Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Llywelyn ab Iorwerth

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LLYWELYN ab IORWERTH, called Llywelyn the Great (d. 1240), prince of North Wales, afterwards prince of Wales, was the son of Iorwerth, the only one of the many sons of Owain Gwynedd [q. v.] who had, from the ecclesiastical point of view, any claim to be called legitimate. About 1176 Iorwerth was expelled from Gwynedd by his half-brother, Davydd ab Owain [see Davydd I], who thus became, in name at least, lord of Gwynedd. But Iorwerth and his other brothers continued to molest their successful rival, whose real dominions seldom extended far beyond the vale of Clwyd. Iorwerth, according to the Welsh genealogists, married Marred, daughter of Madog ab Maredudd, prince of Powys, but there is documentary evidence that the mother of Llywelyn was a member of the border family of Corbet (Eyton, Shropshire, vi. 160; Monasticon, vi.497). Eyton says that it was common for Welsh genealogists to suppress English marriages. In any case Llywelyn seems to have been born or brought up in exile, probably in England. He was only twelve years old when his partisans began to molest Davydd ab Owain. Their success proved, to the satisfaction of Giraldus Cambrensis, that Providence was on the side of the legitimate stock in their struggle against the offspring of an incestuous union. As he grew older Llywelyn formed an alliance against Davydd with his uncle Rhodri, lord of Mona and Snowdon and the full brother of Davydd, and also with his cousins, the two sons of Cynan, another brother of Davydd, who reigned jointly in Meirionydd. In 1194 the combined cousins and uncle won a great triumph, expelling Davydd from all his territory except three castles, and soon driving him out altogether, and forcing him to take refuge in England.

The reign of Llywelyn over Gwynedd begins with the flight of Davydd. His chief rival in the earlier years of his principality was Gwenwynwyn [q. v.], who became by his father Owain's death, in 1197, prince of Powys, and who, 'though near to Llywelyn as to kindred, was a foe to him as to deeds' (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 258). Gwenwynwyn now took possession of Arwystli, the region of the upper Severn round about Llanidloes, and took Llywelyn prisoner in the course of the conflict (ib. p. 251), though he does not seem to have kept him long in confinement. But Llywelyn had other enemies among his old allies and kinsfolk of the house of Gwynedd, though over these also he gradually proved victorious. In 1201 he conquered Lleyn, the promontory of the modern Carnarvonshire, driving out the old ruler, his cousin Maredudd ab Cynan, whom he accused of treachery (ib. p. 257). Next year Maredudd also lost Meirionydd. In September 1202 Llywelyn marched with a great host to be revenged on his old enemy Gwenwynwyn. He succeeded in taking Bala Castle; but some of his followers were lukewarm, and the clergy, regular and secular, combined to negotiate a peace. In 1203 the death of Davydd ab Owain in his English exile still further secured Llywelyn's position.

Llywelyn had now laid the foundations of the great power which he was to exercise for the next forty years. It had already become worth while for the English king to secure his alliance. As long as Richard I lived there was generally open war between Llywelyn and the English. But on 11 July 1201 King John made peace with Llywelyn and his nobles, thus abandoning Davydd and his claims. He now sought to make the connection between the Welsh prince and himself closer by the marriage of Llywelyn to Joan, his illegitimate daughter [see Joan, d. 1237]. Already, in 1205, John had conferred on Llywelyn as part of her marriage portion the castle of Ellesmere, the old gift of Henry II to Davydd ab Owain and his wife (Rot. Chart, i. 147). At Ascensiontide 1206 the marriage was celebrated (Worcester Annals, p. 394).

In 1207 John and Llywelyn combined against Gwenwynwyn. While the king seized Gwenwynwyn at Shrewsbury, Llywelyn took possession of all his territory and castles. Thus master of the whole north by his conquest of Powys, Llywelyn now for the first time extended his power into South Wales. Maelgwn ab Rhys,lord of Ceredigion, sought to prevent his advance over the Dyvi, by razing the castles of Aberystwith and Ystradmeurig. This did not stop Llywelyn's advance. He took possession of Aberystwith, and speedily repaired the ruined castle. He conquered all Ceredigion north of the Aeron, retaining Penwedig in his own hands, and giving the rest to his nephews, the sons of Gruffydd ab Rhys. He already bade fair to become prince of all Wales.

The good understanding between Llywelyn and John did not last long. In 1208 John released Gwenwynwyn and restored him to his territories. He also promised to regard Llywelyn as his son, and pardon him all injuries done to Gwenwynwyn (Fœdera, i. 102); but the release of his rival was an act of hostility, and war soon broke out between the prince and the king. In 1209 Gwenwynwyn, with the king's help, drove Llywelyn out of Powys. In the autumn of 1209 Ranulph de Blundevill, earl of Chester [q. v.], joined with Geoffrey FitzPeter the justiciar in leading an army against Gwynedd (Dunstaple Annals, p. 32). The earl rebuilt the old outpost of the English power, the castle of Deganwy, which Llywelyn had previously destroyed. He also built a castle at Holywell. But Llywelyn retaliated by cruel devastations of the earl's lands, while all over Wales his partisans successfully maintained themselves against the adherents of the king and the marchers. In 1209 John prepared a great expedition against Llywelyn, but after holding an interview with him dismissed his forces. In 1210 John passed twice through South Wales on his way to and from Ireland, while the Earl of Chester again fought against Llywelyn in the north (Annales Cambriæ, pp. 66-7; Gervase of Canterbury, ii. 106). But nothing was done that diminished Llywelyn's power.

In 1211 John formed a plan of driving Llywelyn out of his dominions. Most of the lesser Welsh chieftains, who were now much afraid of Llywelyn, were active on his side, with Gwenwynwyn of Powys and the sons of Rhys of South Wales at their head. In the spring a great army assembled at Whitchurch, led by the king in person, and marched to Deganwy. Llywelyn was now so hard pressed that he retreated with all his movable property into the fastnesses of Snowdon, abandoning the plain country to the enemy. But the season was too early for such an undertaking. After enduring severe privations from lack of food, John was forced to retire to England about Whitsuntide (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 269, which erroneously dates the campaign in 1210, but whose general accuracy is borne out by Walter de Coventry, Memoriale, ii. 203). Early in August John again appeared in Gwynedd, building castles to maintain a permanent hold over the country. Among these was a castle at Aberconway. John now marched right through Snowdon (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 209; Annales Cambriæ, pp. 67-8; Flores Historiarum, ii. 140; Matthew Parie, Hist. Major, ii. 532; Worcester Annals, p. 399). He captured Bangor and took the bishop prisoner. At the same time the English took possession of Aberystwith in combination with the sons of Rhys. Llywelyn was now forced by his chieftains to sue for peace. He sent his wife Joan to prevail upon her father to give him honourable terms, and having obtained a safe-conduct himself visited the royal camp. Peace was soon arranged, the terms of which are somewhat differently stated by various chroniclers. Llywelyn made large offerings of cattle to his fatherin-law, and delivered up hostages of high rank as securities for his future good behaviour. He also seems to have ceded to John the four cantreds of Perveddwlad (Brut y Tywysogion, pp. 268-9), that is, the district of the Clwyd. The 'Annals of Worcester,' p. 399, say that he surrendered to John all his lands save Snowdon and Anglesey, and a small district beyond Snowdon, probably Lleyn. This may come to very much the same thing as the statement of the Welsh writer. Northern Ceredigion was also recognised as royal domain.

Peace did not last long. In 1212 Gwenwynwyn and Maelgwn ab Rhys settled their differences with Llywelyn, and formed a confederacy to carry out a sudden attack on the English, or, as they are still called by the native chroniclers, the French (Annales Cambriæ, p. 68). A sudden assault was made on the castles built or restored by John in the previous year. Llywelyn captured Aberconway and all the other new castles in Gwynedd except Deganwy and Rhuddlan. The men of Powys seized Ralph Vipont's castle of Mathraval, and drove its owner into England. This second Welsh rising shook the power of king and marcher alike. John, who had been warned of Llywelyn's treachery by his daughter Joan, hanged eight-and-twenty Welsh hostages at Nottingham (Matt. Paris, Hist. Major, ii. 534), though some hostages still remained alive in his hands. He again prepared to invade North Wales. But he now discovered that his own nobles could not be trusted, and, instead of continuing his course towards Chester, hurried back to London. It was in vain that John sought to set up against Llywelyn, Owain ab Davydd ab Owain. The pretender could not secure possession of the three cantreds of Perveddwlad, now granted to him (Rot. Chartarum, p. 188b). His failure left Llywelyn stronger than ever. In the course of the year Llywelyn won back all his previous losses (Margam Annals, p. 32).

Llywelyn skilfully contrived to defend his national liberties at the same time as he acted in concert with the general opposition to John. He posed as the champion of the Roman church against the excommunicated king. Innocent III accordingly absolved Llywelyn and his allies Gwenwynwyn and Maelgwn ab Rhys from the oaths of fealty which they had taken to the English king, and urged them as an earnest of their repentance to wage active war against him. At the same time their dominions in Wales were relieved from the general interdict into which John's whole kingdom had now been plunged for five years (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 273).

As John's distress increased, Llywelyn's success became more decided. In 1213 he captured the castles of Deganwy and Rhuddlan, the last barriers to his complete command of Gwynedd. 'All the good men of England and all the princes of Wales,' says the 'Brut y Tywysogion' (p. 281), 'combined together against the king, so that none of them without the others should enter into peace with the king until he had restored to the churches their laws and privileges, and unto the good men of England and Wales their lands and castles, which he had taken from them without either right or law.' John sought in vain to buy off Llywelyn with promises. At his daughter Joan's entreaty he offered to restore the hostages that still remained in his hands (Fœdera, i. 126). He also urged, without result, a meeting between Llywelyn and royal commissioners to settle his grievances (ib. i. 127). While the 'Saxons of the North' marched south upon London, Llywelyn and the Cymry invaded England and sat down before Shrewsbury, which surrendered without striking a blow. Giles de Braose, bishop of Hereford, joined the resources of the great house of which he was the head with those of the Welsh prince. On his death his brother and heir, Reginald de Braose, obtained possession of his estates with Llywelyn's help, and thought it no disparagement to marry Llywelyn's daughter (Dunstaple Annals, p. 52). Llywelyn's allies, the confederate barons, had not forgotten his interests. Clauses for the Welsh prince's advantage were inserted in the 'Articles of the Barons' sent to John in May 1215 from Brackley (Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 294). Their substance was embodied in articles 56-8 of Magna Carta signed by John on 15 June (ib. pp. 303-4). By them John promised to make restitution to all Welshmen unlawfully disseised of lands or liberties, and to restore forthwith the hostages that had survived the Nottingham massacre in 1212. Among these was a son of Llywelyn. Thus the Welsh prince took no inconsiderable share in the great struggle for the charter, and reaped no small advantage from it.

The granting of the charter led to no cessation of hostilities in Wales. A great wave of Welsh revolt followed upon Llywelyn's northern successes. The harassed Welsh chieftains of the south saw in his triumph an opportunity for vengeance against their English lords and neighbours. All over the south they rose in arms. During the summer Maelgwn and his nephews took possession of Dyved, winning over all the Welsh to their side. They then called upon Llywelyn to help them. Winter had now set in, but the season was unusually mild, and Llywelyn, marching with a large army to the south, fought a vigorous campaign all through December. On 8 Dec. Llywelyn appeared before Carmarthen, driving out the 'French' garrison 'not by arms but through their own fears.' In five days the castle was in his hands. He now razed it to the ground. The great castles of the south—Llanstephan, St. Clear's, Newcastle-Emlyn, Aberteivi, Cilgerran, Kidwelly—all fell into his possession. He was triumphant from the borders of the Pembrokeshire palatinate to the frontier of the Earl of Gloucester's lordship of Glamorgan. At last he returned to the north, 'happy and joyful with victory.'

Such a career of Welsh conquest had not been known since the Normans first came into Wales. Llywelyn had become the undoubted leader of the whole Welsh people. He was no longer prince merely of Gwynedd, but prince of all Wales not ruled by the Normans. Early in 1216 Maelgwn and the other south Welsh chieftains, once so hostile to Llywelyn, submitted their conflicting claims to his arbitration. All the 'wise men' of Gwynedd gathered round Llywelyn at Aberdovey, where, in a sort of Welsh parliament of magnates, Dyved, Ceredigion, Ystrad Tywi, and Kidwelly were partitioned among a number of rival princelings. Alarmed at Llywelyn's power, the faithless Gwenwynwyn went over in 1216 to King John, 'treating with contempt his oath to the chieftains of England and Wales and violating his homage to Llywelyn' (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 291). Llywelyn vigorously expostulated with his vassal for breaking his faith, and, finding remonstrance fruitless, invaded his dominions. Gwenwynwyn was soon forced to take refuge in Cheshire, but, despite John's help, could never regain his dominions. Henceforth Llywelyn ruled over Upper Powys. The troubles of the end of John's reign and the civil war that ushered in that of Henry III gave Llywelyn abundant opportunities to consolidate his newly won power. When in 1217 his ally Reginald de Braose reconciled himself with the partisans of the young king, the Welsh subjects of the house of Braose rebelled and Llywelyn came to their help and attacked Brecon. Llywelyn forced Reginald to make his submission and then led his army over the mountains to Gower, whence he marched against the 'Flemings of Dyved,' the subjects of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke and regent of England. Llywelyn now blockaded Haverfordwest, but peace was arranged through the Bishop of St. Davids, and Llywelyn withdrew to Gwynedd with twenty of the noblest hostages of Rhos and Pembroke (ib. p. 302). In 1218 Carmarthen and Aberteivi (Cardigan) were put under the custody of Llywelyn (ib. p. 303).

After the withdrawal of Louis of France, the regent Pembroke demanded that Llywelyn should perform the homage due to the young king. In March 1218 Llywelyn and his principal nobles appeared under safe-conducts at Worcester and duly submitted themselves to their overlord (Fœdera, i. 150). Llywelyn was ordered to restore the lands of some of the king's servants, and in return was put in possession of his English estates (ib. i. 151). In 1219 there were many councils between Llywelyn and some of the English barons, but Llywelyn's cunning, says the English annalist, always saved him (Flor. Hist. ii. 170). On 4 May 1220 he held another interview with the young king at Shrewsbury, where his son Davydd [see Davydd II] was taken under the protection of his royal uncle (Fœdera, i. 159). But there were disputes as to the extent of the royal rights over Melenydd, which Llywelyn was forced to surrender, and no good result sprang from the conference (Royal Letters, i. 113, 122: cf. Eyton, Shropshire, iv. 213). In the summer of the same year a private war of unusual magnitude and importance broke out between Llywelyn and the younger William Marshal, earl of Pembroke since his father's death in 1219. Llywelyn cunningly prepared for this by getting help from the king in order to put down some rebels against the royal authority in the south. In August he suddenly burst into Pembrokeshire, capturing three castles and cruelly devastating the whole province, his pretext being the marshal's refusal to redeem the captives of a former raid. An auxiliary force came over from the marshal's Irish estates and was totally destroyed by Llywelyn. It was believed that the losses of the marshal and his men exceeded the amount of King Richard's ransom (Dunstaple Annals, p. 61; cf. Brut y Tywysogion, p. 307, and Royal Letters, i. 141-3, 145). Unable to defend themselves, the vassals of the earl were forced to make terms with the invader. The king, who indignantly repudiated all participation in Llywelyn's raid, urged in vain upon the prince to make reparation for the injuries that he had inflicted (Fœdera, i. 164). He was more successful in urging on Llywelyn to prolong the truce he had made with the Earl of Pembroke (ib. i. 166). Next year Llewelyn was occupied in a quarrel with his eldest son Gruffydd, born of a Welsh mother, who resented the favour shown to his legitimate half-brother Davydd, the grandson of King John. The men of Meirionydd, over which Gruffydd bore sway, grievously insulted Llywelyn, who now marched against them with an army. The intervention of 'the wise on both sides' prevented bloodshed. Gruffydd sulkily submitted to Llywelyn, who took away from him his dominions of Meirionydd and Ardudwy.

In the summer of 1221 Rhys the Hoarse of South Wales fell away from Llywelyn and attached himself to William Marshal. This again brought Llywelyn south of the Dovey. He took possession of Aberystwith and added it to his own domains (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 309), and afterwards fought against Rhys on Carmarthen bridge, where he gained the victory. He now stripped Rhys of Kidwelly, Gower, and his other southern possessions, and forced him to do homage and hand over hostages to him. Llywelyn then proceeded against Pembrokeshire, where this time he effected very little (Royal Letters, i. 176-7). In the autumn the restless prince had a fresh war on his hands. He attacked his old ally and son-in-law, Reginald de Braose, and laid siege to his castle of Builth. A royal army, accompanied by the young king in person, marched to its relief. The Welsh fled on its approach, and Henry marched as far as Montgomery, where he rebuilt or strengthened the castle (Matt. Paris, Hist. Major, iii. 64). In 1223 war raged more fiercely than ever in Pembrokeshire. In Passion week William Marshal came back from Ireland. Many magnates sent him help. He had now won back the castles that Llywelyn had captured, and retaliated by a destructive foray into Llywelyn's territories, where he won a pitched battle, slaying, it was believed, nine thousand men (ib. iii. 76).

The close understanding between Llywelyn and the discontented barons made the Welsh prince's activity the more dangerous. Hugh de Lacy was his active ally; Falkes de Breauté took refuge in his territory. The Earl of Chester was now his well-wisher, So formidable was he that after the failure of an attempt to persuade him to hold an interview with the king at Worcester, where on 19 Sept. Joan went to meet her brother, summonses were issued to the feudal levies to meet for a Welsh expedition at Gloucester (Fœdera, i. 170). Llywelyn at the time was again besieging Builth, and had recently destroyed two border castles in North Wales belonging to Fulk Fitzwarine (Dunstaple Annals, p. 82). He was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury (ib. p. 83), and in October his lands were, by command of Pope Honorius III, put under interdict (Royal Letters, i. 212). As usual he gave way before the king's advance. By the mediation of the Earl of Chester a peace was patched up, on the conditions that Montgomery was to go to the king, the marshal to retain his original territories, and Llywelyn to repair and restore Fitzwarine's castles (Dunstaple Annals, p. 83). Llywelyn and William Marshal both appeared before the king's council at Ludlow, but could not be reconciled (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 315). Yet for the next few years there was comparative tranquillity. There was constant talk about a fresh interview between Llywelyn and Henry, but it was postponed from time to time (Fœdera, i. 172, 178). It was not until the summer of 1226 that Henry saw his sister, her fierce husband, and their son Davydd at Shrewsbury (ib. i. 182). In the meantime constant diplomatic disputes had gone on. When reproached for having received the outlawed Falkes de Breauté, Llywelyn proudly answered: 'We do not possess less franchises than the king of Scots, who freely receives English outlaws' (Royal Letters, i. 229). Short truces were from time to time arranged (ib. i. 233-4). William Marshal continued his feuds. When in 1225 he received Eleanor, the king's sister, in marriage, one of the reasons given was the need of rewarding his success in capturing Llywelyn's castles (ib. i. 241). It was not until 1226 that Llywelyn and William made a final peace.

In 1228 Llywelyn again went to war against the English, and besieged Montgomery Castle, then belonging to the justiciar, Hubert de Burgh [q. v.] The king and justiciar marched to relieve the siege, whereupon Llywelyn withdrew. The English marched as far as Kerry, in the modern Montgomeryshire, where they burnt the abbey, on the ground that the Cistercian monks who lived in it were too friendly to the Welsh. In its place Henry and Hubert began to build a castle. Llywelyn, however, assembled his troops afresh on the other side of a forest, and vigorously assaulted the castle builders. William de Braose, son and heir of Reginald, was captured in the fight. At last the English suflered so much from lack of food, and so many of the English lords were secretly in relation with the prince, that the king and justiciar were forced to accept a peace. Llywelyn gave Henry three thousand marks (Matt. Paris, iii. 158; the Dunstaple Annals as printed by Dr. Luard read 'mille vaccas,' p. 110) for his expenses, and allowed Kerry to go to its lawful heir. The unfinished castle, called 'Hubert's Folly,' was a strong witness of the virtual triumph of the Welsh prince, despite the barren renewal of the homage of his chieftains to Henry (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 317). Davydd now went to London with his sister and performed homage.

William de Braose remained a captive in Llywelyn's hands. In 1229 he purchased his freedom with three thousand marks, the promise of his daughter Isabella in marriage to Davydd ab Llywelyn, with Builth as her wedding portion, and an engagement not to fight against Llywelyn for the future (Dunstaple Annals, p. 117). But during his captivity William had won the love of Llywelyn's wife Joan. Partly to be avenged on the adulterer, partly to wreak revenge for old wrongs, Llywelyn's men seized William in his own house at Easter in 1230 (Annals of Margam, p. 38). They brought him to Llywelyn, who on 2 May hanged him openly and in the presence of many witnesses at Crokeen (Matt. Paris, iii. 194; Brut y Tywysogion, p. 319; Royal Letters, i. 366). The details of the story vary considerably, but there seems no substantial reason for setting aside the plain testimony of independent Welsh and English chroniclers (cf., however, Joan, d. 1237; Royal Letters, i. 366-8, is plainly misdated). Builth remained in Llywelyn's hands, and became a source of new disputes (ib. ii. 37), as Henry now granted it to his brother Richard of Cornwall (Tewkesbury Annals, p. 88). In 1231 Llywelyn renewed his ravages on a greater scale. He marched south through Montgomery and Brecon, burning the towns and razing the castles in his path. From Brecon he proceeded southwards into Gwent, the modern Monmouthshire, a region too remote to have hitherto suffered from his ravages. He reduced Caerleon to ashes, but failed to take the castle, and many of his men were drowned in the Usk (Margam Annals, p. 39). He thence marched westwards over the mountains, thus nearly avoiding the Earl of Gloucester's lordship of Glamorgan. He destroyed the castles of Neath and Kidwelly, exacted sixty marks of silver from the monks of Margam, and assaulted in vain the little borough of Kenvig. The English heard with horror how he had burnt down churches full of women, and perpetrated all kinds of atrocities (Matt. Paris, iii. 201-2). On 20 June 1231 the king summoned a council and army at Oxford (ib. iii. 203; Royal Letters, i. 400). Llywelyn was again excommunicated, and his lands placed under an interdict, which was confirmed by the pope (ib. p. 202; Osney Annals, p.72; Worcester Annals, p. 422). Troops were also got ready in Ireland, and all exports from Ireland to Wales forbidden (Royal Letters, i. 402). But no serious injury was done Llywelyn in this campaign. A monk of Cwmhir tempted the English garrison of Montgomery into an ambush. Henry marched to Cwmhir, and exacted a fine of three hundred marks. His chief exploit was to rebuild Maud's Castle with stone. A three years' truce was patched up in December, and the sentence of excommunication suspended {Dumtaple Annals,p. 127). The negotiations for Davydd's marriage with Isabella de Braose were now resumed (Fœdera, i. 208). But nothing was concluded, and in 1232 Llywelyn renewed his ravages in the lands of the house of Braose. Richard of Cornwall manfully defended his new possessions, but when Peter des Roches urged upon Henry to make a new expedition, the king pleaded his poverty (Matt. Paris, iii. 219). Llywelyn's successes are therefore easy to understand. When, however, Hubert de Burgh fell, the charges against him included complicity in the death of William de Braose, and stealing from the royal treasury and sending over to Llywelyn a gem that made the wearer invincible. To such shifts were Llywelyn's opponents now reduced.

The revolt of Richard Marshal, earl of Pembroke [q. v.], from Henry III gave Llywelyn a new excuse for his depredations. He actively joined the brother and successor of his old foe in war against the king. His followers and vassals in South Wales had a large share in the exploits of the army with which Richard defeated Henry at Grosmont, near Monmouth, in 1233. At the same time Llywelyn himself was for three months engaged in the siege of the king's castle at Carmarthen (Brut y Tywysogion). But a fleet sailed up the Towy and raised the siege, whereupon Llywelyn went back to his own country. In March 1234 a new truce was arranged (Royal Letters, i. 525), and the death of Earl Richard in Ireland soon brought about a more general cessation of hostilities. In the same year Llywelyn released his first born, Gruffydd, from his six years' confinement.

The active career of Llywelyn was approaching its close. In 1236 fear of him was still strong enough to induce Gilbert Marshal to restore a castle that he had taken from a lesser Welsh chieftain (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 325), and Alexander, king of Scots, trusted to the aid of Llywelyn in his attempt to acquire Northumberland (Matt. Paris, iii. 372). In February 1237 the Princess Joan died at Aber. In the same year Llywelyn made his final submission to Henry, promising to be faithful to him and to serve him in his wars (ib. iii. 385). Llywelyn, already an old man, was now smitten with partial paralysis, and suffered severely from the renewed hostility of his unruly son, Gruffydd. The English feared that Llywelyn's new zeal for their alliance might conceal some new treachery, but Llywelyn was at last sincere in his professions. His great desire was to secure the succession of Davydd, his son by Joan, to the whole of his dominions and power. He realised that the best way of securing this was by interesting King Henry in his nephew's welfare. But he did not neglect to conciliate the goodwill of his own subjects. On 19 Oct. 1238 he gathered together all the princes and barons of Wales at the Cistercian abbey of Strata Florida in Ceredigion (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 327). There they all swore oaths of fealty to Davydd as his successor. As Gruffydd still resisted, he was deprived of all his lands but the cantred of Lleyn. In his new-born zeal for peace Llywelyn deprived one of his chieftains of his lands for murdering his brother. Davydd now became through his father's infirmities practical ruler of Wales, and in 1239 sought to promote his own succession by imprisoning his brother at Criccieth. Llywelyn took upon himself the habit of religion among the Cistercians of Aberconway. There he died on 11 April 1240, and there he was buried. 'I am unworthy,' wrote the Latin annalist of Wales, 'to narrate the mighty deeds of this second Achilles. He dominated his enemies with sword and shield. He kept good peace for the monks, providing food and clothing to those who made themselves poor for Christ's sake. By his wars he enlarged the boundaries of his dominions. He gave good justice to all men, and attracted all men to his service' (Annales Cambriæ;, pp. 82-3). He was certainly the greatest of the native rulers of Wales, and the title of 'Llywelyn the Great' was recognised in the official documents of Edward I (Monasticon, vi. 200). If other Welsh kings were equally warlike, the son of Iorwerth was by far the most politic of them. He even seems to have kept up some sort of a standing force of soldiers (Stephens, Literature of the Kymry, p. 327). While never forgetting his position as champion of the Welsh race, he used with consummate skill the differences and rivalries of the English. He treated as an equal with the Earls of Pembroke and Chester, and even with the king of Scots. Under him the Welsh race, tongue, and traditions began a new lease of life.

Llywelyn was celebrated for his liberality (Giraldus Cambrensis, Opera, iii. 200), especially to churchmen. He granted charters to the house of black canons at Beddgelert (Monasticon, vi. 200). In his old age he founded the convent of Franciscan friars at Llanvaes in Anglesey, where his wife Joan was buried (ib. vi. 1545; Brut y Tywysogion, p. 327). But his chief church work was the establishment of the famous Cistercian abbey of Aberconway. In a charter of confirmation, dated the tenth year of his principality, he marked out very carefully the limits of the large estate with which he endowed the abbey, and indicated the extensive franchises bestowed on the monks. Among the bitter was the curious privilege that the monastery was not answerable for moneys borrowed by the monks unless their borrowing had the consent of the abbot (Monasticon, vi. 671-4). The date generally given for the foundation is 1186, but this is too early for Llywelyn to have had much to do with it. However, in that year the Cistercians of Strata Florida in Ceredigion seem to have sent out a daughter house to Rhedynog Velen in Gwynedd (Brut y Tywysogion, p. 233). This may have been taken under the care and patronage of Llywelyn a few years later. In 1200 the abbey was in full working order(ib.p.255). Another proof of Llywelyn's zeal for the church was his early patronage of Giraldus Cambrensis in his efforts to make himself bishop of St. Davids and shake off the allegiance of the Welsh church to Canterbury (Giraldus, Opera, iii. 197, 200, 209, 244).

Llywelyn was an equally bountiful patron of the native bards, who returned his favour by warmly singing his praises, and whose work in kindling anew the spirit of Welsh nationality was made possible by the victories of their hero. Cynddelw, who died in 1200, celebrated Llywelyn's earlier victories. Llywarch ab Llywelyn, Davydd Benvras, Einiawn ab Gwrgawn, Einiawn ab Gwnlchmai, Einiawn Wan, Gwrgawn, Elidyr Sais, and Llywelyn Vardd addressed odes and other poems to him, or celebrated his virtues after his death (Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales, pp. 175, 189, 210-17, 217-19, 225, 230, 234-5, 240, 247, ed. 1870). Elegies on him were composed by Davydd Benvras and Einiawn Wan (ib. pp. 219, 233).

Llywelyn's family play a considerable part in his history. His success in marrying them to English nobles of the first rank attests both his social and political importance. His eldest son, Gruffydd [see Gruffydd ab Llewelyn, d. 1244], was born of a Welsh concubine. By the same lady Llywelyn had a daughter, who married William de Lacy and played some small part in Irish history (Royal Letters, i. 502). Llywelyn's children by Joan include his son and successor, Davydd [see Davydd II], and probably Helen, who married John the Scot, the last of the old line of the Earls of Chester. Helen was suspected of having poisoned her husband (Matt. Paris, Hist. Major, iii. 394). This was in 1237. Very soon afterwards she married Robert de Quincy, an act which excited her father's indignation (Dunstaple Annals, p. 147). Llywelyn had two other daughters, by what mother does not seem clear. One of these, Gladys, called Ddu or the Dark, married first Reginald de Braose, by whom she had no children; William de Braose, the object of Llywelyn's jealousy, being Reginald's son by another wife. After Reginalds death in 1228, Gladys married Ralph Mortimer, fifth lord of Wigmore, by whom she was the mother of Roger, the sixth lord [see Mortimer, Roger, d. 1282]. Through his marriage the house of Mortimer became after 1283 the legitimate representatives of the old line of Gwynedd. Gladys died in 1251. Margaret, the remaining daughter of Llywelyn, married first John de Braose of Brember, and after his death Walter de Clifford (Eyton, Shropshire, v. 147, 161, 183; Brut y Tywysogion, p. 304). No trust can be placed in the statement in the romance of Fulk Fitzwarine [q. v.] that after Joan's death Llywelyn married Eva Fitzwarine (cf., however, Eyton, viii. 87). The marriage connections of Llywelyn's family with the great houses of the west and with bastard branches of the royal house are among the best indications of his power and importance.

[Brut y Tywysogion (Rolls Ser.), a better Welsh text is given in the new edition of Rhys and J. G. Evans; Annales Cambriæ; Matthew Puris's Historia Major, Annales Monastici, Royal Letters, Flores Historiarum, Walter of Coventry, Giraldus Cambrensis, all in Rolls Ser.; Rymer's Fœdera, Record edition; Dugdale's Monasticon, ed. Ellis, Caley, and Bandinel; Eyton's Shropshire; Myvyrian Archaiology; Stephons's Literature of the Kymry.]

T. F. T.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.185
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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13 ii 30 Llywelyn ab Iorwerth: for his marriage read this marriage