Owain Glyn Dŵr and the Beginning of the Welsh Revolt, according to Thomas Walsingham

The years 1400 to 1415 would see a large scale rebellion in Wales against King Henry IV. Known as the Welsh Revolt, it was led by Owain Glyn Dŵr, who would take the title Prince of Wales and manage to hold off repeated English attacks for several years.

The story of Owain Glyn Dŵr is told in several chronicles from the period, including the Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, better known as the St. Alban’s Chronicle. Historians view Walsingham as one of the leading sources of English history during the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. However, his account of the Welsh Revolt is not very detailed.

In his entry for the year 1400, Walsingham notes that an uprising had begun under Owain Glyn Dŵr. He then describes this Welsh leader:

He had originally been an apprentice-at-law at Westminster, then a distinguished esquire of the present king before he had succeeded to the throne, and served him commendably. However,  a dispute arose between him and Reginald, Lord Grey of Ruthin, over lands which he declared belonged to him by hereditary right. When he realized that his explanations and assertions were being treated with contempt, he took the initiative in beginning hostilities against Lord Grey, devastating his possessions by fire and killing many of his family in the fight with great cruelty and brutality.

Other accounts offer us much more detail about Owain’s life and the reasons behind his dispute with Lord Grey. His description of Henry IV’s campaign into Wales in the autumn of 1400 is similarly terse:

When the king heard what had happened, he took an immediate decision to arraign him as a disturber of the country’s peace. He accordingly gathered a large force of men-at-arms and archers and invaded Wales. However, the Welsh took to the mountains of Snowdonia with their leader and withdrew from the punishment which threatened them. The king destroyed their land by fire, killed those who were unlucky enough at that time to come up against their drawn swords, and after plundering a not inconsiderable haul of cattle and pack-animals, he then returned to England.

Walsingham continues to add more entries about the Welsh Revolt over the next several years of the chronicle. You can read The St. Alban’s Chronicle: The Cronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, edited and translated by John Taylor, Wendy R. Childs and Leslie Watkins, which was published by Clarendon Press in 2003.

You can read more about the Welsh Revolt in our next issue of Medieval Warfare, as Michael Livingston examines the Battle of Bryn Glas.

Top Image: The Great Seal of Owain Glyn Dŵr

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