Glyndwr grew up in Glyndyfrdwy in the Vale of the River
Dee near Corwen North Wales, some might say King Arthur's country.
Although he was the heir to the princes of Powys on his father's side
and the Lords of Deheubarth on his mother's side there was nothing in his
early life to suggest the path that Owain and indeed Wales would follow
during his later years.
Wales was at peace with it's neighbour England during the reigns of Edward
III and Richard II and, in Welsh terms, Owain's family would have been recognised
as wealthy land owners and of high status.
As with many other members of the Welsh gentry they knew on which side
their bread was buttered and Owain played his part in the feudal hierarchy
of the day serving his overlord the Earl of Arundel. Compared to the common
Welshman Owain Glyndwr could be said to have lived a cosseted life-style.
It is said that he studied Law at the English Inns of Court, but it is known
that by the age of 25 he served in King Richard II's forces on the Scottish
Border, and later again showed his loyalty to the English Crown by serving
in the Scottish and French campaigns (1387).
In 1383 Owain had further cemented his position in Anglo / Norman / Welsh
society by marrying Margaret Hanmer whose family were of Anglo / Norman
stock, having arrived in the Marcher lands with King Edward I some 100 years
earlier. In between his military campaigns Owain had led the life of the
country gentleman, rubbing shoulders with the English border gentry at his
home in Sycharth.
So what caused Owain Glyndwr to change from a loyal follower of the English
Crown to forsake his position in society and risk everything by leading
a rebellion against the English and indeed claiming the title "Prince
of Wales" ?
You pays your money and you takes your choice !
In my opinion there is no clear cut answer. It's all very strange. Scholars
suggest that the enforced change of the English monarch and it's subsequent
effect on the way of life of the Welsh gentry was the cause, others suggest
a dispute with his neighbour Reginald de Grey.
I prefer the first option, as the treacherous act that took place on Penmaenhead,
Colwyn Bay in 1399 happened in my home town. So I would say that wouldn't
The King of England and Colwyn Bay,
King Richard II was in dispute with the English Barons and in
1399, on returning from Ireland, had encamped at Conwy Castle awaiting an
escort. Unfortunately for Richard his army had left earlier and he was left
with a small retinue, some say including Owain Glyndwr.
Bolingbroke, heir to the House of Lancaster, and Richard's main protagonist,
had arrived with his forces at Chester and used the Earl of Northumberland
to trick King Richard (by swearing on oath he would have safe passage) into
leaving the safety of Conwy Castle.
Just 5 miles from Conwy, at Penmaenhead, King Richard the Second was ambushed
and taken into custody at Flint
Castle. Bolingbroke and the rest of the
traitors then took the King to the Tower of London where he was forced
into abdicating the Crown. Parliament accepted Henry Bolingbroke as the
new King, King Henry IV.
Richard the Second was incarcerated in Pontefract Castle and died in
the February of 1400.
The Welsh gentry (including Owain Glyndwr), whom historians say had prospered
under Richard, had now to question their loyalties to the English Crown.......
the Welsh rebellion under the leadership of Owain took place in September
The Reginald Grey Dispute,
Another school of thought suggests that the rebellion was due to Glyndwr's
dispute with his neighbour Reginald de Grey. That Glyndwr felt betrayed
by the English judicial system into which he had put his trust.
His problems began with a simple dispute over the ownership of land, a common
enough occurrence with land owners and farmers to this day. But how did
this escalate into a full scale war between two nations?
his neighbour happened to be the 3rd Baron Grey de Ruthyn, not any
old Mr Grey of Ruthin!
The de Greys were Anglo Norman Marcher lords, descendants of the Barons
who had occupied the Welsh Marches as a buffer zone between Wales and England
in the reign of King Edward I. Reginald de Grey was also Earl of Chester
and commanded much of North East Wales.
The dispute went to the English Parliament but the Welshman's case was
treated with contempt and dismissed without due consideration. Not surprisingly
considering De Grey was well favoured by the new English King, Henry IV,
unlike Glyndwr who had served under the deposed King Richard II.
Glyndwr's problems were further compounded when De Grey again used his
position to blacken his reputation. This time he tricked Owain by withholding
a summons from the King for Glyndwr to join his Scottish campaign. Glyndwr
was obliged to send troops as part of his feudal dues and the omission,
albeit unintentional, was seen by King Henry IV as an act of treason.
If it is true that Owain was declared a traitor then I can understand
why he would rebel against the King of England. But what I find strange
is why so many others would follow him and declare him Prince of Wales.
They were in effect signing their own death warrants.
We may never know the real reasons for Owain Glyndwr's rebellion but the
combination of several factors and maybe other unrecorded reasons were enough
for Owain, on September 16th 1400, to call a war cabinet and to be declared
"Prince of Wales". He received overwhelming support from his band
of followers and within days they were attacking the anglicised towns in
the North East of Wales. Starting with de Grey's town of Ruthin............
The rebels attack Ruthin and the
English boroughs in North East Wales >