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Hwyel III of Wales (Welsh History Post Glyndwr)

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Hywel III
9th King of Wales

Hywel III in 1640.jpg
King of Wales (circa 1640)
House of Deheubarth
Reign 4th October 1640 - 17th March 1683
Coronation 30th April 1642 at St Davids Cathedral
Predecessor Dafydd IV
Successor Hywel IV
Regent Lords Council 1640-1642
Spouse Henrietta Lefevre
Issue Prince Hywel ap Hywel, Edling Cymru
Full name
Hywel ap Dafydd ap Rhys
Posthumous name
Hywel Anffodus (the Unfortunate)
House House of Deheubarth
Father Dafydd ap Rhys ferch Elen
Mother Margaret Stuart
Born 5th August 1625
Harlech Palace
Died 17th March 1683 (Aged: 60)
Palace of Sycharth Manor
Burial Chapel Royal, Palance of Sycharth Manor
Religion Roman Catholic
Europe Map 1648

Europe in 1648

Hywel was born the eldest son of Dafydd and Margaret. He was descended on one side from Kings and Princes of Wales going back to the ancient Houses of Powys, Deheubarth, Gwynedd and from his mother he was descended from Kings of Scotland, Denmark, and in two separate ways the Kings of England (twice via the Beaufort line to Edward III, via the Elizabeth of York line to Edward III). Hywel was also connected to the Tudor dynasty through Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland. In many ways Hywel was Wales' first European monarch. Connected to other Royal Houses that his predecessors were not, and by his more personal connection to Europe.

Hywel, Edling Cymru

Born on the 5th August 1625 in Harlech Palace, Hywel was given a considered education by his father. Born late in life, Dafydd was concerned to ensure that Hywel wanted for nothing in terms of a princely education. As part of Dafydd's attempts to integrate Wales more firmly into the European order he had embarked upon a series of trade treaties with various powers, including the Holy Roman Empire. Such contact, however, also opened up other obligations, and as Dafydd owed his throne to the fight against Protestantism, when Ferdinand II of Austria gained the Imperial throne and began to act against the Protestant princes of the Empire, Dafydd's natural inclinations were to support the Imperial monarch. To this end Wales sent troops to fight under the Imperial banner and in 1639 the Crown Prince followed them.

Hywel was an eager soldier and quickly settled down to a life as an officer cadet within the Imperial army. His first taste of war was the Battle of Chemnitz on the 14th April 1639 from which he was lucky to escape unharmed. The young Prince continued with his European education, traveling round the various Imperial cities between hostilities and was not engaged again in action until after his ascension to the Welsh throne. However, due to the slow nature of the news leaving Wales and not knowing where in the Empire he was, although his father died on the 4th October 1640, the Prince was not to be made aware of this until after the Battle of La Marfee on the 6th July 1641 during which he suffered a wound to the thigh from shrapnel.

Made aware after the battle of his fathers death, Hywel left for Wales. Landing in Dover, England in January 1642, shortly before the outbreak of the English Civil war, Charles gave his nephew his blessing and more importantly his permission to cross England for the safety of Caerodor, from where Hywel sailed to St Davids, arriving there in the beginning of February finally being crowned king of Wales on 30th April 1642.

Hywel, Brenin Gymraeg

With his coronation complete, Hywel took over the reins of power from the Lords Council which had administered Wales during his absence. Almost instantly his reign was thrown into chaos with the outbreak of the English Civil War. His uncle, King Charles I of England was pitted against Parliament, and Hywel's automatic inclination was to support both his Royal neighbour and his maternal uncle by pledging Welsh support for him. The duration of the 1st English Civil war (1642-46) Wales sided with Charles and the Royalist cause. Observing from the sidelines, supplying limited men and material to Charles, the Welsh Parliament looked on nervously as Hywel displayed an eagerness to support his uncle. Hywel raises the banners and marches the Army to the Welsh side of the river Severn.

Late in 1642, Parliament negotiates with Hywel to remove the presence of the Welsh Army from the border. By now, the Army was at less than half strength, with many of the levy soldiers having melted away during the preceding few months. Duke Tomos II of March was charged by the King with looking into alternatives to the old style army.

With the gradual decline of Royalist fortunes, however, the Chancellor, Gruffudd Young was able to moderate the king's passion and gradually Welsh support for Charles melted away. Under Young, Parliament began to make its voice heard in Kings Council once again, with envoys from the English Parliament pressing for Welsh neutrality in the English War. They got their wish with the capture of Charles. From 1646 onwards Wales was officially neutral, though with the advent of the New Model Army, Hywel began to admire men such as Cromwell for the changes they were creating across the border. The border was also a sore point during this period. Long after the 1490 1st Rebellion of March, Welsh migration to the area had been stepped up, however there still remained a sizable English minority in both the March, Henffordd and Gwlad yr Haf and this minority was potentially a dangerous element at this time. Part of the 1646 neutrality agreement with the English Parliament was the forced expulsion of many of the English families in these border areas.

During the 2nd English Civil War, Wales refused to be drawn into the conflict. Aiding no one, but by the very act of non-involvement siding firmly with the English Parliament the Welsh Parliament and Hywel were acting to replicate the New Model Army in Wales. On the 11th June 1650, a Kings Charter, established for the first time in Wales a standing, professional Army, based largely on the English model. The Charter was ratified by the Welsh Parliament later that year and the first Welsh Army was formed.

Anglo-Dutch War Period

With the death of King Charles in 1649 and the proclamation of the English Commonwealth, Wales and her king entered a strained period. Whilst not at war with the English Commonwealth, Wales was ill at ease with their new political neighbours, and coupled with Hywel's enthusiasm for the Army, funds flowed into the coffers of the Generals and Admiral's of Wales. The Army was re-structured along Commonwealth lines and the Navy received greater attention and Prince-Admiral Maredudd continued to build up the ships of the line.
Naval Ensign

Early Welsh Naval Ensign

Ships flying the early Welsh Naval ensign were soon seen sailing up and down the coast of Wales. This first use of these ships came with Hywel's promise to his cousin, the exiled Charles II that Wales would aid the king in his attempt to re-gain his throne. To that end Wales entered the First Anglo-Dutch war as allies of the Dutch Republic. The rise of Prince Maredudd as a political force lay in large part to his control of the Welsh fleet. The failure of the fleet in action during this period and the failure of Hywel to provide strong central control led to the biggest threat to his reign. The "Princely Plot" saw the Princes of Powys and Morgannwg conspire with the Duke of March to replace Hywel with his younger brother, Gruffud, Lord of Aberffraw as king. Hywel had seemingly lost the central control which he had inherited from his father, however the other big players, such as the Lord-Archbishop of St Davids, the Duke of Gwent and the Lords of Deheubarth enabled Hywel to survive the plot. 1654 sees the first Dutch War end and also sees Hywel refocus his grip on Welsh politics. Ruling through Parliament and a closer Court enabled him to divide his enemies and retain the Crown's ascendancy over the more fractious nobles.

With the English Restoration Hywel concludes the Treaty of London with Charles II of England, which acts as a defensive treaty. The net result of this treaty however was to drag Wales into the 2nd Anglo-Dutch war, this time on the side of the English. Keeping to his side of the Treaty Hywel sends 15 Welsh ships to dock with the English fleet at Chatham and in June 1667 these were destroyed by the Dutch in the Raid on the Medway. This disaster almost finished Prince-Admiral Maredudd's career within Welsh politics, with many in Parliament calling for his dismissal.

Hywel, however, put his weight behind Maredudd and again parliament financed the rebuilding of the fleet. The third Anglo-Dutch war (1672-74), whilst less devastating than the previous two wars for the Welsh Fleet was still a strategic defeat for the fleet and the aging Prince-Admiral. The fleet, whilst not suffering the losses of previous limped home following the final defeat of the combined Anglo-French-Welsh fleet.

This third defeat, though, smashes Hywel's will and his power throughout the country. Parliament, sensing a chance increases its role and power through the Chancellor, Llewellyn Preece, Abbott Tintern Abbey. His tenure of office (1674-83) would see Parliament reach the zenith of its powers (even though such gains would prove to be temporary).

The End of a Reign

With Hywel increasingly disinterested in governance much fell upon the shoulders of Chancellor Preece. With the heir to the throne a young child there were hopes that Hywel would live long enough for an adult succession following a sustained period of Parliamentarian rule within Wales. Such hopes were in vain.

Hywel retired in 1678 to the Manor of Sycharth, long a royal residence, it is now upgraded to Palace, with Hywel re-discovering a zeal for life, even if it was dedicated to the restoration and rebuilding of this Palace. Wales itself withdrew from major European entanglements, with the English happy to leave the Welsh alone during this period.

Trade as always continued with Europe and England though it did not grow at the rate seen in previous reigns. In the end, a broken 57 year old man died on the 17th March 1683. His wife of 28 years, Queen Henrietta, by his side, his 13 year old heir living in Caernarfon. Hywel's reign promised much in its early years. Though with the passing of time it became clear that he lacked both the vision of his father and his capacity to rule.

Preceded by:
Dafydd IV
King of Wales
Succeeded by:
Hywel IV

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