On September 16, 1400 (Medi 16), leaders from all areas of Cymru came together in Glyndyfrdwy to ask Owain Glyndwr to become Tywysog Cymru (Prince of Wales), as well as to lead them in a war of independence against the English king, Henry IV (Hotspur of Shakespeare’s history play).
This was more than 100 years since Edward I of England declared his own son prince. Although there were Welsh princes who led their country against the descendants of the Norman invader, William, Edward’s ambition and excesses of violence and cruelty exceeded any English ruler before him.
Thereafter, no true prince of Wales was crowned until Owain. He followed in the legacy of Llewelyn II, Ein Llyw Olaf (Our Last Leader) who was ambushed and beheaded at Cilmeri, near Llanymddyfri, Powys, in December 1282, giving Edward the opportunity to replace the Welsh ‘aristocracy’ with his son. Llewelyn’s daughter, then two years old, was imprisoner in a nunnery and his brother, Dafydd, was tortured, drawn and quartered (ripped apart by four horses).
Owain Glyndwr was born into a prominent family (pendefigion) about sixty years later, c1354. He had made a place for himself in Welsh history in earlier years but was considered elderly in 1400, when he was asked to lead the country against the English. For years, he led the Cymry against the English strongholds, harassing the towns on the eastern border and destroying the Norman castle in Caerfyrddin in 1404. The remains of the castle form part of the foundation of the County Hall of Dyfed, now split into the counties of Sir Gâr, Ceredigion and Penfro.
At the time, the English Parliament reported: “Owain Glyndwr and others have newly made insurrection and have gathered together in the marches of Carmarthenshire. They conspire to invade the realm and destroy the English.” (Seiri Cenedl, Gwynfor Evans, Gwasg Gomer, 1986, pg. 119)
A few years earlier, Charles VI of France had sent an emissary on Glyndwr’s behalf to Robert, the king of Scotland. Dafydd ap Ieuan was captured and imprisoned by the English but Glyndwr continued to succeed without any external support. In Mai 1404, in the presence of representatives from France, Spain and Scotland, Owain Glyndwr was crowned Tywysog Cymru with the blessing of Pope Avignon.
In 1409, Henry V ruled England. The war for independence continued. Glyndwr’s wife, Marged, two daughters and three grand-daughters were captured and taken to London as prisoners. Glyndwr led his final effort against English tyranny in 1410. Several of his supporters were taken as prisoners and he was labeled a traitor. By 1412, Glyndwr was a hunted man, as were his friends and supporters, ‘Gwerin Owain,’ but his son, Maredudd ap Owain continued the rebellion against English tyranny until 1421 with the support of Scotland and the districts of Arfon and Meirion.
Efforts in Cymru’s cause continued in Europe as late as 1415 with France declaring the Cymru was an independent nation although the English insisted Cymru was a part of England. After 1415, no mention of any kind was made of Owain Glyndwr. He simply and quietly disappeared from the pages of history. Some say he retired from the battle to live in his daughter’s home in the border Marshes of Powys. Although there was a price on his head, no one betray him to the English. No mention has ever been made of his death and he has no burial place that anyone has found. Some say Owain Glyndwr lives still.
Certainly, the spirit of Glyndwr endures to this day. The Cymry have never succumbed to the temptation to become English nor even, ‘British Welsh.’ Patriots of freedom for Cymru fly Glyndwr’s banner along with the Draig Goch (Red Dragon). And no true Tywysog Cymru has been crowned since Glyndwr’s disappearance.