Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 21.djvu/436

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

first days of June he was beaten by John Charlton. But the revolt broke out in fresh districts, and Henry Percy's retirement from the post of justice of Wales was followed by new disturbances. By the autumn all Gwynedd, Ceredigion, and Powys were actively adhering to Owain, and in fresh districts the wretched English townsmen saw their houses destroyed, or lost their lives. Welshpool, the stronghold of Edward Charlton [q. v.] was the special centre of these attacks.

In October the king and the Prince of Wales again hastily invaded Gwynedd, and ravaged the country for a month, proceeding first to Bangor and Carnarvon, and thence southwards through Meirionydd to Ceredigion, where the abbey of Strata Florida suffered the fate of Llanfaes (Usk, p. 67; see, however, for the chronological difficulties of this campaign, Henry IV). The best result to Henry was the temporary submission of Ceredigion, which deserted Owain on a promise of pardon from the king (Usk, p. 68). Owain again avoided a battle, but contrived to inflict no small injury on the English, and carried off the equipage of the Prince of Wales and other nobles to the recesses of Snowdon (ib. p. 67). On 2 Nov. Owain appeared with a great host before the walls of Carnarvon, but he was driven off by the garrison, and lost three hundred men.

Owain now affected moderation. His personal relations with Hotspur led to a fresh negotiation between him and Hotspur's father, Northumberland. With Henry's consent a messenger was sent by Northumberland, through Sir Edmund Mortimer, Hotspur's brother-in-law, to Owain, who in reply spoke unctuously of his affection for Northumberland, with whom he would rather treat than with any other lord. He expressed his desire for peace, and his readiness to meet the English lords in the marches, but for the danger caused by the resentment of the English for his supposed vow to destroy the English tongue (Ord. of the Privy Council, ii. 59–60). The council asked the king to name negotiators, and to lay down the basis of a treaty with Owain (ib. i. 175). Meanwhile Owain was writing letters and instructing messengers to the king of Scots and the lords of Ireland. These letters, preserved by Adam of Usk (pp. 69–71), contain a strange medley of bad history and prophecy, with a very practical grasp of military conditions. He wrote in French to his ‘lord and cousin’ of Scotland, claiming kinship on the ground of their common descent from the mythic Brutus, and begging him to assist the fulfilment of the prophecy by a loan of heavy ‘men-at-arms.’ He made similar applications in Latin to his ‘well-beloved cousins of Ireland.’ But his messengers were captured and hanged. A knight of Cardiganshire, named Davydd ab Ievan Goch, was also sent from France to Scotland on Owain's behalf, and taken at sea by English sailors.

During the winter Owain exercised jurisdiction as sovereign over the shires of Carnarvon and Merioneth (Usk, p. 69). On 30 Jan. 1402 he cruelly ravaged the lordship of Ruthin, and carried off a great spoil of cattle to Snowdon. He significantly spared the lordship of Denbigh and the other possessions of the Earl of March. A comet seemed ominous to the panic-stricken borderers (Walsingham, ii. 248). In Lent he again approached Ruthin, tempted Reginald Grey [q. v.] to a rash pursuit, and then, suddenly turning, carried off his enemy a prisoner into Snowdon (Evesham, p. 177). He now carried on his depredations more to the south, until Sir Edmund Mortimer, Hotspur's brother-in-law, and uncle to the Earl of March, gathered together against him nearly all the levies of Herefordshire, besides his Welsh tenants of Melenydd. Mortimer attacked Owain with a small following posted on a hill near Pilleth, in the modern Radnorshire, on 22 June. The Welshmen from Melenydd turned traitors and joined Owain. The Herefordshire men were defeated, with a loss variously given as two hundred in Evesham, p. 178; four hundred in ‘Chron. Giles,’ p. 27; more than a hundred in Walshingham, ii. 250; eleven hundred in ‘Annals,’ p. 341; and eight thousand in Usk, p. 75. The corpses of the slain were disgustingly mutilated by the Welshwomen (Ann. p. 341; cf. Walsingham, ii. 250). Mortimer was taken prisoner and conducted into Snowdon, but it was already rumoured that he was not an unwilling captive (Ann. u. s.), and he was treated from the first with the respect due to a possible king of England.

A third royal expedition was now undertaken. Three great armies invaded Wales from different points in the early part of September; but the elaborate plan to shut up Owain from different sides proved a signal failure. Owain found new hiding-places. The hundred thousand men suffered grievously from the cold and constant storms. The English ravaged the land and took a great spoil of cattle; but within three weeks they had returned home beaten, of course by magic, and believing that Owain could make himself invisible at will. Reginald Grey had now to purchase his ransom at a ruinous cost. Edmund Mortimer about the end of November married Owain's daughter and formed an alliance with his conqueror. On 13 Dec. he was back in his own lord-