Christmas comes but once a year…

 

 abergavennyChristmas 1175, Abergavenny Castle. The Anglo-Norman in charge, one William de Braose (there were many of them all very inventively called William), invited Seisyllt ap Dyfnwall from nearby Castell Arnallt around for a Christmas meal. Seisyllt, his son Geoffrey and the chieftains of Powys accepted the invitation. The intention, so William said in his politely worded invite, was to spend Christmas in each other’s company- to bury the hatchet. They would feast and celebrate and make a lasting reconciliation following the death of Henry Fitzmiles- an event incidentally that had ensured vast tracts of lands were now in de Braose’s ownership.

 

And what could be nicer at Christmas than peace and reconciliation? The Welsh left their weapons at the door and settled down for an evening of serious eating and drinking.

 

They didn’t notice when someone quietly shut and barred the entrance to the great hall. De Braose’s men were intent on burying the hatchet…firmly in the backs of their Welsh guests. They finished the evening by cutting down all the Welsh in the hall. De Braose even murdered Seisyllt’s seven-year-old son.

 

The fact is that Henry Fitzmiles was William’s uncle. His death at the hands of the Welsh triggered the massacre, another round in an on-going blood feud. What made the massacre at Abbergavenny different was that de Braose broke the unwritten laws of hospitality. Camden, writing in the sixteenth century described the act as one of “infamy and treachery.”

3 Comments

Filed under Anglo-Welsh History, Twelfth Century

3 responses to “Christmas comes but once a year…

  1. judith ann

    VERY interesting reading, as always.

  2. Sir Kevin Parr Bt

    The Red Barn incident is the basis of this tale. De Braose was in London on that date.The tale was invented by Welsh to upset the balance and degrade the English. King Edward 1 was the fellow who started the fashion of inviting enemies for peace talks and dinner.He locked them in the barn and set fire to it.His archers stood around the barn hall in Scotland in case any escaped the flames. I think by the time the Welsh came by the news it was already legend. King John held Lady De Braose and there is some proof that in fact the family had respect in Wales. His daughter fell off the castle walls trying to catch her pet squirrel and died.A mass in Abergavenny Church held two thousand native people mourning her demise. Now that would not have been the case if De Braose was such a bloody tyrant. Camden recording the story long after heard only the lies from the newly made Welsh in old Monmouthshire which was always England until Government divisional interference in 1974 made part of it Wales. My relative Lady Herbert had her views on history and ruled that area all her life.I have heard mass in her private chapel many times. Taking all things in with this case I must conclude that it is in fact a myth and De Braose who died in France penniless and his wife dead in King Johns prison. Why because the truth is recorded that William De Braose went against King Johns taxation and refused to collect taxes from his area. John reacted with venom and here is the source of that myth that Wiliam murdered the local men at dinner. What better than that to ruin a good mans reputation and I rest my case for your comments.I spent 7 years tracing this myth and it has little or no truth in it. De Broase comes out of this as a local hero who insulted ,upset and went against his Kings wishes to build a navy and have more silk for his suits. By refusing to tax his fellow men and to risk his all in this matter convinced me that it springs from hate and goes back to the Royal mouth who spread the fire that is now told in story by thousands of visitors who ever year since De Braose death hear from the castle guides and local know it all and the great myth is to last forever. Then one man knows the truth.

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