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Uniting the Kingdoms? 1066-1603



Wales under the Welsh, 1055-1282

The kings of the many Welsh kingdoms fought frequently among themselves and against the Saxon English. From 1055, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Gwynedd, was acknowledged as king over the whole of Wales. Attacks on England led to counter-attacks by Harold, Earl of WessexGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window, on behalf of Edward the Confessor.

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Gruffydd was murdered by disaffected Welshmen in 1063: his head was sent to Harold as the price of peace. By 1066, Wales was again separate kingdoms, in no shape to resist Harold's conqueror, William of Normandy.

William granted lands in his Welsh border (or march) to his followers. They attacked Welsh princes, and took over their lands - most enduringly in the south. William allowed these marcher lordsGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window the royal rights attached to their new lands.

In north, west and central Wales, Welsh princes reconquered their kingdoms. Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, prince of Gwynedd from 1194, swore allegiance to King John in 1201 and married his daughter; John rewarded him by invading Gwynedd. Llywelyn joined the English barons' rebellion against John, when they forced concessions in the Magna CartaGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window. In 1216 the Welsh princes acclaimed Llywelyn as overlord; his rule continued until his death in 1240.


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Dolforwyn Castle: the cause of war


The death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, 11 December 1282

Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, one of the grandsons of Llywelyn Fawr, again overpowered many lordships and kingdoms. He also allied with the Scots, and the de Montforts within England, against Henry III. In 1267, Henry agreed by the Treaty of Montgomery that Llywelyn held all Wales as a personal fief from the king, not as a province of England.

Edward I, inheriting an England recovering from civil war, refused to accept Llywelyn's royal rights within Wales. He took a huge army right up into Snowdonia, to impose English rule by force. Llywelyn fought on, but in 1282 he was killed with his main followers in an unexpected skirmish at Builth. His head was sent to London, together with a list (found in his pocket) of his supporters among the English.

Wales had been conquered, 216 years after England.

For an online history of Wales, visit A Brief History of WalesExternal website - link opens in a new window.

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Detail from Edward I creating his son Prince of Wales. By permission of the British Library.
Detail from Edward I creating his son Prince of Wales. By permission of the British Library.