Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Last updated: 23 November 2010

Edward I conquered Wales in 1277 and set about fortifying the rebellious area of north Wales. He began work on the strategically important Caernarfon Castle in 1283, when the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, mounted an uprising.

The site enabled Edward to control traffic along the Menai Strait - a very important objective for his continued supremacy in the area. It had existed originally as a Roman fort, and an earlier Norman motte and bailey castle.

Its majestic, imposing form took shape and building work continued until 1323, in a complex, sophisticated version of the linear form. It wasn't actually finished, however - and still today examples of the incomplete structure are visible.

The cost of the building work was astonishing - £22,000, more than the Treasury's yearly income.

Caernarfon came under attack in the uprising of 1294-5, and again by Owain Glyndŵr in 1403-4, and both times stood up to the attacks. It was only in the Civil War that the garrison surrendered to the Parliamentary forces in 1646.

A popular, possibly aprocryphal, story arose concerning the investiture of the Prince of Wales - a tradition which was started once more in the twentieth century. Edward I, after subjugating the Welsh, promised the Welsh "a Prince born in Wales, who did not speak a word of English".

The Welsh were apparently taken aback when the Prince put forward his infant son, who indeed was born in Wales during Edward's military campaign, and due to his youth did not speak any word - English or not.

In 1911, the future Edward VIII was invested at Caernarfon Castle, and Prince Charles was invested there in 1969.

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