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The Rise and Fall of Owain Glyn Dŵr: England, France and the Welsh Rebellion in the Late Middle Ages

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Rise and Fall of Owain Glyn Dŵr: England, France and the Welsh Rebellion in the Late Middle Ages.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Gideon Brough(Author)

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Owain Glyn Dwr is a towering figure in Welsh history, best known for a revolt against the English crown in the early years of the fifteenth century. Despite facing overwhelming odds, Glyn Dwr was successful enough, for a time, to re-establish native rule in a Wales deemed to have been conquered over a century previously.The rebels proved to be surprisingly capable opponents during the ensuing conflict. Militarily, their campaigns were well planned and more efficiently executed than those of the better-equipped and highly regarded English troops, who heavily outnumbered the rebels. Flexible and adaptable, the Welsh demonstrated that they were effective soldiers, commanded by an excellent leader who was supported by talented subordinates. Although Henry IV sent some of his finest commanders against them, notably the earl of Arundel, the Percys and the Charltons, the Welsh repeatedly prevailed. King Henry, a crusader and renowned warrior, also failed in his campaigns against Owain's rebels. The conflict with Wales was a vital proving ground for his heir, the future Henry V.Due to their successes and leadership, the rebels' military and political strategies evolved, enabling Glyn Dwr to call himself 'Prince of Wales', in direct challenge to the English heir. The Welsh, scorned by the king as being a people of meagre reputation, also displayed an unexpected political maturity, creating a native parliament which, in probably its third sitting, produced a charter outlining their vision for an independent Welsh future. In addition, Glyn Dwr established diplomatic contacts with France, Brittany, Scotland, both popes, Irish lords and rebel English factions. These diplomatic initiatives led to a treaty with France, followed by the insertion of a sizeable French expeditionary army into Wales: a hugely significant event in British history.England's efforts to kill the rebellion met with repeated defeat, until Henry's diplomats skilfully managed to become involved in the power struggle at the heart of the French court. Their quiet, barely perceptible but brilliant achievements gained England a critical advantage, enabling it to defeat the rebellion politically, then militarily. Although the Welsh revolt did not secure lasting political independence and therefore proved unsuccessful, it did spur into action a reluctant rebel, who is portrayed in this study not only as a warrior of notable prowess, but moreover as a thinker, diplomat and an exceptional leader.

'The history of Wales has too often been relegated to the sidelines of history; this book places the events of Glyn Dwr's revolt into the centre of the history of Europe in the early fifteenth century' --Helen Nicholson, Professor of Medieval History, Cardiff University'In this stimulating, revisionist study of a remarkable soldier and statesman, Gideon Brough explores how and why Owain Glyn Dwr was able to secure French support for his struggle against England, thereby ensuring that the Welsh rebellion became a distinctive thread within the tangled skein of the Hundred Years War. From the bloody battle on the slopes of Bryn Glas to the stand-off near Worcester between the Franco-Welsh army and Henry IV s host, the military aspects of the story are compelling. But it is in his exploration of the protagonists' diplomatic manoeuvres, perhaps most notably those of the English envoys who broke the Franco-Welsh alliance, that Brough's book particularly impresses.' --Dr Andrew Ayton, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Hull and the University of Keele

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Book details

  • PDF | 320 pages
  • Gideon Brough(Author)
  • I.B.Tauris (30 July 2016)
  • English
  • 4
  • Biography

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Review Text

  • By jackmair on 9 June 2017

    Interesting, well written book about a Welsh legend

  • By david on 7 March 2017

    This book is an impressive attempt to break new ground in the study of Owain Glyn Dwr, the famous 15th century Welsh rebel/freedom fighter. The author focuses on two main themes: the reasons behind the initial sweeping success of the Welsh ‘insurgency’ (as he calls it), and the wider European implications of the revolt. Both are eloquently and convincingly explained, with a fine attention to detail and breadth of research that convey Brough’s passion for the subject.For those with only a casual knowledge of Glyn Dwr, the book is full of revelations. The revolt was not instigated by Glyn Dwr, as so often claimed, nor was he even involved in the early stages. Large-scale Welsh resistance to government authority can be traced back to 1399 and the immediate aftermath of the deposition of Richard II. English nobles who rushed to join the usurper, Henry of Bolingbroke, were frequently robbed and assaulted as they travelled through Wales, and Henry’s own men may have also been attacked. A French source claims these attacks were motivated by Welsh anger at Englishmen who deserted Richard, rather than general discontent.Brough pours cold water on several long-held legends relating to Glyn Dwr. For instance, the notion that Glyn Dwr was proclaimed Prince of Wales at Glyndyfrdwy in 1400 lacks any kind of reliable contemporary support. He did not describe himself as prince in any of his surviving correspondence until the alliance with the French in the summer of 1404: prior to this time, Glyn Dwr simply referred to himself in letters as ‘Lord of Glyn Dyfrdwy’. The author also rejects entirely the Battle of Hyddgen, said to be Glyn Dwr’s first battlefield victory of any note. This is a brave move, since Hyddgen is a cherished element of the Glyn Dwr legend, immortalised in poetry by RS Thomas. However the hard fact remains that the earliest reference to the battle is a secondary source, The Annals of Glyn Dwr, dating somewhere between 1420-50.The military aspect of the revolt is handled skilfully, and Brough is at pains to illustrate the intelligence, organisation and ability of Glyn Dwr and his captains. Welsh forces successfully infiltrated English armies, spelling the doom of the latter at Ruthin and Bryn Glas. By contrast, the military response of the crown was slow and cumbersome, though Brough doesn’t fall into the obvious trap of cheapening Glyn Dwr’s enemies. Henry IV, for instance, is correctly portrayed as brutal, aggressive and politically adept, whose preferred method of dealing with opposition was to rush to the scene at the head of an army. In England he crushed all opposition, but Henry completely failed to grasp the nature of war in Wales, or what was needed to counter Glyn Dwr’s methods. The annual parade of huge royal armies, lumbering around Wales in pointless circles before being thrown back by guerilla resistance and appalling weather, did nothing to stem the tide of Welsh success. Brough is also correct to identify the lesser-known English captains, such as Edward Charlton and Sir John Greyndore, as more effective against the Welsh than the king or his chief nobles.Where this book really scores is the attention paid to European diplomacy, and how events - including the Great Schism - influenced events in Wales. Glyn Dwr’s principal ally in France was Louis, Duke of Orléans, the prime mover in organising French military support for the Welsh. While Louis held the balance of power in France, Glyn Dwr could hope for a steady stream of French troops, ships, supplies and siege equipment. After Louis’ death in 1407, murdered in the street by Burgundian assassins, French support for the revolt in Wales slowly ebbed away. The new power in France, Jean the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, was more favourably disposed towards England. A team of brilliant English diplomats, obscure men such as Richard Ashton and William Hoo, quietly unpicked the Franco-Welsh alliance, severing one bond and then the next. English diplomatic success in France, coupled with the domination of the Channel by English privateer captains, left Glyn Dwr isolated from his allies on the continent. This in turn allowed the English to recover the military advantage, finally bringing their greater numbers and resources to bear against the Welsh. Brough perhaps slightly underplays the role of Henry’s sea-captains, men such as Henry Pay (‘Arripaye’), John Hauley, Mark Mixto and Richard Spicer. However it can be argued that the French and their allies had a slight ascendancy at sea in this period. Brough does give full credit to the French commanders who led troops to Wales, and provides incisive analysis of the two main French sources for their involvement.My only real criticism of the book is the commentary on the alleged confrontation between the Franco-Welsh army and Henry IV at Worcester in August 1405. Brough ably marshals the supporting evidence: local folklore, evidence of damage from regional tax returns and exemptions, and the fact Henry issued a military summons to his tenants at Hereford before marching to Worcester. However Brough fails to present the evidence against, as presented by Chris Given-Wilson in his recent magisterial biography of Henry IV. Exchequer accounts show that in July Henry sent his treasurer’s clerk, John Darell, to Worcester with rolls, memoranda and other resources for a Great Council to be held in the city, including convocation of clergy. The council went ahead at the same time as Worcester was supposedly threatened by Glyn Dwr’s forces. It seems most unlikely that such an assembly of nobles and high-ranking clergymen would have been held there at such a time. In addition, the tale that Henry’s wagon train was plundered by the Welsh ( or swept away by floods) as he retreated inside Worcester is not supported by the wardrobe account book, which reports no loss of treasure or other items. Therefore the tale of the stand-off between opposing armies remains a possibility, but still unproven either way. It may be, as the author suggests, that Glyn Dwr approached Worcester to offer a truce with the king, and this inspired the tale of the stand-off.The final section of the book, in which Brough describes ongoing resistance in Wales after Glyn Dwr’s apparent disappearance in 1412, is also most impressive. Effective leadership of the insurgents was handed over to Glyn Dwr’s son Maredudd, who was taken seriously by the government of the new king, Henry V. At one point Henry sent his own brother John, Duke of Bedford, to treat with Maredudd: such a high-ranking figure would not have been despatched if the Welsh were no longer regarded as a threat. Any hopes of a fresh rising in Wales were undermined by the military successes of Henry V in France, especially in 1417. Here Brough convincingly re-aligns the Welsh of this period as allies of France, not England. He also points out that Glyn Dwr’s wife and grandchildren were starved to death by Henry V, not his father. This is very much in keeping with what we know of the real victor of Agincourt, as opposed to Shakespeare’s creation. A cold-steel man, perfectly in tune with the brutal realpolitik of his day.In summary, a thoroughly recommended new study of a famous Welsh hero. Brough has rescued Owain Glyn Dwr from the slough of lazy hagiography and nationalist sentiment, and restored the man to himself: a leader fit to be compared with the likes of Jan Zizka and John Hunyadi.

  • By Caracatus on 27 February 2017

    Superb research, well presented, shining a new light on this part of history.


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