Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dafydd ap Gruffydd

EdwardDafydd was the grandson of Llywelyn the Great.  He was also the first nobleman in Britain to be executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered for treason.

The story is a complicated one and begins with Llywelyn the Great.  Llywelyn married Joan, the natural daughter of King John.  They had one son who inherited his father’s kingdom.  He died without heirs so the kingdom was inherited by the heirs of Llywelyn’s other son Gruffydd who had been excluded from a share in the power because of his illegitimacy.  This had followed the English way of excluding all but the legitimate heirs.  Now though Gruffydd’s four sons all had an opportunity to make a bid for power.

In 1256 Llywelyn ap Gruffydd managed to wrest power from his brothers.  The early years of his reign were helped by the fact of the Baron’s War in England and the role of Simon de Montfort.  Dafydd formed an alliance with King Henry in 1263 and continued to fight against his brother alongside Edward I from 1274.

The alliance with King Edward served Dafydd well.  He married Lady Elizabeth Ferrers, the daughter of the Earl of Derby and widow of William Marshall (2nd Baron Marshall).  He gained land and prestige in England.  But then Dafydd thought better of his links with the English and returned to fight alongside his brother.  He attacked Hawarden Castle during Easter 1282.  Edward was unamused.

That same year Llywelyn was killed and Dafydd became the next Prince of Wales.  It probably wasn’t a very comfortable position as Edward was hot on Dafydd’s heels.  In fact he was captured once but managed to escape into the Snowdonian Mountains.  Finally he was cornered along with his younger brother Owain.  Also imprisoned were Dafydd’s wife, their seven daughters, two sons and one niece.

The Lanercost Chronicle takes up the story:

The King sent him forward to the Tower of London with wife and children….David’s children were condemned to perpetual imprisonment, but David himself was first drawn as a traitor, then hanged as a thief; thirdly, he was beheaded alive, and his entrails burnt as an incendiary and a homicide; fourthly his limbs were cut into four parts as the penalty of a rebel.


This all took place in Shrewsbury.  As for his wife and children.  Their fates are not completely known.  His wife is thought to be buried in the church at Caerwys.  One daughter, Gwladys, a child, was sent to the Gilbertine convent in Sixhills Lincolnshire where she spent the rest of her life along with her cousin.  Her brothers Llywelyn and Dafydd were imprisoned for the rest of their lives.  Llywelyn died in suspicious circumstances in 1287 in Bristol Castle.

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Filed under Anglo-Welsh History, Kings of England, Monasteries, Thirteenth Century

Edwin’s Place

KSCN0001King Edwin’s kingdom stretched from Edinburgh – Edwin’s Town- to the River Trent.   This was the Kingdom of Northumbria He was accepted as the High King or Bretwalda.  Following his marriage to Ethelburga of Kent (daughter of Ethelbert) in AD 627 he became Britain’s second Christian king. Bede described Edwin  as more powerful than any earlier king and as time passed he extended his kingdom to the Isle of Man and Anglesey.

His invasion of North Wales resulted in Cadwallada of Wales and Penda of Mercia forming an alliance against him and invading his kingdom in 633.  He and two of his sons were killed at the Battle of Heathfield  which could be near Cuckney or alternatively at Hatfield near Doncaster – though it would be unlikely for the next part of the story to be true if this were the case.

Edwin’s comrades carried his body from the scene of the battle and buried it in the forest.  They carried his head back to St Peter’s in York., though another version has Cadwallada displaying Edwin’s head on the ramparts of York’s city walls following a veritable  Saxon-killing spree.  In either event the battle was bloody and decisive.


Eventually it was decided that Edwin’s body should be buried in Whitby Abbey where his niece St Hilda was abbess.  By that time people were calling him a saint.  The spot where his body had been buried was deemed a holy place and a wooden chapel built on the site.  This became known as the ‘place of Edwin’ or Edwinstowe.

Edwinstowe was part of the royal manor of  Mansfield in 1066.  Inevitably, given the Norman kings love of hunting the land around Mansfield and Edwinstowe became part of a royal forest.  The Domesday Book of 1086 records the church, a priest and four bordars – these were essentially slaves working the priest’s land.  Twenty years later there was even less land being cultivated.


In later times King John, who had a hunting lodge at Ollerton, paid a priest to live in a nearby chantry to say prayers for his soul and for the souls of the people he had wronged.

The local people probably felt they ought to have been included in the number as they were bound by the strict forest laws that protected the timber and the game of royal forests.   Those caught breaking the law were taken before the Forest Court or Eyre which was held every six or seven weeks.  More serious offences were tried at the Nottingham Eyre.


Filed under Dark Ages, Eleventh Century, Kings of England, Legends

The Lanercost Chronicle

DSC_0056Lanercost Priory was founded in 1169 by Robert de Vaux, son of the Lord of Gilsland, for Augustinian Canons.  As it turned out the priory wasn’t in the best location for quiet contemplation and production of religious texts sitting as it did in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall on the border between England and Scotland.

The chronicle cover the years 1201 to 1346 and gives graphic accounts of some of the difficulties faced by a population living on the frontline of the first war of Scottish Independence.  Unsurprisingly it presents information from an English viewpoint.  The monks of Lanercost do not seem to have had a soft spot for any marauding Scots who passed their way.

The chronicle reference local events including a siege at Berwick and an eyewitness account of one of Carlisle’s sieges  certainly give it a local flavour as does an account of the visitation by the Bishop of Carlisle in 1281 and also one of Carlisle’s periodic fires.  It also covers events such as the Battle of Bannockburn and the execution of Sir Andrew de Harcla.  The chronicler agrees that Sir Andrew was a traitor to Edward III but follows up with the comment that the local population would have been grateful for the peace that de Harcla had worked towards at the cost of his life.

It seems probable that some of the chronicle was compiled in Carlisle while other entries were written in Berwick – there are first person eyewitness accounts to events located in these places.  This has given rise to a question about the authorship of the chronicles as has the manner in which the Franciscans are heralded at every opportunity as men of great spiritual worth. As the preface of the chronicle explains it seems unlikely that Augustinian Canons would extol the virtues of Mendicant Franciscans.  It is a puzzle exacerbated not simply by time and border warfare but also by the Dissolution of the Monasteries which saw the destruction of a tradition of monastic chronicles that dated from before the conquest.

The only thing that readers can be absolutely certain of was that the text translated from Latin into English by Sir Herbert Maxwell in 1913 used a manuscript that was known to be in the possession of Sir Henry Savile in 1596.



Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Carlisle, Monasteries