Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1400, Owen Glendower proclaimed himself Prince of Wales.

Glendower was the last Welsh Prince of Wales who led an unsuccessful rebellion against English rule.

Glendower was a squire, descended from the Princes of Powys, as were many other of the Welsh gentry. His descent was not in a direct line and he had no viable claim to royal honours. As a young man, he went to London to read law at the Inns of Court. Later he saw military service with Richard II in his Scottish wars.

Richard was supportive of the Welsh gentry. He faced opposition from the magnates in England and needed support elsewhere. Richard raised a new ruling class of Welsh landed gentry who gave him war service in return for their estates. Glendower held several manors in North Wales.

When Richard was deposed in1399, his successor, Henry IV, showed no favour to the allies of his opponent and predecessor, thereby arousing resentment in Wales. In 1400, Glendower became involved in a violent quarrel with a neighbouring landowner, Lord Grey, a baron of English descent.   The dispute boiled over and involved other local squires who before long were in open rebellion against English rule. They elected Glendower as ‘Prince of Wales’ and formed a government with its own Parliament and its own foreign and domestic policy.

Glendower formed an alliance with the enemies of Henry IV, Sir Edmund Mortimer, of the House of York who considered himself the true heir to the crown and Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy son of the Duke of Northumberland. Their audacious plan was to divide the country into three, with the Yorkists taking the South of England, the Northumberlands the North and Glendower having Wales.

The allies mounted a series of campaigns but the alliance soon fell apart. Glendower was defeated in battle by the other Prince of Wales, Prince Henry (later Henry V), son Henry IV. Glendower received support from France but it was not sufficient to save his major strongholds. Glendower was obliged to conduct a minor guerrilla campaign from the hills. He was still active in 1412 but died of starvation, a broken figure, in 1416.

Glendower appears as a character in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I, as a mad wizard. He claims that he can summon up the Devil until Hotspur points out that Glendower can indeed summon the devil but the Devil will not come. Hotspur then challenges Glendower to tell the truth and shame the Devil.

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