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An Analysis of the causes of the Wars and the course which they took.

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 13: The Welsh Wars

 

The Position in Wales at the start of the 15th-century

Apart from King Richard II's rather ineffectual expedition to Ireland in 1399, the young Prince of Wales's first taste of military action was his Father's expedition to Scotland in 1400. The Scots avoided battle, and after a few weeks of raiding and burning in company with the Percys, the expedition returned to England having accomplished nothing of any value. There King Henry IV received the unwelcome news that Wales had risen in revolt under its charismatic leader Owen Glendower. As Prince of Wales, young Henry's task was to put down the rebellion from his Headquarters in Chester. He was a bare 13 years old.

The Pricipality of Wales was not, as might be supposed, the whole of the modern country of Wales. It consisted of a strip of land along the western coast, and was secured by the great castles built by King Edward 1 when he pacified the country at the end of the 13th-century - Harlech, Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Caernavon, Conway, Flint and a host of others. All these castles had small Royal garrisons. Between the Principality and the modern border with England lay the Welsh Marches, over which the Marcher Lords held sway. The most prominent of these were Lord Grey of Ruthyn, the Talbot family who in the mid 15th-century became the Earls of Shrewsbury, and the Mortimer family who were the Earls of March. Roger Mortimer, Earl of March had died in 1398, and the current Earl of March was Edmund Mortimer, a 9 year old boy whose title to the Throne itself was, by the rules of primogeniture, better than that of King Henry IV himself. Edmund was descended from Thomas, Duke of Clarence, the second son of King Edward III, whereas King Henry IV, however illustrious his ancestry,  was only a scion of the third son, John of Gaunt. Reference to the family tree will explain this tangled situation better than any words, and it is small wonder that King Henry IV kept young Edmund at Court in strict if comfortable confinment. In 1400, the effective Marcher Lord was the boys uncle, Sir Edmund Mortimer, who had little reason to love the King. He may have carried out his duties conscientiously enough, but suspicion on the part of King Henry IV was returned with dislike by Sir Edmund. It was not an ideal situation.

After a century since the pacification of Wales, the Marcher Lords should have become an anachronism. Originally empowered by King Edward 1 to hold a conquered people in submission, there had been plenty of time to win over hearts and minds and to reconcile the Welsh people to rule from England. The Welsh however were regarded as a semi-barbaric and virtually untameable people of uncouth manners and murderous habits. They may have fought valiently for the King at Crecy 1346 and for the Black Prince at Poictiers 1356 and in countless other engagements during the Hundred Years war, but they were still looked upon as lesser beings without the law by the arrogant and overbearing English. They frequently found themselves treated with ridicule and contempt which a proud people found very hard to bear.

This did not prevent many of the Welsh gentry, Owen Glendower among them, from adopting English ways and becoming at least as cultivated as their opposite numbers in England. Owen himself is supposed to have spoken English and French besides Welsh and to have trained as a lawyer at the Inns of Court. He lived in a fine manor house and was famous for his hospitality. The Welsh gentry exercised some restraining influence over their people, but there was no denying the fact that the Welsh considered themselves a conquered nation. Since no Welsh Members were elected to Parliament, it is difficult to gainsay this. The Welsh bards who moved among them had little difficulty in playing upon their romantic nature when they strummed their harps and sang of the ancient glories of Wales. To this tinderbox was added, particularly in the north of Wales, a definate feeling and sympathy for King Richard II.

The Marcher Lords ruled pretty much as they pleased, levying taxes and dispensing justice as they saw fit, not hesitating to show the same characteristics which they publically deplored in the Welsh. Provided Wales was quiet however, no questions were asked by the King. On occasions,  their overbearing ways must have seemed intolerable, and it was an instance of such arrogant behaviour which sparked off the Welsh wars which were to teach the young Henry, Prince of Wales, the trade and the art of the soldier.

Out-break of the Welsh Wars - Owen Glendower

In 1400, Owen Glendower, a descendant of one of the ancient Princes, was somewhere between 40 and 50 years of age and was looking forward to spending his latter years in the peace and quiet of his beautiful home. For some years there had been a dispute with his neighbour, Lord Grey of Ruthyn, over a piece of land. Owen had taken the dispute to the Courts, but the decision had gone against him. Whilst in London, he had been insulted. Feeling, no doubt with some reason, that he had lost the case because of some highly placed interference with the due process of the law in the interests of such a vital personage as a Marcher Lord, he had returned home in a bitter frame of mind. His princely instincts aroused, he gathered his followers about him and ransacked Lord Grey's lands. Such doings were not unknown in England at the time, as the reader of this work will realise, and even now the matter could have been ended in reconciliation with a prompt act of firmness from the Throne. King Henry IV was however far away in Scotland with little time to attend to the slapping of wrists which, it it was to be effective, had to be done at a very early stage. Owen Glendower now took an irrevocable step. He led his men into Shropshire, looting and burning. If his actions on Lord Grey's land could be overlooked, even though with some difficulty, this was an overt act of treason which could not.

Owen was at first easily repulsed. Back home on his own lands once more, he raised the ancient red dragon banner of Wales and proclaimed rebellion. He was promptly joined by his cousins, the Tudors of Anglesey, and men from all over north Wales. With only a measure of hesitation, the men of South Wales joined him. Thus began the rebellion which should never have been allowed to happen. It took ten years of hard fighting to quell it. Indeed in one sense it was never fully put down. Owen Glendower was never caught, and to this day the legend persists that he lies still in his ultimate refuge, a cave in the northern mountains of Wales, from which he will one day sally forth with his ghostly warriors to rescue Wales from English domination.

Soldier Bold

Henry, Prince of Wales, was to learn several lessons from the fierce and bitter fighting which then followed, and there could have been no harder school. It is worth listing these since they played such a vital part in his education in the military art:-

1). As the modern soldier learns to carry his pack and his weapons until the longest day is done, so a medieval soldier had to learn to wear his armour. A Chapter is devoted to armour and weapons of the time, and here it is sufficient to note merely what hardship was involved in wearing that most romantic of all military dress. Armour may have been a very necessary protection in battle. At all other times, and they were the majority, its benefits were not so readily apparent. It gave no protection against either heat or cold. Worn over a felt-like material designed to absorb the impact of blows, it either became opressively hot, thus exhausting the wearer, or it simply absorbed the cold and lead to the loss of bodily heat. The rain entered through every nook and cranny, and the soldier soon became drenched in a mixture of rainwater and his own sweat. Being unyielding by nature, it chafed the body and sores soon developed. These often became infected. On campaigns were the enemy was not immediately present, it was not necessary to wear it, or most of it, all the time. On campaigns such as the Welsh wars, where the enemy might lurk behind every tree and boulder and danger was ever present, it had to be worn all, or nearly all, of the time. Even on occasions it was necessary to sleep in it. Like so much else in soldiering, there was no option but to grin and bear it.

2). The Welsh were valient, determined and skillful fighters. They felt no compulsion to fight pitched battles against the impressive arrays that the English sent against them. At times they risked such battles, but when they judged it better, they simply melted away into the hills, from which they engaged in a form of guerilla warfare against small bodies of the English army in the valleys. The English might control the valley so long as they were there, but all the time they were subjected to wearying and demoralising attacks by an unseen foe, with whom the initiative always lay when deciding to stage yet another raid or the ambush and destruction of a small party. A parallel can be drawn with the fighting in Malaysia and Borneo during the 1950s and 1960s, where the British Army controlled the roads and the enemy controled everything else. Only when the British took to employing Dyak trackers, who could lead a patrol through the jungle and onto a gang, and re-formed a special regiment (the Special Air Service) to drop by parachute to cut off its escape, could the enemy be defeated militarily. In a similar way, Prince Henry formed small parties of men to take the war into the enemies camp, to go into the hills and seek them out, to bring them to battle and to destroy them. The orthodox military tactics of the time would not serve. It was necessary to be more resourceful.

3). Wales was the original home of the most formidable infantry weapon of the time, the six-foot longbow.

Even though the English had adopted it and were at least as proficient in its use as the Welsh, it was a weapon which was ideally suited to the sort of war which the Welsh chose to wage.

4). Prior preparation was an absolute essential. In an age where prior planning was not understood, and where warfare was still waged as it had been at the height of the Age of Chivalry, when the armoured knights turned up to take part in set-piece battles and do daring deeds for the love of their ladies, there was a minimum of preparation. It was not uncommon, and certainly not regarded as blameworthy, to find that something essential had been forgotten. Henry learned how to plan ahead for his campaigns to ensure that when the time came to fight, everything required was readily to hand. In the French wars from 1415 onwards, we shall see how thorough Henry's planning was - and he did it all himself.

5). Hearts and minds must be won over. Prince Henry learnt this from his first mentor, Harry Hotspur, who was used to this form of warfare from the Scottish Marches. Even if the efforts were not as impressive in the Welsh wars as they should have been, there is no doubt that Henry understood its necessity. First the enemy must be terrified in battle, but once the battle was won (and the enemy leaders neutralised by being held for ramsom or summarily executed), the outlook and feelings of the local people, even if they were a conquered populace, must be appreciated and understood.

6). A siege, once begun, must be carried through to its end. There was no room for the comfortable contempory habit of retiring to winter quarters at the onset of winter. Regardless of discomfort and difficulty, it must be persisted in.

7). Artillery, then a despised weapon still in its infancy, had its uses in siege warfare. The guns sent from the Tower for the sieges of Harlech and Aberystwyth castles may not have been very effective, and may have fulfilled the worst expectations of artillery's detractors. Yet here, Henry pondered, there must be a weapon of some potential once the pattern had been improved and the gunners properly trained. Again in the French wars, we shall see how very successful the English siege artillery was, even if the English never reached, or even understood, the degree of proficiency achieved by the French in the use of battlefield artillery during the mid 15th-century.

8) The enemy must be truly and realistically appreciated, neither overestimated or, worse still,  under-estimated. The early mistakes of the English in thinking that the Welsh would have neither the competance nor the stomach for a fight was nothing less than a failure of intelligence and appreciation for which there could be no excuse. This was to cost the English dearly.

When he came to fight his French wars, King Henry V was to show how well he had learnt these lessons, even if, from some accounts, it may be doubted that the winning of hearts and minds was always regarded as an important objective.

Early campaigns - 1400-1402

In October 1400, King Henry IV thought that a show of force would suffice to calm things down. He lead a punitive expedition into North Wales which lasted a mere week. The Welsh simply melted away into the hills and refused to give battle. Nevertheless, the King, feeling that he had done all that was necessary, withdrew to England leaving the Prince of Wales to rule his Principality from his Head-quarters in Chester under the watchful eye of Harry Hotspur. Hotspur, by now in his mid 30s, was one of the foremost soldiers of the age, and his dash and valour were legendary. He was however, too rash and impetuous a man ever to be a great General. Even now the troubles were not regarded as being too serious, and Prince Henry could go off to London for the winter. There he met the Emperor Manuel II of Constantinople who had come to beg military help from the English to save what remained of his Empire from the aggressive Turks. England had none to spare for him. It was probably at this time that the idea took root in the young Prince's mind of leading another Crusade to rescue the Holy Places, which had finally been lost to Christendom some 200 years before. It probably lurked forever in his mind to the end of his life as a worthy venture once he had conquered all there was to conquer nearer home.

Whatever vague ambitions he may have nurtured of leading an army to a far distant place, some more immediate matters were now becoming pressing. During the winter of 1400, disturbing reports were trickling in that the Welsh matter was far from settled. The bards were reported to be stirring up the people. Welsh students were abandoning their studies and returning home. Welsh labourers were leaving their employment in England and were plodding homewards, taking their weapons with them. On Good Friday 1401, William-ap-Tudor suddenly seized Conway Castle whilst the garrison was at prayer. It was almost immediately retaken by the Prince and by Hotspur, and such of the ringleaders that they could capture were put to death in a barbarous fashion. In an effort to be conciliatory, pardons were freely issued to the rank and file. King Henry IV started out on an expedition to Wales, but turned back, saying that the Welsh matter was but of small account. In October 1401 however, he found he had to mount another expedition in support of his son. It never got to grips with the Welsh, and simply floundered around north Wales in an aimless fashion. The true measure and determination of the Welsh should have become apparent when Llywelyn-ap-Gruffydd Fychan of Caio offered to lead the English army to where Owen was to be found. After leading it for many a weary mile in the wrong direction, he boldly admitted what he had done. He knew that he would pay for his deception with his life. Harry Hotspur, fed up with this indecisive campaigning, threw up all his Welsh appointments in a characteristically hot-headed fashion and returned home to the more congenial occupation of hammering the Scots. He had spent a lot of his own money in supporting the campaign, and it was problematical if he would ever be repaid. The King had no money, and the troops went unpaid; there was no booty of any account in Wales, and thus no opportunity to enrich themselves in the customary manner. The Prince of Wales had to pawn or sell most of his personal jewelery and other possessions to raise money, and in the succeding years, he had to write frequently to his Father begging for money to carry on the military operations. Money was an ever present problem to the very end of the war, and many military operations which had initialy looked promising had to be abandoned for lack of funds. Hotspur's place as the Princes mentor was taken by Hugh le Despenser, one of the Marcher Lords. Hugh died shortly afterwards, and in his turn was succeded by Hotspur's uncle, Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, an experienced and capable soldier, who was shortly to turn against both King Henry IV and the Prince.

It was not until the winter of 1401 and the spring of 1402 that the English belatedly woke up to the seriousness of the position in Wales.In November 1401, Owen Glendower appeared in front of Caernavon with a huge host of Welshmen. The garrison and townsfolk drove him off, but by now it was clear that the Marcher Lords held no more than their own castles and that Owen Glendower held the whole of the countryside, both north and south. Owen had the satisfaction of enticing his old enemy, Lord Grey, out of his stronghold of Ruthin Castle and of capturing both Lord and Castle. The castle he burnt to the ground so that no stone remained standing one upon another. The Lord he ransomed for such a huge sum that Lord Grey was financially crippled for the rest of his life. Even worse was to follow. In one of the rare battles that the Welsh fought without being forced to give battle, Owen Glendower defeated and captured Sir Edmund Mortimer at the Battle of Pilleth in June 1402. King Henry IV, no doubt reflecting that he already had the young Earl of March under lock and key in Windsor, was not unhappy to be rid of the boy's uncle. He refused to ransom him. This caused the Percys great offence, as Sir Edmund was Hotspur's brother-in-law. [Elizabeth Mortimer was Hotspur's wife] Sir Edmund, disgusted with his treatment by the King, threw in his lot with Owen Glendower and even married his daughter Katherine. He never returned to the English side, but fought on with Owen Glendower until his death in 1409 during the siege of Harlech castle. The King's response to the disaster of Pilleth was to lead another expedition to Wales. It was as fruitless and as pointless as the previous two. The rain fell incessantly, and the King would have been killed by his tent blowing down upon him if he had not being sleeping in his armour. The only time that a substantial body of the Welsh appeared was when they carried off the English baggage.

Campaigning - 1403-1404

The end of 1402 was to represent the nadir of English fortunes in Wales. The initiative remained firmly with the Welsh, and indeed they had never lost it. The English were still hanging on grimly to their castles, and no more than their castles, whilst Owen Glendower was in control of the country-side. Owen now thought that he should raise his sights, and set as his objective the removal of King Henry IV from the Throne he should never have occupied. To this end he entered into active correspondence with the French, the Scots and with some disaffected English Lords, even the Percys themselves, and found that his suggestions did not always fall on deaf ears. Yet Dame Fortune, when she decides to smile on the other side, begins by disguising herself most effectively, and her favours were not readily apparent. Things were however never to be quite so bad again, not even in 1404 when the massive strongholds of Harlech and Aberwystwyth were to fall to the Welsh. From now on the fortunes of the English, and with them the House of Lancaster, were to be more successful, even if there was initially little reason to believe so. That they did begin to prosper after so many disasters was largely due to the firmness and resolution of the Father in a desparate situation, and to the outstanding leadership and extra-ordinary valour of his son the Prince on the battlefield.

For some time now the Percys had been restless. At any time, they were a proud and arrogant family who did not hesitate to make use of the fact that they were the guardians of the Scottish Marches and were thus almost indespensible. Although history has given the title "Kingmaker" to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was not even born until 1428 and thus appears only later in this story, the three Percys thought that it was their support and influence which had placed King Henry IV on the Throne in place of Richard. There was much justification for this view, even if they exaggerated the parts which they had played. They were now beginning to wonder if they had done the right thing. Hotspur had returned in disgust from the Welsh campaign, no doubt feeling that his advice, gained from similar warfare along the Scottish Marches, was not being accepted. They were owed the enormous sum of #10, 000, and it seemed that they would never be repaid by the impecunious King. The King had refused to ransom Sir Edmund Mortimer for reasons which they saw as dishonourable, and had virtually forced him to turn traitor. In August 1402, they had a stroke of luck which promised to refill their depleted coffers. The Scots, in answer to Owen Glendower's suggestions and anxious as always to take advantage of English weakness, invaded England. They were resoundingly defeated by Hotspur at the Battle of Homildon Hill. Five Earls, including the Earl of Douglas, were taken prisoner. This should have meant massive ransoms. King Henry IV refused to allow their release and demanded that the prisoners should be sent to him. Hotspur went to the King to remonstrate, and an angry altercation ensued during which Hotspur said he would ransom Sir Edmund Mortimer himself. The King shouted "Traitor" at him, struck him, and would have stabbed him with his dagger if he had not been restrained. This was more than the proud Percys could bear. Insult was now added to grievance and Hotspur departed fuming. The Percys began to plot rebellion.

May 1403 saw the Prince of Wales in Shrewsbury reporting to his Father on his recent sally into Wales. Much damage and destruction had been done, and where the countyside could not provide fodder, the cavalry had carried oats with them to feed their horses. The main objective of the expedition of bringing the Welsh to battle could not be attained because once again they had run out of money. He had managed to capture one of Owen Glendower's chieftains who had offered #500 in ransom money. The money would have been useful but:-

"Howbeit this was not accepted but he had the death, as did divers of his companions".

No doubt the Father smiled indulgantly at this part of the report. His Son had the right idea of how to deal with rebels. Less satisfactory was the failure, for the same old reasons, to force the Welsh to give battle. Even more alarming was the reliable intelligence that the Welsh were preparing a massive invasion of England when they would undoubtedly give battle in such numbers that they had every chance of success. The Prince and the Marcher Lords were able to forestall this on 12th July 1403 by surprising a large body of the Welsh in the open and defeating them. This threw the Welsh plans off balance at a most crucial moment.

Even if the Percy's plans for rebellion were amaturish and ill put together, the secret had been well kept. On the very day of the success in Wales, and before its news could reach him, King Henry IV learnt whilst at Nottingham that Hotspur was on the march towards Shrewsbury. He guessed correctly that Hotspur was moving fast with a small force to capture the Prince of Wales which could be achieved with the help of his uncle Thomas, Earl of Worcester who was at the Prince's side. Hotspur would recruit in Cheshire where sympathies for King Richard II were still strong, and thereafter, with the Prince as his prisoner, join up with Owen Glendower. His father Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, would be following behind with a larger and therefore slower moving force. Any combination of these forces would pose dangers of the very gravest nature. The King's only chance was to strike at Hotspur whilst there was still some advantage in numbers.

King Henry IV moved at once. A message was sent to his son to warn him of his peril, and the King made a forced march towards Shrewsbury. He covered the 60 miles in three days. Accounts differ whether Hotspur or the King reached Shrewsbury first, but Hotspur found the gates closed to him, and the Royal Standard did not come fluttering down at his challenge. A sounder stratergist than Hotspur would have abandoned the aim of capturing the Prince, and would have gone off in search of Owen Glendower. Instead he took up a defensive position in Hayteley Fields, 2 miles to the north of the town. It was a strong position, with its right flank protected by the River Severn, and with broken ground to the front. {For plan of the battle, see page ] Two ponds in particular made it difficult for an attacking force to approach. The initiative had momentarily passed to the Royal Forces, but time was not on their side, and they did not have the advantage in numbers which would have ensured the success of any attack. It is notoriously difficult to judge the strength of medieval armies, but the best estimate is that the two armies were roughly equal in numbers with 5, 000 men on each side. Faced with the possible imminent strengthening of the rebel forces, either from the north or from Wales, the King and his son resolved on an immediate attack.

Prince Henry was to fight only two pitched battles during his life, Shrewsbury in 1403 and Agincourt in 1415. His reputation as a ferocious and fearless warrior was well established after the Battle of Shrewsbury, and thereafter nobody was anxious to challenge him on the battlefield if they could avoid it without a massive superiority of numbers. The actual circumstances of the battle are confused, but it would appear that the Royal army was devided into two divisions with the King commanding the right and the Prince the left. This was made necessary because of the difficulty of approaching the rebel position through the broken ground and the ponds. The morning of the 21st July 1403 was spent in the customary parleys, during which Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester told the King that he was a mere usurper who was not to be trusted. At about midday, the King gave the order for the attack to commence.

What is not in doubt however, is that the Prince's division did not advance in a solemn and stately manner to the attack as did the King's division. Once the order to advance was given, The Prince gave the further order to charge. Arrows rained down upon his men in an never ending hail. One struck him in the face, causing a serious wound. It was no mere graze, and his attendants begged him to retire. He refused and led his men on in what was a ferocious attack. Its sheer elan began to roll up and destroy the rebel right wing. With blood still streaming down his face The Prince lead his division in yet further charges against the now disorganised rebel line. Nodody knew how Hotspur died. He had with him his Scots prisoners, with the promise of their freedom if they rendered good service. They made their target the person of the King, Hotspur forgetting, if he ever knew, that in a confused situation, a good general stands aloof to see what is going on and to bring aid to where it may be needed. Time and again they tried to reach the King, and time and again they were repulsed. Hotspur died, struck down by an unknown hand. The Earl of Douglas was made prisoner once more, this time of King Henry IV. The rebels did not immediately flee, but with their leader dead their cause was now hopeless, and the Royal Army was in possession of the field. The Prince had fought his first major battle, and there was common admiration on the way he had conducted himself.

The weary morrow of the battle was spent in counting the losses, which had been grievously heavy on each side, and in beheading the captured rebel nobles, among whom was the Princes former mentor, Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester. Hotspur had already been buried. His corpse was dug up and exhibited to quell any rumours that he was still alive. His head was then struck off and sent to grace the gates of York, where some weeks later it was to look down upon Hotspur's father, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, making his peace with the King.

Campaigning - 1404-1410

From now on there could be no question that the Prince was a fully capable commander who needed no supervision in putting down the Welsh rebellion. The difficulties were still enormous. The English never had adequate funds to pay their troops, and this was a constant problem which time and again frustrated the planned operations. The French were actively supporting the Welsh, and sent them armed help and even cannon. Harlech and Aberwystwyth castles fell to Owen Glendower in 1404, as did other castles at Cardiff, Caerphilly, Usk, Caerlon and Newport. Yet the Prince perservered, and no reverse could discourage him. Soon came his rewards. In March 1405, Lord Talbot surprised a large party of the Welsh who were attacking Grosmont and inflicted a severe defeat upon them. In May 1405, there was another successful engagement near Usk, when the English killed Owen's brother Tudur and captured his son Gruffydd. A fortnight later the English were again victorious and captured Owen's Chancellor, Dr Gryffydd Yonge. At last the English were having success in bringing the Welsh to battle and defeating them. The Prince had even greater success in carrying on guerilla war; small parties of men were going into the mountains and seeking out the Welsh in their fastnesses. Some savage fights ensued in which the English generally had the better of it. Yet Owen Glendower remained as full of fight as ever. Had his English, Scots and French allies shown half as much resource and determination as he did himself, the prospects for the English would have been black indeed. In February 1405 he had negotiated an alliance with Hotspur's father, Henry Percy, Earl of Nothumberland. Mowbray, the Earl Marshall of England, Lord Bardolf, Lord Clifford and Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York were also involved. In May 1405, they rebelled. Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, tricked the rebels into surrender without any fighting. Mowbray and the Archbishop were, to the fury of the Church, promptly beheaded on King Henry IV's orders. Henry would have been excommunicated if there had not been three separate Popes at the time who could agree on nothing, not even condign punishment for such an outrageous act against a churchman. The rest of the rebels escaped to the fury of the King.

[Pope Innocent VII is said to have considered excommunicating King Henry IV and to have been bought off by Thomas Arundel, Archbisop of Canterbury.]

 

Owen now had at his disposal a substantial body of French troops, and in August 1405 a Franco-Welsh force invaded England. They found King Henry IV ready to give battle at Worcester and promptly returned to Wales. The French left for home in the spring of 1406, have rendered Owen Glendower little of any real service. In April 1406, Lord Powys succeded in luring Northumberland and Lord Bardolf into a full scale battle and defeating them utterly. The two noblemen escaped to France, and it was not until 1408 that that incurable old rebel, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, was cornered and killed at Bramham Moor. He had tried the King's patience too far, and this time there was no mercy. His corpse was not treated with honour. The head was struck off and publcally exhibited as the head of a traitor who would cause no further trouble.

It is impossible not to admire Owen Glendower. He was a middle aged country gentleman whose ambition in 1400 was to grow old gracefully on his well managed estate, and to live at peace with his English neighbours, not all of whom were as arrogant and uncouth as Lord Grey of Ruthyn. He probably had some military experience, but only in a subordinate capacity. He certainly had no experience as a General and a leader of men in battle, and he cannot have had much experience of politics. Yet with almost nothing to bind them together except a common loathing of the English,  the Welsh under his leadership had resisted all that the English could throw at them. Wales may have been devastated, but Owen and his followers never faltered. He had negotiated alliances which should have brought ruin to his enemies, and would have done so if his allies had shown any of his competance and sense of purpose. After April 1406 however, he was on the defensive, and alone. Even now he did not think of giving up what must have appeared to be a hopeless struggle.

The Prince now embarked on the final stages of bringing the Welsh war to an end, and he used a judicious mixture of savage justice with those taken in arms coupled with generous pardons to those who gave up voluntarily. This policy met with considerable success, and large numbers of the Welsh took his pardons and returned home to rebuild their shattered lives and lands. The Prince could now set about the recapture of the castles which had been taken from him. Such progress was made by his methodical methods that in June 1407, he was ready to lay siege to Aberwyswyth Castle itself.It was commanded by Rhys the Black, the most formidable of all Owen's lieutenants. The preparations for the siege were most impressive, and were a forerunner for similar operations during the French wars. Six huge cannon were brought by sea from the Tower. The King's especial favourite, the "Kinge's Gonne", which weighed 4 1/2 tons, was dragged with enormous labour overland. Huge quantities of gunpowder, gunstones, bowstaves, bowstrings, arrows and a host of other items of the necessary equipment were assembled. Even so the English made only slow progress where the Prince was looking for a quick result. The guns were not as effective as had been hoped. Two of them burst, killing their crews. The loss of skilled artillerymen was serious. Nevertheless, the Prince perservered, and in time the guns were making themselves felt even by the massive masonary put in place by King Edward 1. Following the conventions of the time, Rhys the Black offered to surrender if he was not relieved by !st November 1407. Thinking that all was over, the Prince now made what he later regarded as a mistake which he was never to repeat. The winter was a terrible one, and he retired to winter quarters. Owen Glendower managed to slip into the Castle with reinforcements, and threatened to hang Rhys if he should ever surrender. When the Prince returned in the spring, the whole work had to start again. During the summer of 1408 Aberystwyth Castle was finally starved into submission. Rhys the Black and the garrison marched forlornly into the hills. Rhys had some explaining to do. In the event, Owen did not carry out his threat, but left this task to the English at a later date.

In any case, the writing was on the wall for Owen Glendower. The English had managed to subdue Anglesey during 1407 and 1408 and thus cut off his food supply. When Harlech Castle finally surrendered in early 1409 after a desparate siege, Owens entire family, except for only one son, were captured. Sir Edmund Mortimer had died during the siege, and his support was finally lost. Owen made a final, and last,  desparate sortie in 1410 only to be cut to pieces by the English. His main lieutenants, including Rhys the Black, were captured and hanged. Owen himself was never caught, and nobody knows how, or where, he met his end. By this time the Prince was far away in London, leaving all the work to his very experienced and competant subordinates.

Whilst it cannot be said that the rebellion was ever totally supressed, because Owen Glendower himself was never captured, the war petered out. The Welsh gave King Henry V loyal and brave service in his French wars,  and Welsh soldiers were to fight valiently for him with never a thought on anyones part that their loyalty might be in any way suspect. The Welsh Captain Fluellin, who appears in Shakespeare's play, was probably a mythical character. Yet he seems typical of his countrymen, and of their unflinching loyalty and bravery in the cause of an English King. They too probably learnt the soldier's trade in the Welsh wars.

Henry, Prince of Wales after the Welsh Wars

The Prince of Wales' place was now at his sick Father's side. By now, Henry had formed the view that a successful General is a man who knows his own mind, who never has any doubts what he wishes to achieve, or what he has to do to achieve it. He will never tolerate any work which is only second-best, or any thinking which is incohate or lacking in purpose, and especially he will never suffer fools gladly. From what he later did, both as Prince of Wales and King of England, both in the military and civil fields, it cannot be doubted that the Welsh wars had put the stamp upon him of vigour and determination in tackling any task which he undertook. A mere stripling of 13 had gone to the Wars. A tough veteren of 21, hard in body and of steely mind, had returned.