Llewelyn ap Gruffydd

Llewelyn ap Gruffydd (died 1282), Prince of Wales, is considered the last champion of Welsh liberty and the last effective native ruler.

Llewelyn ap Gruffydd was the son of Gruffydd ap Llewelyn ap lorwrth (died 1244) and Senena. Little is known of his early years. In 1246 he and his elder brother, Owain the Red, succeeded their uncle, Davydd ap Llewelyn, as rulers of Gwynedd in northern Wales. Although he did homage to Henry III the following year and renounced claims to land east of the Conway, he soon broke with the English because of the oppressive raids by the border lords. During the next years he extended his power and by 1256 had expelled the English from northern Wales. Establishing overlordship of all of Wales the following year, Llewelyn in March 1258 took the title of Prince of Wales and tried to make alliances with Scotland.

In 1262 Llewelyn allied himself with Simon de Montfort and the next year took the offensive against the English forces led by Prince Edward, forcing a truce. Fighting resumed in 1265, and after much conflict the Treaty of Montgomery was concluded in September 1267. This provided that the principality of Wales would be held under the English crown, but Henry III gave formal recognition to Llewelyn's claims to the title and lordship of the country.

On the accession of Edward I in 1272, Llewelyn failed to do homage to the new king, and for the next years he was active against other Welsh leaders, forcing both Gryffydd ap Owenwynwny and Davydd III into England. At the end of 1275 Llewelyn's bride-to-be, Eleanor, daughter of Simon de Montfort, was seized by Edward I on her way to Wales, causing a fierce-attack on the Marcher lords, and he was driven to submitting to the English only after Edward's expedition which ended in the Treaty of Conway in 1277. Eleanor was released and married Llewelyn in 1278. They had one daughter, Gwemllian, who died in 1337 as a nun at Sempringham.

Llewelyn's last years were spent again in revolt against the English, who were trying to extend their control over Wales. He was killed on Dec. 11, 1282, in a minor skirmish. He was buried by Cistercian monks of Cwm Hir at Machenydd, but his head was removed and placed at the Tower of London as a warning to other rebels. His brother Davydd succeeded him but was executed by Edward I for treason on Oct. 3, 1283. The lands of Llewelyn were held forfeit to the Crown, and Edward annexed Wales as a conquered country to England by the Statute of Wales.

As the last effective native ruler in Wales, Llewelyn tried to resist foreign control and to rule by traditional Welsh law rather than by the newer English law. His reign was therefore a high point in the attempt at a native Welsh revival.

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Further Reading on Llewelyn ap Gruffydd

Although there is much periodical literature on various aspects of Llewelyn's life, no comprehensive study is available. His relations with the English monarchs are examined in F. M. Powicke, King Henry III and the Lord Edward (2 vols., 1947). For conditions in Wales see Frederic Seebohm, The Tribal System in Wales (1895; 2d ed. 1904), and the more general Sir John E. Lloyd, History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest (2 vols., 1911; 3d ed. 1939). The standard survey of the period is Sir Maurice Powicke, The Thirteenth Century, 1216-1307 (1953; 2d ed. 1962).