Overview

Owain Glyndŵr

(c. 1359—1415) rebel leader in Wales


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B. c.1359, s. of Gruffydd Fychan (s. of Gruffydd ap Madog) and Elen, da. of Thomas ap Llywelyn; m. Margaret, da. of Sir David Hanmer, c.1383; issue: 6 s., 4 das., including Gruffydd, Maredudd, Catherine, Alice, Margaret; d. c.1415; bur. (poss.) Monington, near Vowchurch, Herefordshire.

A prosperous gentleman from Merioneth, with estates near Oswestry and Llangollen, Owain claimed descent from the princes of both Powys and Deheubarth, but there was little in his early life to suggest a potential rebel or a national hero. He studied law at the Inns of Court, became a follower of the earl of Arundel, married the daughter of a judge, and fought in Richard II's campaign of 1385 against the Scots. A dispute over property with Lord Grey of Ruthin led Owain in September 1400 to launch a raid on Ruthin itself, which rapidly turned into a Welsh uprising. Its initial success induced Owain to declare himself prince of Wales and an expedition by the new king, Henry IV, failed to check him. The rising spread to south Wales and Henry undertook a second punitive march. In 1402 Owain inflicted a sharp defeat at Pilleth on Edmund Mortimer, who was captured, changed sides, and married Owain's daughter, Catherine. When Henry Percy (‘Hotspur’) and his father the earl of Northumberland joined the rebellion, it became menacing. The young prince Henry (the future Henry V) was sent to the borders to deal with the situation. In July 1403 the king, after a forced march, defeated and killed Hotspur at Shrewsbury. If Owain had deliberately held back his forces, it was a serious error. He retained his hold on Wales, burning Cardiff, negotiated with the French, and summoned a Parliament at Machynlleth. In negotiations with the pope in 1406 Owain demanded two universities, one each for south and north Wales, and the recognition of St David's as an archbishopric. But already his power was waning. In March 1405 prince Henry defeated him at Grosmont, west of Hereford, and in April at Pwll Melyn, near Usk. Northumberland's march south in 1408 ended in defeat and death at Bramham Moor, and though Owain survived for several years, his cause was broken, his wife and daughters in royal hands. He refused to take advantage of a pardon offered by Henry V in 1415 and spent his last years in caves and hideouts. Neither his date of death nor place of burial is known, though legend asserts that he was buried at Monington Court, the home of his son-in-law John Scudamore, in the Golden Valley. In 1916 an impressive statue to him was erected in the City Hall at Cardiff, the town he had burned.

Davies, R. R., The Revolt of Owain Glyn Dwr (1995).

Owain Glyn Dwr, statue in the City Hall, Cardiff. His shade was much in evidence in May 1999 at the opening of the Welsh Assembly, 594 years after he had held the previous Welsh Parliaments at Machynlleth and Harlech. Source: Cardiff County Council

Subjects: British history.


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