Everyone has heard of Braveheart thanks to a certain film by Mel Gibson portraying the Scottish hero William Wallace, but few outside of Wales (unless you have studied Henry IV part one by William Shakespeare) have heard of our hero Owain Glyndŵr. It’s therefore one of our tasks as Tourist Guides for Wales and in particular those of us based in North Wales to tell his story.
Most of Owain’s story is undocumented as most of his papers were destroyed by Prince Hal or Henry V (of Agincourt fame) when he burnt down Owain’s home at Sycharth on the Welsh/English border with Shropshire. Keeping this to the short version, he was born around 1357 of royal heritage – and we mean the true Princes of Wales not those descended from William the Conqueror. He was an Uchelwr (Welsh for Gentleman) and led a comfortable life, even fighting for the English King Henry IV against the Scots in his earlier years and also studied law. He married a lawyer’s daughter -Margaret Hanmer and they had around 10 children (not one knows the exact number) and lived a comfortable life. But then it all went awry following a land dispute with a neighbour Earl Reginald de Grey. He took his dispute to the English Parliament who sent him packing. He was so insensed by this and their arrogance that he and his sons had had enough. After all he was a seasoned warrier and on 16 Sept 1400 he declared war on the English King and declared himself Prince of Wales.
Within a week he had burned and taken 7 key towns in the English Marches (the land between England and Wales controlled by the Marcher Lords) and had secured support from the other Welsh Princes and their supporters across Wales. He took Harlech and Caernarfon castles but had reckoned without the equally strong force which was Prince Hal.
After 10 years of fighting Owain’s wife and daughters were captured by the English, his sons were dead and he disappeared. Welsh legend has it that he will rise again to protect Wales at some point in the future and is just sleeping. No one knows what really happened to our hero, but a hero he certainly was, giving up a luxury lifestyle when in his 40s to try and win back Wales for the Welsh people and banish the English from our lands.
The image above is a tribute statue to Owain in Corwen on the main A5 in North East Wales.