Madog ap Llywelyn was a distant cousin of Llywelyn the Great. Following Edward Longshanks’ victory in Wales, Madog ap Llywelyn became leader of the Anti-English resistance. This followed an uprising in 1287 led by Rhys ap Maredudd. The Welsh uprisings posed a significant risk to Edwards hold on North West Wales. Most of the English Castles were besieged and Edward himself was stranded with little food at Conwy. The uprising was put down by the English.
Following Edward’s initial Conquest of Wales, the Welsh were due to pay homage to the English crown and to send soldiers to fight in his campaigns in France. The war also led to an unpopular tax being levied. The last payment of this was due at the same time as Welsh troops were expected to muster at Shrewsbury, in September of 1294. The soldiers mutinied against their English officers and attacked nearby strongholds. The mutiny then spread into a general uprising in many parts of Wales.
The uprising appears to have been quite spontaneous. Soon though, a leader emerged in Madog ap Llywelyn. The English were not expecting any trouble. They were busy preparing for another campaign in France. Wales, so far as they were concerned, was secure and the ring of Castles around Gwynedd would surely prevent any rebellion. The English were then caught totally unprepared. Soon the English Castles in Wales were under attack from Welsh forces.
For Edward this caused a problem. It was the beginning of Winter. Snowdonia was hard to assault in the better conditions of the summer campaigning season. He split his army into two groups. One marched along the north coast from Chester. The other, led by himself, entered Wales further south, aiming for Wrexham. The sight of Edward’s army was enough to make many of the Welsh stop their rebellion. Edward pardoned them for their roles in the uprising on the condition that they fought for him in France. The deal also included the Welsh handing over Madog ap Llywelyn.
Madog ap Llywelyn and some leaders had other ideas. While some of the soldiers did leave the uprising, many were persuaded to continue the fight against Edward. English forces were hampered by raids into the winter. Edward led his army through Wales and reached Conwy at Christmas.
Edward chose to raid the Welsh. A tactic often used. It would demoralise the people and break their will to fight. Only, the raiders themselves were ambushed. The English lost much of the baggage that they were taking back to the Castle at Conwy. Far from demoralising the Welsh, they now had a morale boosting victory to boast. Edward found his forces under pressure. The weather didn’t help his cause either. Conwy’s strength lay in the fact that it could be supplied by the English from the sea. The Welsh would find it very difficult to starve Edward into submission. However the weather was so bad that resupplying the castle proved impossible. One chronicle says that the king himself was eating salted fish and drinking honey flavoured water.
Madog ap Llywelyn sensed that the time was right to launch an offensive. With Edward trapped at Conwy, the town of Shrewsbury would be a viable target. His men began their march towards their goal. The English were informed of the Welsh approach. In the battle that followed the Welsh suffered heavy losses. Though they repulsed a first attack of English Cavalry, the second assault was accompanied by the deployment of archers to thin Welsh lines. 700 Welsh rebels are believed to have died. The English lost 70.
A week later, Edward sent a small group of archers to the Welsh camp. Led by several knights they scouted the camp and found the Welsh asleep. 500 of Madog ap Llywelyn’s men were killed. Madog escaped and became a fugitive until his surrender in July, 1295. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Welsh resistance was broken.
Edward occupied Anglesey and began construction of Beaumaris Castle. The title of Prince of Wales was stripped from the Welsh and given to Edward’s eldest son, the future Edward II. The title has been given to the heir to the English throne ever since.
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Snowdonia Heritage – brief biography of Edward I
Castle Wales – Welsh Warriors and Warfare
Castle Wales – Pont Irfon a Chwymp Cymru