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King Hywel I of Wales (Welsh History Post Glyndwr)

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Hywel I
3rd King of Wales

2. Hywel I.jpg
King of Wales
House of Glyndwr
Reign 4th September 1490 - 29th July 1512
Coronation 10th October 1490 at St Davids Cathedral
Predecessor Owain V
Successor Hywel II
Prince of Gwynedd
Reign 4th September 1490 - 29th July 1512
Predecessor Owain I of Gwynedd
Successor Hywel II of Gwynedd
Spouse Margaret of Northumberland

Eleanor Powell of Pembroke

Issue Hywel II

Rhodri

Full name
Hywel ap Owain ap Maredudd
Posthumous name
Hywel the Unifier
House House of Glyndwr
Father Owain ap Maredudd ap Owain
Mother Anne of Caerdydd
Born 4th February 1500
Sycharth Manor
Died 1st December 1545
Sycharth Manor
Burial Royal Crypt, St Davids Cathedral
Religion Roman Catholic

Hywel ab Owain ap Maredudd - Hywel I Glyndwr - King of Wales

Early Life

Hywel was born on the 16th April 1474 in Caernarfon Castle first son to Owain and Queen Anne. Hywel's birth coincided with his fathers middle reign, where his codification of Welsh Law began, as such Hywel was brought up in a court filled with lawyers, politicians, Chancellors, and nobles all vying for power, positions and influence. His father sitting in the centre of this maelstrom encouraged his son and heir to sit with him, learning from an early age the mechanisms of power.

Hywel benefited from this and the 

1482 saw Hywel's first use as a political pawn of his father. Betrothed to the Lady of Northumberland, Margaret, it was envisioned as a continuation of the Tripartite Pact of the War of Independence, however, the marriage never occurred. The Lady Margaret was moved to Harlech for the proxy marriage when she was five years of age, with Hywel being seven. Just four years later the now nine year old Lady Margaret died and Hywel continued to learn his trade at this father's knee.

By the end of Owain's reign, the teenaged Prince was by now a cocksure militant Prince. He could see that Wales was in effect two separate countries. Wales Proper, and Wales Marcher (Pura Wallia & Marcher Wallia), Hywel agitated for change in this, but at the time the power of Earl Edmund was still too great both at court and within the March. Allies such as Hywel had were relatively powerless themselves, the premier ally being the new Prince of Powys, Maredudd.

Hywel attended to Henri Tudor when he landed in Milford Haven, attending to him until he left Wales for his final battle with Richard III and the impression of Henry remained with Hywel to the end of his days. It was at this time that Hywel started agitating his father for permission to raid Bristol, a city long a thorn in Welsh merchants sides. His father reluctantly gave his son his blessing, but Hywel had barely started actions against the English city when the Rebellion of March exploded.

The Rebellion of March & the Death of a King

Whilst Hywel was preparing for raids on Bristol (the future Welsh city of Caer Odor) the still largely English March and Herefordshire exploded into open rebellion. The main cause was fear amongst the English landowners of continued Welsh rule in the area. The powerful Earl of March, Edmund VI was almost a king in his own right. The March (and indeed the subservient Earl of Henffordd) ruled as his own petty kingdom where the Welsh King's writ extended only as far as any Royal town (such as Shrewsbury).

The old Earl though was killed early on in the rebellion, whether or not he was behind it will never really be known, but the result left a new 28 year old Earl whose Earldom was in open rebellion against the Crown and Hywel took full advantage of this fact. Hywel, leading men who had been earmarked for the Bristol Raids, rode to the Royal Fortress in Amwythig (Shrewsbury) collecting men from the Royal Guard along the way. With these men Hywel swept southwards whilst the Lords of Gwent and Glamorgan moved northwards through Herefordshire, taking and killing the old Earl of Henffordd along the way. The 21st August 1490 saw Hywel fight and win the Battle of Ludlow, with one important post-battle conclusion, the submission of Gruffydd, Earl of March to the Crown Prince. This act Gruffydd's father had avoided doing to Owain, King of Wales, but now here was at last the March at the Crowns grasp.

The 4th September the old King died while Hywel was still re-ordering the March and Henffordd, moving Royal Guards into all the major fortress' (including Ludlow Castle). He was also sending messages throughout Wales ordering that men and their families be sent to both regions to augment its Welsh population. No longer would the March or Henffordd be an English enclave within Wales. The news came through to Hywel whilst he was still staying in Ludlow. Upon hearing the news Hywel at once moved to St Davids in order to be crowned.

Long Live the King 

Hywel was crowned king on the 10th October 1490 and for the first time the Welsh Crown refused to owe the act of fealty to the English Crown. Hywel had aided Henry on his way to Bosworth, Henry was descended from a Welsh family who was related distantly to Hywel but, importantly from Hywel's point of view, had fought for his great-grandfather Owain in the 1st Welsh War of Independence. The the brash 16 year old king, still legally not in his majority, took the coronation ceremony to declare that he would not bow the knee to Henry Tudor, descendant of a vassal of Owain Glyndwr. Henry was not secure yet enough in England to deal with this breach of feudal obligation and was even forced just one year later to sign the Treaty of Bath, conceding Bristol and Bath to the Welsh Kingdom in return for men, money and material's in his war with France.

Hywel continued with this brash tendency. Refusing all attempts to impose a Regency Council until his majority he continued to rule as King. There were few landowners now able to stand up to the Crown. The Earl of March was subservient and Maredudd, Prince of Powys was loyal to his brother and Prince Gwillym of Glamorgan was also not yet secure in his new principality to the south. As a result Hywel was more powerful than his father or grandfather had ever been within Wales.

1492 saw the birth of a new relationship with the Scottish Crown as well with the Treaty of Ravenscraig. The treaty was in part an attempt by Hywel to update Welsh cannon's and artillery pieces. It was also a treaty of friendship with James IV of Scotland, providing for the marriage of their children should such an event take place (at this point James was childless and Hywel unmarried)

1493 was a watershed year for Hywel's kingship. The 19 year old King, now firmly in his majority and therefore undisputed Kingship was on a tour of his own Principality, Gwynedd. At Conwy, the local lord, Count Tomos of Conwy along with his brother Reginald of Rhyl attempt to assassinate Hywel (in revenge for a slight delivered at court earlier in the year) The attempt is bungled and the King executes Lord Rhyl himself in the courtyard of Conwy Castle.

Progress

Hywel was a progressive monarch. Born at the birth of the Renaissance he was a devoted follower of continental writers and encouraged the flowering of the arts in Wales. In 1495 he ordered the first Printing Press to be opened in North Wales and was a major patron to many artists and poets during his reign.

Hywel took some time to get married, finally marrying the Lady Elenor of Pembroke on the 20th June 1498 with their first son, Hywel, born in the year 1500. Hywel also took the unusual step of creating Elenor's brother a Dug (Duke). The Duchy being the rump of Dyfed centred on Newport. Such a move created unease with the other Welsh nobles but such was Hywel's iron grip on the reins of power that none were able to prevent the move.

During Hywel's reign Wales was at peace with the other kingdoms of the British Isles. Relations with both Scotland and England improved dramatically. Trade grew again between the 3 Kingdoms whilst trade with the continent also grew. Hywel was not a popular king within Wales however. His rule was autocratic and at times heavy handed. The nobles in particular had many grievances against him, though none were in a position to question his authority. The one crowning failure it could be said was in marrying late.

The King was also a major military patron, founding the Royal Welsh Navy and it was this that led to his death.

Death of a King and the Failure of a Reign  

In 1512 the second ship of the Welsh fleet, the St Teillo was being built in Milford Docks. This ship was an important milestone in the Welsh Navy. The Navy was founded in 1508 with the launch of the Dewi Sant, though the rest of the Navy consisted of bought ships. The Teillo Sant was only the second purpose built warship in Wales. As such the king paid a great deal of interest in its construction. On the 26th July 1512 Hywel was inspecting the dockyard when a falling timber struck him on the head. He died three days later on the 29th July.

With his death the progress made during his reign came to a crunching halt. Hywel had built up from his days as Crown Prince a power base from which to dominate the nobility of Wales. By leaving a 12 year old son and heir his successes were undone at a stroke. Queen Elenor was at once proclaimed as Queen Protector under the guidance of a Regency Council, which was itself under the control of Prince Cystennin of Morgannwg. The instability though of Regency Councils soon established itself. None of the nobles were powerful enough to control it firmly and various power cliques were soon jockeying for power and influence. The central authority of the king, so carefully and painstakingly built by Hywel crumbled under the assault.


Preceded by:
Owain V
King of Wales
1490-1512
Succeeded by:
Hywel II

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