- Owain Lawgoch
Owain Lawgoch, (English: "Owain of the Red Hand", French: "Yvain de Galles"), full name Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri (c. 1330 - July 1378), was a Welsh soldier who served in Spain, France, Alsace and Switzerland. He led a Free Company fighting for the French against the English in the Hundred Years' War. As the last politically active descendant of Llywelyn the Great in the male line, he was a claimant to the title of Prince of Gwynedd and of Wales.
Following the death of Llywelyn the Last in 1282 and the execution of his brother and successor Dafydd ap Gruffudd in 1283, Gwynedd paid fealty to and accepted English rule. Llywelyn's daughter Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn was committed to a nunnery at Sempringham, while the sons of Dafydd were kept in Bristol castle until their deaths. Another of Llywelyn's brothers, Rhodri ap Gruffydd, spent much of his life in England. By his second wife, Katherine, he had a son, Thomas, the father of Owain.
Rhodri was content to end his life as a country gentleman in England, and though his son Thomas ap Rhodri used the four lions of Gwynedd on his seal he made no attempt to win his inheritance. Owain, his only son, was born in Surrey, where his grandfather had acquired the manor of Tatsfield. Tatsfield, a small village only 17 miles from the centre of London, still has Welsh place names e.g. Maesmawr Road (trans: Large Field Road). Thomas died in 1363 and Owain returned from abroad to claim his patrimony in 1365. Owain Lawgoch was in French service by 1369 and his lands in Wales and England were confiscated.
Llywelyn the Great
Gruffydd ap Llywelyn
Dafydd ap Llywelyn
Owain Goch ap Gruffydd
Llywelyn the Last
Dafydd ap Gruffydd
Rhodri ap Gruffudd
Gwenllian of Wales
Llywelyn ap Dafydd
Owain ap Dafydd
Tomas ap Rhodri
The year in which Owain entered the service of the king of France is uncertain. Froissart claims that he fought on the French side at the Battle of Poitiers, but there is no evidence to support this. He was certainly in the service of the French as leader of a Free Company when the period of truce between France and England following the Treaty of Brétigny ended and hostilities resumed in 1369.
Owain's company consisted largely of Welshmen. The second in command of this company was Ieuan Wyn, known to the French as le Poursuivant d'Amour, a descendant of Ednyfed Fychan, Seneschal of Gwynedd under Owain's ancestors. Owain also received financial support while in France from Ieuan Wyn's father, Rhys ap Robert. While in French service Owain had good relations with Bertrand du Guesclin and others and gained the support of Charles V of France.
Welsh soldiery and longbowmen who had fought for Edward I in his campaigns in North Wales remained armed and sold their services to Norman kings in their battles in Scotland at Crecy and Poitiers. Ironically, the Norman attempt to conquer Wales set in train events which reignited Welsh identity and raised up new Welsh military leaders such as Owain claiming descent from the ancient Princes of Wales. The campaigns of Edward I and his successors proved ultimately to be a disaster for the Anglo-Normans when a Welsh army under Henry Tudor twice invaded England successfully in the 15th century finally destroying the Anglo-Norman dynasty in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth.
Owain made his first attempt to claim his inheritance in late 1369. A fleet was prepared in Harfleur at King Charles's expense to invade Wales under Owain's command and set sail just before Christmas. However, storms forced it to return to port after a few days. Owain served with Bertrand du Guesclin in Maine and Anjou in 1370 and in 1371 he and his company were in the service of the town of Metz.
In May 1372 in Paris, Owain announced that he intended to claim the throne of Wales. He set sail from Harfleur with money borrowed from Charles V. Owain first attacked the island of Guernsey, and was still there when a message arrived from Charles ordering him to abandon the expedition in order to go to Castile to seek ships to attack La Rochelle. Owain defeated an English and Gascon force at Soubise later that year, capturing Sir Thomas Percy and Jean de Grailly, the Captal de Buch. Another invasion of Wales was planned in 1373 but had to be abandoned when John of Gaunt launched an offensive. In 1374 he fought at Mirebau and at Saintonge. In 1375 Owain was employed by Enguerrand de Coucy to help win Enguerrand's share of the Habsburg lands due to him as nephew of the former Duke of Austria. However, during the Gugler War they were defeated by the forces of Bern and had to abandon the expedition.
In 1377 there were reports that Owain was planning another expedition, this time with help from Castile. The alarmed English government sent a spy, the Scot Jon Lamb, to assassinate Owain, who had been given the task of besieging Mortagne sur Mer in Poitou. Lamb gained Owain's confidence and became his chamberlain, which gave him the opportunity to stab Owain to death in July 1378. The Issue Roll of the Exchequer dated 4 December 1378 records "To John Lamb, an esquire from Scotland, because he lately killed Owynn de Gales, a rebel and enemy of the King in France ... £20". This of course was actually the King of England (who claimed the right to the Crown of France). Owain was buried in the church of Saint-Léger in Mortagne and Ieuan Wyn took over the command of his company.
After the assassination of Owain Lawgoch the remaining heirs of the House of Gwynedd kept a low profile until John Wynn, 1st Baronet asserted his pedigree in the 17th Century. No other person would proclaim themselves Prince of Wales until Owain Glyndŵr ("Owain IV") in 1400.
Owain in legend
A number of legends grew around Owain, of which one version from Cardiganshire runs as follows. Dafydd Meurig of Bettws Bledrws was helping to drive cattle from Cardiganshire to London. On the way he cut himself a hazel stick, and was still carrying it when he encountered a stranger on London Bridge. The stranger asked Dafydd where he had cut the stick, and ended up accompanying him back to Wales to the place where the stick had been cut.
The stranger told Dafydd to dig under the bush, and this revealed steps leading down to a large cave illuminated by lamps, where a man seven feet tall with a red right hand was sleeping. The stranger told Dafydd that this was Owain Lawgoch "who sleeps until the appointed time; when he wakes he will be king of the Britons".
The quarry reservoir at Aberllefenni in Gwynedd was once known as Llyn Owain Lawgoch and there is a story linking him with the nearby mansion, Plas Aberllefenni, recorded in "Trem Yn Ol" by J. Arthur Williams.
In Guernsey, Owain is remembered as Yvon de Galles. He and his Aragonese mercenaries have been absorbed into the island's folklore as an invasion of diminutive but handsome fairies from across the sea. The story goes that the shipwrecked king of the fairies was found unconscious on a Guernsey shore by a girl named Lizabeau. When he awoke, he fell in love with her and carried her across the sea to be his queen. However, the other fairies soon decided that they wanted Guernsey brides, and invaded the island. The men of the island fought bravely but were slaughtered wholesale, except for two men who hid in an oven. The fairies then took Guernsey wives, which is said to be the reason for the typical Guernseyman's dark hair and short stature.
Thomas ap Rhodri
Head of the House of Aberffraw
Robert ap Maredudd
Titular Prince of Gwynedd and Wales
- A.D. Carr (1991). Owen of Wales: The End of the House of Gwynedd. University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1064-8.
- R. R. Davies (1991). The age of conquest: Wales 1063-1415. O.U.P. ISBN 0-19-820198-2.
- ^ Folklore of Guernsey by Marie de Garis (1986) ASIN: B0000EE6P8
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