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On this day in history in 1240, died Llywelyn Ap Lorwerth.
Llywelyn was a political leader who, by a combination of diplomacy and military strategy, brought all of Wales under his control.
Llywelyn Ap Lorwerth was born in 1173, at Garth Celyn, Gwynedd. He was the grandson of Owain Gwynedd, prince of Gwynedd, who had left his principality to Llwelyn’s two uncles, who had divided their inheritance into two sections which, they each ruled individually. At that time, Wales was ruled in sections by native princes or Norman barons, appointed by the king of England. The land was divided into fragments and, as time progressed, the pieces were being broken up into even smaller divisions.
In 1193, at the age of 20, Llywelyn discovered that he had a claim to the land of Gwynedd, and his rights in the matter were better than those of his uncles, who were in control of the land and not feeling disposed to relinquish their power. Llywelyn was a young man who knew about military affairs, and how to fight battles, and knew people who could help him. He gathered together a small army and took on his uncles. He met them in battle and defeated them. History does not recall whether the uncles were killed in battle, but it is known that by 1200, Llywelyn was in full control of Gwynedd.
Finding military takeover easy, he set his sights on the neighbouring principality of Powys, and got the better of their prince and annexed the territory. Having extended his territories by battle, he looked for further gains. When he was introduced to king John of England, he offered to look after Crown territories in Wales. John, finding Llywelyn to be a capable administrator, signed a treaty with him and even gave Llywelyn his daughter for a wife. Later Llywelyn was to repudiate the treaty and disavow his duty to his father in law, the king, by taking the Crown lands as his own. Llywelyn was even one of the barons who conspired against John, forcing him to sign the Magana Carta. After John had died, Llywelyn came to terms with his successor, Henry III, and made further territorial acquisitions, and eventually ruled all of Wales.
Llywelyn did not intend to become a tyrant. Instead, he wanted too start a dynasty ruling Wales as a principality. He had a son with his wife Joan, daughter of King John, who he hoped would become Prince in due course. One day, he returned home from hunting, to find his house in disarray and his infant son missing. Searching the house, he found to his dismay, his faithful hound, Gelert, lying on the floor, covered in blood. Thinking that Gelert had savaged the baby, Llywelyn, in horror, drew his sword and slew the hound. At that moment, he heard the sound a baby crying, and looking behind a curtain, found the baby safe next to the bloody body of a wolf. It appeared that Gelert had defended the baby against the fangs of the wolf and Llywelyn, in his rage, had killed the hound, who was protecting his son. Filled with remorse, Llywelyn buried Gelert with the dignity of a prince, near his home, at a place now known as Beddgelert, the grave of Gelert, placing a monument over the tomb. Sadly the monument has crumbled over the years, and the grave is now marked by a simple tombstone. [Gelert’s Grave, Beddgelert, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL55 4YB] Some commentators dismiss the story of Gelert as a myth, but others know it to be true.
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