town of Ruthin was the first to feel the full force of
Glyndwr's army. This is not surprising as the town belonged to Owain Glyndwr's
protagonist the Baron Reginald de Grey. On September 18th 1400 the Welsh
army marched the ten miles from Glyndyfrdwy and burnt Ruthin to the ground,
reputedly leaving only the castle and a few other buildings standing. Encouraged
by their success they proceeded to attack the other Anglo Norman boroughs
of Denbigh, Flint, Rhuddlan and Hawarden. They moved quickly on to Holt,
Oswestry and Welshpool but eventually the English rallied their troops and
confronted the rebels on the banks of the Severn on the 24th September.
The fighting men of the English Border counties stopped the Welsh in their
tracks and after the defeat many Welshmen left for home thinking the war
would soon be over.
But Owain Glyndwr and his small "band of brothers" had other
ideas and headed for the Welsh hills. These guerilla warfare tactics were
to prove to be the making of the campaign, and several times during the
following war torn decade the English would invade only to find Glyndwr
could not be found. The minor rebellion in north east Wales was to
become a full scale war threatening the very existence of the State of England
Henry IV had sensed the importance of the revolt and having mustered
an army arrived in Shrewsbury on the 26th September. By early October he
reached Bangor in north west Wales threatening the Anglesey lands of the
Tudurs of Penmynydd, who, being cousins of Glyndwr, had expressed support
for the revolt. (The Tudurs, ancestors to the English Tudor dynasty, had
previously served King Richard II in Ireland before Richard's crown had
been usurped by Henry).
The general population of north Wales submitted to the English but the
Tudurs' guerilla forces harassed Henry's army and he returned to Shrewsbury
by mid October with little to show for his efforts.
Owain and his associates including his in-laws the Hanmers were by now
suffering badly for their treasonable actions. Their lands and properties
were confiscated and they faced execution on capture. The English Parliament
passed laws to restrict the Welsh, and Welsh men in turn began to return
to Wales to join the rebellion. The usual line is that Welsh scholars voluntarily
left their desks at Oxford and Cambridge and Welsh labourers dropped their
tools and rushed back to Wales. I wonder myself whether they would have
been treated as illegal immigrants with the scholars getting kicked out
of college and the Welsh labourers getting the sack ! For whatever reasons
it seems the Welsh returned home and many joined Glyndwr's rebellion.
Henry's son, Prince Henry, and Henry Hotspur, one of the Percys of Northumberland,
had taken control of the north Wales campaign. They offered pardons to some
but unfortunately not to Owain or the Tudurs.
By the turn of the year support for the rebellion was again growing and
the whole of northern and mid Wales went over to Glyndwr. English towns
and castles were attacked. And on Good Friday 1401 the Tudurs with a force
of only 40 men took the "impregnable" Conwy castle in north Wales.
It was an act of imagination and daring to compare with the legends of Robin
Hood or King Arthur and if it had been an act of English men would no doubt
have been celebrated in history books and been the subject of numerous Hollywood
The Glyndwr rebels capture Conwy
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