Owen Glendower

The Welsh national leader Owen Glendower (c. 1359?-c.1415) led Welsh opposition to English rule during the early 1400s.

Owen Glendower, also known as Owain ap Gruffydd and Glyndyfrdwy, Lord of Glyndwr and Sycharth, claimed descent from Bleddyn ap Cynvyn and from Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native Prince of Wales. After inheriting estates in Merioneth, Glendower probably studied law at one of the Inns of Court in London. By 1385 he was serving as a squire with King Richard II against the Scots. Possibly knighted in 1387, he also served the Earl of Arundel under Henry of Lancaster (who became Henry IV in 1399). Glendower headed a Welsh rebellion in 1399, and, after being captured at Flint Castle, he was pardoned, but some of his lands were not restored to him. After an unsuccessful appeal to Parliament, Glendower turned to rebellion and in 1400 took the title of Prince of Wales.

As a rebel, Glendower gained considerable support because of agrarian discontent. He and his followers seized south Wales and gained control of Conway, Ruthin, and Hawarden; they also attacked the royal army in the north. In 1402 Glendower was crowned at Machynlleth, and he simultaneously negotiated with the English for peace and with Ireland and Scotland for help. Aided by the weather, Glendower checked the royal forces sent against him, and at Pilleth he captured Reginald de Grey and Sir Edmund de Mortimer. This action paved the way for a treaty with the Mortimers and the Percys for the overthrow of the King. After his daughter married Mortimer, Glendower released him, and during the next few months he gained control of Carmarthen, Usk, Caerleon, and Newport. This alliance ended with the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403), in which Glendower failed to join the Percys. For the next few years Glendower and his followers controlled Wales; they ravaged the English border, regulated Church appointments, and sent the bishop of St. Asaph as an ambassador to France. Capturing Harlech and Cardiff, Glendower controlled the area west of Worcester, and in 1405 he called for a Welsh Parliament.

From 1405 onward, Glendower's power started to decline, and his sons were captured by Prince Henry. Glendower recaptured Carmarthen with the help of the French, but he was defeated in battle in 1406, deserted by his ally the Earl of Northumberland the following year, and then lost Aberystwyth in 1408 and south Wales. Glendower's wife and several of his relatives were captured by the English in 1413, and although King Henry V made several offers of full pardon in an attempt to calm the border on the eve of his French campaign, Glendower never submitted to the English.

Glendower is believed to have died on Sept. 20, 1415, at Monnington, Herefordshire. His sons concluded negotiations with the English the following spring, but the terms of their pardons were less favorable than those that had been offered to Glendower.

The main aim of Glendower and his followers was to secure the political and ecclesiastical independence of Wales. They also wanted to preserve the native language and culture of Wales.

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Further Reading on Owen Glendower

The standard biography of Glendower is Sir John E. Lloyd, Owain Glyn Dwr (Owen Glendower) (1932). Other biographies include Arthur G. Bradley, Owen Glyndwr and the Last Struggle for Welsh Independence (1901), and John D. G. Davies, Owen Glyn Dwr (1934). For general historical background see Ernest F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485 (1961).

Additional Biography Sources

Davies, R. R., The revolt of Owen Glendower, Oxford, England; New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Henken, Elissa R., Fulfilling prophecy: Owen Glendower, legend and symbol, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Sale, Richard, Owen Glendower's way, London: Hutchinson, 1985.

Skidmore, Ian, Owen Glendower, Prince of Wales, Swansea: C. Davies, 1978.

Williams, Glanmor, Owen Glendower, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1993.