Llywelyn ab Rhys (DNB00)
|←Llywelyn ab Gruffydd|| Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34
Llywelyn ab Rhys
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LLYWELYN ab RHYS, commonly called Llywelyn Bren (d. 1317), Welsh rebel, was a man of large possessions and great influence in Glamorgan, where he held lands in Senghenydd and Miscyn (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1327-30, p. 39). The Earls of Gloucester were lords of the Glamorganshire palatinate, and were accustomed to rule their dominions with the help of the local lords, whether Welsh or English. Llywelyn therefore held a high office under Gilbert of Clare (1291-1314) [q. v.], the last Earl of Gloucester of his house. But on Earl Gilbert's death at Bannockburn, the custody of Glamorgan fell into the king's hands as the guardian of the three sisters and heiresses of the deceased earl. Edward II appointed Pain of Turberville, one of the English lords of the vale of Glamorgan, as warden of the vacant lordship, and Turberville at once removed Llywelyn Bren and other of the old officials to make way for his friends. Llywelyn angrily denounced Turberville, who thereupon accused him before the king of sedition. Llywelyn went to court, hoping to excuse himself. But the foolish Edward despised his complaints, and called him a 'son of death.' Llywelyn was now formally summoned to appear before the parliament at Lincoln, which assembled on 27 Jan. 1316 (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 152), but on receiving the summons Llywelyn secretly returned to his own country, and, having taken counsel with his friends, rose in revolt. There is no great reason for supposing with Pauli (Geschichte Englands, iv.247) that the Welsh took advantage of the battle of Bannockburn to unite to throw off the English yoke. The quarrel was purely local, and Glamorgan, with its independent franchises, was almost altogether cut off from general Welsh movements. Moreover Edward II was very popular in Wales, and was regarded as a native king. No doubt, however, there was a national element in the rising.
Llywelyn began his revolt by an attempt to surprise Caerphilly Castle while the constable was holding his court outside the walls. Llywelyn took the constable prisoner, and burnt the outer wards, but failed to capture the main works of the castle. A vast throng of Welsh from the hills—estimated by the Monk of Malmesbury as ten thousand in number—flocked to the standard of Llywelyn and of his six sons. Turberville had no means of resisting such a force, and stood quietly aside while the vale of Glamorgan was devastated, and an enormous booty conveyed to the mountains. Edward was now at Lincoln, where, owing to Llywelyn's revolt, very few lords attended the parliament. He appointed Humphrey Bohun, earl of Hereford, who was lord of the neighbouring marcher lordship of Brecon, captain of an army to put down the revolt (Fœdera, ii. 283-4). Hereford soon gathered together an overwhelming force. The neighbouring marchers, including the Mortimers of Chirkand Wigmore, and Henry of Lancaster, flocked to his assistance. Llywelyn, despairing of further resistance, offered to submit if his life, limbs, and property were spared. But the earl would accept nothing but unconditional surrender. When the English army approached the mountain fastnesses of the rebels, Llywelyn told his followers that he had been the cause of the revolt, and that it was right therefore that he should perish rather than they. He therefore went down from the hills, and surrendered himself unconditionally to Hereford, who sent him to the king. In July 1316 he was conveyed to London, where he remained in the Tower from 27 July 1316 to 17 June 1317 (Archæologia Cambrensis, new ser. ii. 187). It is probable, however, that Hereford and the Mortimers promised informally that Llywelyn should not be too severely dealt with, and it was afterwards alleged that the king had agreed to act upon their promise (Gesta Edwardi I, Auctore Bridlingtoniensi, p. 67). But the Despensers were becoming all-powerful with Edward, and the younger Despenser, as husband of one of the Gloucester coheiresses, hoped for the renewal of the Gloucester earldom in his favour, and thought that the ruin of a great Glamorgan vassal of the Earl of Gloucester was likely to promote his interests in that quarter. He seized upon Llywelyn's estates, carried off Llywelyn to Cardiff Castle, and caused him to be tried, condemned, hung, drawn, and quartered in 1317. In the charges brought against the Despensers at the time of their first fall in 1321, the judicial murder of Llywelyn Bren takes a conspicuous place (ib. pp. 67-8). But the sons of Llywelyn remained excluded from their father's inheritance until the disturbances in South Wales which attended the final fall of the Despensers and the deposition of Edward II. They then resumed possession. Their names were Gruffydd, John, Meurig, Roger, William, and Llywelyn. On 11 Feb. 1327 the government of Isabella and Mortimer formally restored to them their father's lands, 'of which they had been fraudulently dispossessed by the younger Hugh le Despenser' (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1327-30, pp. 39-40).[The best account of Llywelyn is given in the Monk of Malmesbury's Vita Edwardi II in Stubbs's Chronicles of Edward I and II, ii. 215-218. The charges against the Despensers are in the Canon of Bridlington's Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon in ib. ii. 67 ; Rymer's Fœdera, vol. ii.; Cal. of Patent Rolls, 1327-30. The subject is treated at length by Mr. H. H. Knight in Archæologia Cambrensis, new ser. ii. 179-91. The further statements about Llywelyn in the Iolo MSS. (Welsh MSS. Society) cannot be trusted.]