The revolt - part two

In 1401, Owain Glyndwr captured his old enemy Reynal de Grey, holding to ransom for a year until the king paid a substantial sum.

In June of that year, an army under the command of Sir Edmund Mortimer met Glyndwr's at Bryn Glas. Mortimer was defeated and he was captured, again offered for ransom to the king, but this time he declined to pay Glyndwr for the privilege of having one of his knights back. But this was not a sticky end for Mortimer and he negotiated an alliance with Owain - including marriage into his family.

Glyndwr increased the reach of his military conquests, forging south west and taking Carmarthen castle, an important power base of the English. Settlements across south Wales fell one after another, including Cardiff, Newport, Usk and Abergavenny.

The rising fortunes of this educated, pragmatic nobleman-turned-warlord and national figurehead encouraged many expatriate Welshmen to return and join his forces.

Only a few castles still held out against the rebels as major military powerbases of the English in Wales, and Caernarfon Castle almost fell in 1403. King Henry's son, Henry of Monmouth, attacked and burned Owain's houses at Glyndyfrdwy and Sycharth, but this hardly amounted to a dent in his war machine.

Indeed, when the famous and inspirational soldier Henry' Hotspur' Henry defected to Glyndwr against his own cousin the king, it seemed that the Welshman was almost unstoppable. But the young Henry of Monmouth defeated Hotspur's army at Shrewsbury, with the death of Hotspur among 20,000 dead or injured.

In 1404, the castles of Harlech and Aberystwyth fell to Glyndwr and soon after he called his first Cynulliad, or Parliament at Machynlleth. He was crowned Owain IV of Wales and laid out his vision of an independent Wales.

It was a vision of a modern society, with an independent church, two universities and a parliament. It was a vision which still holds currency today.

Things - despite the setback at Shrewsbury - looked sufficiently rosy for Owain and his allies Mortimer and the Earl of Northumberland to set out plans for the division of Wales and England between them. With money, supplies and help coming in from a range of sources, secular and religious, and the support of France and Brittany, Glyndwr could afford to be optimistic.

Sea battles went the way of the Welsh-Breton-French alliance during 1403 and 1404, then in 1405 a large French force landed at Milford Haven. Despite some military success in Wales, the Franco-Welsh force got as far as a stand-off with the English in Worcestershire, but for some reason both sides withdrew and the army went back through south Wales.

This mysterious volte-face seems to be the turning point of the rebellion for Owain Glyndwr.


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