Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Death of Prince Dafydd

Poor Dafydd. It can be argued that he brought some of his bad fortune on himself, because he was notoriously disloyal to just about everybody in power - but he must also have had considerable personal charm, because he was always forgiven. Until that last time.
I hadn't realised it when I planned a day trip to Shrewsbury last week, but I chose 3rd October, which was the date when Dafydd was executed there in 1283, by Edward I of England. Dafydd was the last independent Prince of Wales, after his older brother Llewelyn was killed in a skirmish near Builth Wells the previous December. Dafydd held out against Edward until June, when he was captured near Rhuddlan after several weeks on the run. He was condemned to death for high treason on 30th September, and finally executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered, the first prominent person to be executed in that manner.
There are two excellent fictionalised re-tellings of the story, one being Edith Pargeter's Princes of Gwynnedd series, and the other being Sharon K Penman's The Reckoning, the third of her Welsh trilogy, and a book that I spent the entire last 200 pages weeping through because I knew how it was going to end for the Welsh!
When Caergwrle castle, near Wrexham, was being excavated by Powys Archaeological Service, I was the archaeologist who led the guided tours daily, so I knew the history very well indeed. It was from Caergwrle that Dafydd launched his Easter Day attack on nearby English-held Hawarden Castle, that started the last rebellion of an independent Wales against England. His brother Llewelyn was still attempting to keep the peace by diplomatic means.
The castle suffered a fire shortly after Edward I decided to make it a holiday cottage for himself and his wife - which amused us greatly at the time, because we were digging at about the same time as Welsh Nationalists were burning down English holiday cottages locally. (We weren't amused that people were having their property torched - it was just the historical irony of the same thing happening to Edward).
Next time I go to Shrewsbury, I will look out for the commemorative plaque about the execution, which is on the wall of Barclay's Bank at the top of Pride Hill.

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