, but the uprisings remained localized and not networked. In Ceredigion Dingeraint Castle was destroyed, in Gwynedd the recently released Gruffydd ap Cynan could kill Robert of Rhuddlan. Cadwgan ap Bleddyn , a Prince of Powys , attacked the long supply lines of the Earl of Chester in North Wales and in 1096 besieged Pembroke Castle unsuccessfully. Rhyd y Gors Castle in South West Wales, however, was abandoned by the garrison after the death of FitzBaldwin. In Brecknock, Gruffydd from Idnerth and his brother Ifor were able to defeat Bernard de Neufmarche's troops at Aber Llech in 1095, but they were unable to conquer the Norman castles. In order to secure the Norman rule, King William Rufus undertook two campaigns to Wales in 1095 and 1097. He led the first campaign against Gwynedd, but the Welsh avoided an open battle and withdrew to the mountains of Snowdonia . Cut off from its supplies and threatened by attacks from behind, the royal army had to withdraw to Chester. During his second campaign in 1097, the Welsh also avoided open battle. By the late 11th century, the Normans had been driven back east of the River Conwy in north Wales . In the far west, Pembroke remained in Norman hands, as did the plains of Glamorgan, Gwynllwg, and Brecknock in the southeast. As a result, Wilhelm Rufus tried to consolidate his rule in Wales by enfeoffing Welsh princes such as Cadwgan ap Bleddyn and Gruffydd ap Cynan.

The Norman moth from Aberlleiniog Castle on Anglesey

Conquests under King Henry I.

After the brother and successor of King William II, Henry I , had secured his rule against his brother Robert Curthose of Normandy in 1106, he resumed the attempt to conquer Wales. He partly had to assert himself against the powerful Anglo-Norman Marcher Lords of the border regions, whereby the king was not afraid to ally himself in the fight against his barons with Welsh princes. The rule of Cydweli and Gower he transferred to the Welsh Hywel ap Goronwy , and he gave further areas in Ceredigion to Cadwgan ap Bleddyn of Powys. As early as 1102 he had successfully drawn Prince Iorwerth ap Bleddyn von Powys, who initially, like his brothers Cadwgan and Maredudd, had supported the rebellion of Robert of Bellême, the eldest son of Roger de Montgomerie, on his side. After the rebellion was put down, Robert's brother Arnulf de Montgomery also lost his lands in Pembrokeshire . The king did not give Pembroke again as a fiefdom to one of his barons, but instead appointed royal representatives, while the followers of Arnulf were able to convert some of their fiefs into their own baronies. This benefited above all Gerald of Windsor , who had previously served Arnulf as constable . Further baronies in South West Wales were established by Robert FitzMartin around Nevern Castle in Cemais and around Manorbier Castle under Odo de Barry. In Shrewsbury, too, Henry I installed royal representatives instead of a new earl. Richard FitzBaldwin, the brother of William FitzBaldwin, who died in 1096, built Carmarthen Castle around 1105 not far from Rhyd y Gors Castle, which was abandoned in 1096 . This castle also remained in direct royal hands and became the most important royal castle in South West Wales. South of Carmarthen, the king's confidante, Bishop Roger of Salisbury , built Kidwelly Castle and established the Norman rule of Kidwelly. To secure the new territories, the king settled not only English or Norman, but also Flemish settlers in south-west Wales. To the southeast of Kidwelly, Henry de Beaumont built Swansea Castle around 1106 and began conquering the Gower Peninsula. In Ceredigion, the son of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, Owain ap Cadwgan, kidnapped the wife of the Anglo-Norman Lord Gerald of Windsor around 1108 and then attacked English and Flemish settlers. Henry I had Cadwgan expelled from Ceredigion, which he finally handed over to Gilbert de Clare , who had long been waiting for a way to expand his English possessions through conquests in Wales. Gilbert took over Cardigan Castle, he and his followers expanded their property by building numerous castles such as in Aberystwyth , and systematically consolidating his rule by the settlement of Flemish and English settlers.

After he had already brought large parts of South Wales under Norman rule through his barons, Henry I undertook a campaign in 1114 against the aging prince of Gwynedd, Gruffydd ap Cynan. The Norman army advanced in three divisions against Gwynedd, so that Gruffydd ap Cynan did not seek an open conflict in view of the Norman superiority and submitted to the English king. Owain ap Cadwgan, who had inherited from his father in Powys, also submitted to the king. This show of force was so clear that a little later Gruffydd ap Cynan did not support the young Gruffydd ap Rhys , who had returned from exile in Ireland and who tried to recapture the principality of his father Rhys ap Tewdrwr from 1116 onwards. Gruffydd's attacks failed, but eventually he succeeded, presumably with the approval of the English king, in a small territory around Caeo on the Tywi between Lampeter and Llandovery . Heinrich I undertook another campaign against Powys in 1121, in which Prince Maredudd ap Bleddyn submitted to him. This campaign did not become a direct invasion either, but remained a show of force against the Welsh princes. Under the influence of these campaigns, Wales remained largely under direct Norman rule, or at least suzerainty. It was only under King Edward I that Anglo-Norman rule over Wales reached the extent and extent of Norman rule at the time of Henry I, because after his death in 1136 there was an uprising against the rule of the Normans in large parts of Wales.

Uprising after the death of Heinrich I.

The first recorded attack came in 1136 when a Norman force in Gower suffered a crushing defeat against insurgent Welsh from Brycheiniog. In April of that year Richard FitzGilbert de Clare , Lord of Ceredigion, was killed in an ambush by Welsh Prince Morgan from Owain in Gwent. After the death of the Lord of Ceredigion, the sons of Gruffydd ap Cynan and their allied Gruffydd ap Rhys defeated the Normans in Ceredigion at the Battle of Crug Mawr . The crushing defeat of the Normans marked the collapse of Norman rule in this part of West Wales. The Normans were also expelled from Cantref Bychan, Carmarthen and even Caerleon in south-east Wales. With the most important Norman barons of Wales such as Robert of Gloucester and Ranulf of Chester involved in the civil war for succession to the throne in England , they could not bother to recapture the lost territories. As a result, the princes of Deheubarth in particular recaptured further parts of south Wales and the princes of Gwynedd the north-east of Wales. It was only after the end of the civil war that the new King Henry II undertook several campaigns to Wales from 1157 to restore Anglo-Norman rule.

Campaigns by Henry II against Wales

The first campaign of Henry II was directed against Gwynedd. Supported by alliances with several Welsh princes and a Norman fleet, the Anglo-Norman army invaded north Wales. Although the Welsh have the fleet in an attack on Anglesey inflict heavy losses and in an ambush on Coleshill almost kill Henry II., But the Anglo-Norman supremacy forced Owain Gwynedd to a peace agreement in which he pay homage to Henry and his Teleingl west of the River Dee passed had to. Rhys ap Gruffydd, the prince of Deheubarth, had also submitted to the king in 1157, but shortly afterwards again conquered territories of the Marcher Lords in South West Wales. The king then led an army against Deheubarth in the summer of 1158. Rhys from Gruffydd again submitted to the king and returned Ceredigion to Roger de Clare and Cantref Bychan to Walter de Clifford . The king then traveled to France in August.

After Rhys ap Gruffydd attacked Ceredigion again in 1162, Henry II again led an army to Deheubarth in 1163, where Rhys ap Gruffydd had to surrender to him. Henry II took him in honorable custody to Worcester , where Rhys had to pay homage to him along with Owain Gwynedd and other Welsh princes. Yet new wars broke out in Wales between the Marcher Lords and the Welsh princes. Henry II therefore planned a new campaign against Gwynedd for 1165. Against the feared invasion, there was an alliance of the Welsh princes led by Owain Gwynedd. The king's well-prepared campaign was almost a disaster when the Anglo-Norman army suffered heavy losses in the constant summer rain and finally had to retreat to England.

After Gwynedd disintegrated after the death of Owain Gwynedd in 1170 due to the wars of succession of his sons, Rhys ap Gruffydd von Deheubarth, now called Lord Rhys, had become the most powerful Welsh prince. On his way to a campaign in Ireland, Henry II met him in Pembroke in 1171 , there and on his return trip the following year the two reached an agreement in which the English king recognized the rule of Lord Rhys over large parts of South West Wales and him appointed Royal Justiciar for South Wales. In return, Lord Rhys tried to secure peace between Anglo-Norman and Welsh there.

The lavish campaigns of Henry II had not been able to improve the position of the Anglo-Normans in Wales on a lasting basis. The peace between Henry II and Lord Rhys, agreed in 1171 between Anglo-Norman and Welsh in South Wales, lasted until Henry II's death. Between the Welsh-ruled areas called Pura Wallia and the areas of the Welch Marches, the Marcha Wallie , formed an unstable equilibrium, and there were no significant territorial shifts between the two regions over the next 100 years. It was not until Edward I's wars of conquest that the Anglo-Normans were able to conquer Wales.


  • Alheydis Plassmann: The Normans. Conquer, rule, integrate. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2008. ISBN 978-3-17-018945-4
  • Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1991, ISBN 0-19-820198-2
  • Lynn H. Nelson: The Normans in South Wales, 1070-1171. University of Texas Press, Austin 1966 ( online text )
  • 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 0-521-31153-5 , p. 21
  2. Alheydis Plassmann: The Normans. Conquer, rule, integrate. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2008. ISBN 978-3-17-018945-4 , p. 294
  3. Lynn H. Nelson: The Normans in South Wales, 1070-1171 . University of Texas Press, Austin 1966, p. 31
  4. ^ David Walker: Medieval Wales . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990. ISBN 0-521-31153-5 , p. 27
  5. ^ David Walker: Medieval Wales . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990. ISBN 0-521-31153-5 , p. 25
  6. ^ David Walker: Medieval Wales . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990. ISBN 0-521-31153-5 , p. 33
  7. ^ Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415 . Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 1991. ISBN 0-19-820198-2 , p. 35
  8. ^ David Walker: Medieval Wales . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990. ISBN 0-521-31153-5 , p. 34
  9. Lynn H. Nelson: The Normans in South Wales, 1070-1171 . University of Texas Press, Austin 1966, p. 113
  10. ^ David Walker: Medieval Wales . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990. ISBN 0-521-31153-5 , p. 38
  11. ^ Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415 . Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 1991. ISBN 0-19-820198-2 , p. 45
  12. ^ Rees R. Davies: The Age of Conquest. Wales 1063-1415. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 1991. ISBN 0-19-820198-2 , p. 54