The New Principality of Wales

Llywelyn ap Grufudd, called  Llywelyn Ein Llyw Olaf (“Llywelyn, Our Last Leader”) in Welsh, died on 11 December 1282 during the Battle of Orewin Bridge at Builth Wells.

Llywelyn, the son of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn Fawr and the grandson of Llywelyn the Great, had been doing all he could to unit Wales and keep it independent. He was not only fighting King Edward Longshanks, a military genius and ruthless warrior trying to engulf Wales into the kingdom of England, he was also fighting his short-sighted idiot of a brotherDafydd ap Grufudd. Dafydd couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that keeping the English from taking Wales away from the Welsh was a BIT more important than getting richer.

No one is completely sure how the beleaguered Prince of Wales died, but it seems that he was separated from the main body of his troops by a trick and then assassinated. A record written by:

monks in contact with Llywelyn’s exiled daughter, Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn, and niece, Gwladys ferch Dafydd, states that Llywelyn, at the front of his army, approached the combined forces of Edmund and Roger Mortimer, Hugo Le Strange and Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn on the promise that he would receive their homage. This was a deception. His army was immediately engaged in fierce battle during which a significant section of it was routed, causing Llywelyn and his eighteen retainers to become separated. At around dusk, Llywelyn and a small group of his retainers (which included clergy), were ambushed and chased into a wood at Aberedw. Llywelyn was surrounded and struck down. As he lay dying, he asked for a priest and gave away his identity.

After his death, his head was cut off and brought to King Edward I, who sent it to be displayed on a pike in London. Legend has it that Llywelyn’s head was ‘crowned’ with ivy to mock the prophesy that a Welshman would one day rule England. Well, laugh out of the other side of your face, 13th century rubes, because all of the rulers of England from the 1485 onward have been descendants of Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur, who was descended from Llywelyn the Great on his grandmother’s side.

Following the betrayal and death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, his brother Dafydd claimed the title Tywysog Cymru. Dafydd couldn’t make it even a year before Edward Longshank’s troops captured him near  Abergwyngregyn on 22 June 1283. He was taken to Shrewsbury, and on 30 September was hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor to the English crown … which he WAS, since he had stupidly promised fealty to Longshanks in exchange for King Edward’s help getting a larger chunk of North Wales from Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.

With Dafydd’s death, there was no longer a captain for the Welsh ship of state. In theory, Llywelyn ap Dafydd became Tywysog Cymru upon his father’s death, but the teenager’s captivity in the hands of King Edward meant that in reality there was no more Prince of Wales. With no one to rally a defence, King Edward helped himself to Welsh lands. 

On 3 March 3 1284 Longshanks enacted the Statute of Rhuddlan, also known as the Statute of Wales. The statute is named for Rhuddlan Castle, one of the new fortifications Edward built to quell any potential Welsh resistance.


Rhuddlan_Castle_inner courtyard

This statute turned the kingdoms of Wales into pieces of the English Principality of North Wales and former rulers into Edward’s vassals.

Edward I erected four new marcher lordships in northeast Wales, Chirk, Bromfield and Yale, Dyffryn Clwyd and Denbigh; and one in South Wales, Cantref Bychan. He restored the principality of Powys Wenwynwyn to Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn who had suffered at the hands of Llewelyn, and he and his successor Owen de la Pole held it as a marcher lordship. Rhys ap Maredudd of Dryslwyn would have been in a similar position in Cantref Mawr, having adhered to the king during Llewelyn’s rebellion, but he forfeited his lands by rebelling in 1287. A few other minor Welsh nobles submitted in time to retain their lands, but became little more than gentry.

There was one more shaker of salt for Edward to rub onto the wounds of the defeated and leaderless Welsh. In 1301 Edward named his son, Edward of Caernarfon (the future King Edward II), the Prince of Wales.


The Tywysog Cymru would be Welsh no more … until King Henry VII‘s sons. From then on, every subsequent Prince of Wales has carried the bloodline of Llywelyn the Great.


One thought on “The New Principality of Wales

  1. This is such wonderful history, thankyou for posting. I only discovered that I am blood decendant of Rhys ap Twdwr ap Meridith about 6 years ago. Part of that Heritage is my20th ggfather Rhys ap Thomas a 3rd cousin on my mother’s side. We made a trip to Wales in2013 and are trying to get back this summer. My 8th great grandfather is John Perratt 1565 son of Sir Robert Dudley 1532. We don’t know the mother but circumstance points to Elizabeth I. I don’t claim that because it’s impossible to find scientific evidence but I did prove my father to son descent from Dudley across 500 years is based upon his known 2nd cousin and 6th cousin. One a Dudley and the other Robert Sutton 1637 whom I share 23/25 DNA match on Y and 59/67 DNA match on Y chromoosome. Wonderful history here. Thanks again. DCR 1948

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