A Harlech Castle story

In 1995, the entire world learned the name of William Wallace the 13th century Scottish rebel who raised an army against the English. The blockbuster by Mel Gibson became an epic success and I am sure that many people in Wales were expecting a visit from Mel immediately after researching the history and mythology behind the last “real” Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndŵr.

Owain rebelled against the English and managed to capture most of the English castles in Wales including Harlech, which became his home in 1404. But Mel never showed up, and the world lost a great story…

So who was Owain Glyndŵr? A young freedom fighter trying to release his countryman from their chains? Not exactly. Owain Glyndŵr was born to one of the most noble families in Wales around the year 1350. His family had a lot of land, and Owain even served in the English army. When his rebellion took place, he was already fifty, and during that period the Welsh and the English created some sort of co existence, so what was the trigger to the rebellion? Well, land…

Owain had a major dispute with one of the English barons in the area, Reginald Grey. During the reign of Richard II, the two went to court, and the King ruled in favor of Owain, but when the King lost his head and Henry IV gained the throne, Grey managed to trick Owain, making him look like a traitor in the eyes of the new King. You could say that the entire rebellion began because Owain did not have any other choice but to rebell or get executed…

The rebellion broke out on 16th September 1400, when a small group of supporters named Owain the “Prince of Wales”, a title that had been held by an English royal since the birth of Edward II. Since most of the castles in Wales were poorly maintained, several of them fell to Owain’s men in the first week of the rebellion. As soon as the rebellion began, his cousins from the isle of Anglesey joined the fight. Their leader’s names were Rhys and Gwilym Tudor.

By 1402, the rebellion had gained mythical powers when a comet was spotted in the night sky, making the locals believe that this was a sign to join the Prince of Wales. And when his army managed to capture the King’s nephew, Owain decided to marry him with one of his daughters, creating a future claim to the English Throne as well.

The only chance for this rebellion to work was to find English allies who would fight Henry IV along with the Welsh, but when such a mighty ally appeared in 1403, and his name was Henry Percy (AKA Hotspur), Owain was to slow to react and his men did not show up to the decisive battle where the King won and Hotspur was slain.

In 1404, the Welsh managed to capture Harlech Castle after 7 months of siege, and Owain Glyndŵr moved in with his family. He even called a Parliament to assemble in the castle, but without English allies it was only matter of time before Henry IV would raise an army and invade Wales again, and by 1409 he did so, and he had the best commander a King could expect, his own son, the future Henry V, the great warrior king. He invaded Wales, sieged Harlech Castle and captured it along with Owain Glyndŵ’sr wife and children. The family was sent to the Tower of London. The Prince of Wales himself disappeared and no one heard from him since (and no one even knows where he is buried).

The Welsh turned his disappearance into a legend saying that he was only asleep and if Wales was threatened, he would wake up and unite the Welsh once again. These days, the Welsh rugby supporters wave Owain Glyndŵr’s coat of arms whenever the team is playing against England. So far, he is still asleep which means that the last Prince of Wales does not consider the English Rugby team as a real threat…(that hurts).

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