Owain Glyndwr: The seeds of revolt

King Richard II acceded the throne at the age of just 10, in 1377.

At 14 he faced down The Peasants' Revolt and negotiated personally with Wat Tyler. But by the time he came of age, he adhered to the idea of The Divine Right of Kings and although diplomatically astute (avoiding war and improving the economy wherever possible), he was politically risky.

He exercised power and expected to be obeyed without question. He raised friends to the nobility and ostracised some existing nobles not in his favour. This attitude towards some noblemen reached a turning point in 1397 when he had a group of Lords executed or exiled.

He had previously confiscated the lands of his uncle and legal protector, John Of Gaunt, on his death and exiled Gaunt's son - his own cousin - Henry Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke returned to England when Richard went on a mission to Ireland in 1399, armed with a French-raised army.

Bolingbroke and Richard met at Conwy Castle, ostensibly to discuss the restitution of the confiscated lands, but the king was arrested. He was taken to the Tower of London and forced to abdicate in Bolingbroke's favour.

Richard died in 1400, and with him came to rest a lot of the status and influence of the Welsh lords and princes he had called upon and raised in status. For the first time in many years, Welsh nobles were insecure in their relationship with the English crown.

Owain Glyndwr's own relationship with the crown came to a crucial point in 1399 when he appealed to the new king's parliament to rule in a long-running land dispute with his neighbour Reynold de Grey, an anti-Welsh Norman landowner of Dyffryn Clwyd.

Unfortunately for Glyndwr, de Grey used his influence with Henry IV to have the appeal rejected, and furthermore he withheld a summons for Owain to join Henry's Scottish campaign, putting him in the position of having committed treason by not providing troops.

Owain Glyndwr's hand was forced, and he began his revolt against the English/Norman powerbases in Wales.


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