The Welsh settled down peaceably on their lands and generally adopted the English customs. Except a few great lords, their gentry were still the representatives of their old families.
Edward I Conquers Wales, featuring a series of excerpts selected from History of England During the Early and Middle Ages by Charles H. Pearson published in 1876.
Previously in Edward I Conquers Wales.
The ordinance that contains these dispositions is no parliamentary statute, but seems to have been drawn up by the King in council, March 24, 1284. It was based on the report of a commission which examined one hundred and seventy-two witnesses. Soon afterward an inquest was ordered to ascertain the losses sustained by the Church in Wales, with a view to giving it compensation.
Nor did Edward neglect appeals to the national sentiment. The supposed body of Constantine was disinterred at Carnarvon, and received honorable burial in a church. The crown of Arthur and a piece of the holy Cross, once the property of the Welsh princes, were added to the King’s regalia. It was probably by design that Queen Eleanor was confined at Carnarvon, April 25, 1284, of a prince whom the Welsh might claim as a countryman. At last, having lingered for more than a year about the principality, Edward celebrated the consummation of his conquests, August 1, 1284, by a splendid tournament at Nefyn, to which nobles and knights flocked from every part of England and even from Gascony. It was even more a demonstration of strength than a pageant.
The cost of the Welsh campaign must have been enormous, and it is difficult to understand how Edward met it. But no sort of expedient was spared. Commissioners were sent through England and Ireland to beg money of clergy and laity. Next, the cities of Guienne and Gascony were applied to; then, the money that had been collected for a crusade was taken out of the consecrated places where it was deposited. The treasures put in the Welsh churches were freely confiscated. Nevertheless, the Parliament of Shrewsbury granted the King a thirtieth, from which, however, the loans previously advanced were deducted. In return for this the King passed the Statute of Merchants, which made provisions for the registration of merchants’ debts, their recovery by distraint, and the debtor’s imprisonment. The clergy had at first been less compliant when the King applied to them for a tenth. The Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, April, 1283, replied that they were impoverished; that they still owed a fifteenth, and that they expected to be taxed again by the Pope. They also reminded him bitterly of the Statute of Mortmain. Ultimately the matter was compromised by the grant of a twentieth, November, 1283.
For a few years Wales was still an insecure portion of the English dominion. In 1287, Rees ap Meredith, whose services to Edward had been largely rewarded with grants of land and a noble English wife, commenced levying war against the king’s sheriff. His excuse was that his baronial rights had been encroached upon; but as he had once risked forfeiture by preferring a forcible entry to the execution of the king’s writ which had been granted him, we may probably assume that he claimed powers inconsistent with English sovereignty. After foiling the Earl of Cornwall in a costly campaign, Rees, finding himself outlawed, fled, by the Earl of Gloucester’s complicity, into Ireland. Some years later he returned to resume his war with Robert de Tiptoft, but this time was taken prisoner and executed at York by Edward’s orders, 1292.
More dangerous by far was the insurrection of two years later, 1294, when the Welsh, irritated by a tax, and believing that Edward had sailed for France, rose up throughout the crown lands and slew one of the collectors, Roger de Pulesdon. Madoc, a kinsman of Llewelyn, was put forward as king, and his troops burned Carnarvon castle and inflicted a severe defeat on the English forces sent to relieve Denbigh, November 10th. Edward now took the field in person, and resumed his old policy of cutting down the forests as he forced his way into the interior. The Welsh fought well, and between disease and fighting the English lost many hundred men. Once the King was surrounded at Conway, his provisions intercepted, and his road barred by a flood; but his men could not prevail on him to drink out of the one cask of wine that had been saved. “We will all share alike,” he said, “and I, who have brought you into this strait, will have no advantage of you in food.” The flood soon abated, and, reinforcements coming up, the Welsh were dispersed. Faithful to his policy of mercy, the King spared the people everywhere, but hanged three of their captains who were taken prisoners. Madoc lost heart, made submission, and was admitted to terms. Meanwhile, Morgan, another Welshman of princely blood, had headed a war in the marches against the Earl of Gloucester, who was personally unpopular with his vassals. Two years before the earldom had been confiscated into the King’s hands, and it is some evidence that Edward’s rule was not oppressive, by comparison with that of his lords, that the marchmen now desired to be made vassals of the crown. Morgan is said to have been hunted down by his old confederate, Madoc, but it seems more probable that he was the first to sue for peace. He was pardoned without reserve.
As there was then war with Scotland, hostages were taken from the Welsh chiefs, and were kept in English castles for several years. But the last lesson had proved effectual. The Welsh settled down peaceably on their lands and generally adopted the English customs. Except a few great lords, their gentry were still the representatives of their old families. Only five men in all had received the last punishment of the law for sanguinary rebellions extending over eighteen years of the King’s reign. Of any massacre of the bards, or any measures taken to repress them, history knows nothing.
Never was conquest more merciful than Edward’s, and the fault lies with his officers, not with the King, if many years still passed before the old quarrel between Wales and England was obliterated from the hearts of the conquered people.
This ends our series of passages Edward I Conquers Wales by Charles H. Pearson from his book History of England During the Early and Middle Ages published in 1876. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.