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Rhisiart II of Wales (Welsh History Post Glyndwr)

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Rhisiart II
14th King of Wales

13. Rhisiart II.jpg
King of Wales
Reign 13th June 1773 - 17th January 1795
Coronation 13th September 1773
Predecessor Rhisiart I
Successor Arthur I
Spouse Maria Vittoria Margherita of Savoy
Issue
Prince Arthur of Wales, Edling Cymru,

Prince Iorwerth of Wales

Princess Briallen of Wales

Prince Maelgwyn of Wales, Duke of Gwent

Full name
Rhisiart Odoardo Cystenin Amadeus ap Rhisiart Morgannwg
Posthumous name
Rhisiart Gorchfygwr (the Conqueror)
House House of Morgannwg
Father Rhisiart I
Mother Maria Farenese
Born 17th April 1753
Geneva, Switzerland
Died 17th January 1795
Amwythig (Shrewsbury)
Burial Strata Florida Royal Crypts
Religion Roman Catholic

The second of the Ricardian monarchs' Rhisiart II "The Conqueror" succeeded to his father, Rhisiart I on the 13th June 1773. The second king from the House of Morgannwg, he was also the second Cymro-French monarch. He would turn out to be one of the most unpopular monarchs in Welsh history, with nobles, gentry, merchants alike all despising him for one reason or another. Only amongst the general populace did he remain popular, and then only because in the pre-media world the kingdom was kept blissfully unaware of his French tendencies, his struggle with the Welsh language and his scathing anti-democratic ideals.

Becoming King at the age of 20 his reign would see a brief war with England at the start of his reign, a long truce with the British State, and then a final flourish of warfare, which would see all of Wales apart from Gwynedd Is-Conwy returned to his rule. This achievement would earn him the epitaph "Conqueror" as his reign also saw the final peace negotiations which resulted in the Treaty of Amwythig and the restoration of all Welsh territory.

Edling

Rhisiart's time as Edling was spent mainly in France, under the control of his mother, Queen Maria. This education concentrated on military matters, empathising the need to retake Wales by force. This education also resulted in his almost total lack of Welsh language skills. Welsh was not spoken by the Queen, and the King was fluent in both, and so talked to his family in French. In 1769 however, the Royal Family returned to Wales and Court in Harlech. The 16 year old Prince was soon introduced to the realities of warfare with the Battle of Harlech (71). Taking part in this action (against the will of both the King and the Royal Council) blooded the young Prince in the vigours of warfare, something he was to excel at where at most other pursuits he was mediocre at best. Rhisiart's relationship with the Royal Court though was fraught with tension. Soon butting heads with the Princes of Powys and Gwynedd and alienating the Dukes of March and Gwent, his main allies lay amongst the minor earls. Pembroke, Ceredigion, Mon, Henfford were all loyal to Rhisiart for his entire life, providing him with valuable support both during his Edlingship and his Kingship.

Brenin Cymru and The Conquest of Glamorgan

With the death of his father in the Battle of Caerdydd (naval), Rhisiart Odoardo became king. Following the burial of his father, and with a small truce holding with the British, Rhisiart was crowned king on the 12th September 1773. Following this coronation, planning begun for the continuation of the war. Events in America were aiding the Welsh. With rising tensions in the 13 Colonies, London's attention was frequently on the wrong side of the Atlantic to worry much with the happenings in Wales. As a result, in the late winter, early spring of 1774, Rhisiart opened up what is classed as the 2nd period of the War of Independence. With his armies massed around Abertawe, Rhisiart exploded eastwards, smashing the British defences as he advanced. By April of 1774, Rhisiart had reached Bro Morgannwg (Vale of Glamorgan). By now though, British resistance was firming up, with troops arriving in the theatre. With British resistance firmer, there developed a new demarcation line, running broadly north/south from the small village of Merthyr Tydfil to Llantwit Fawr. This new line remained steady for the rest of the summer campaign season, with the Welsh unable to break through from their gains into Mid-Wales.
Wales end of 1774

Wales 1774

As 1775 opened, stalemate again was the order of the day, with the British unable to bring enough men to Wales to force a roll back of Welsh advance and Rhisiart also lacking the manpower to push further eastwards. Also 1775 saw the opening of hostilities in America further diluting British attention, both military and political. Rhisiart was not idle during 1775 and spent the year quietly building up the arsenals in Wales. Taking advantage of hostilities in America, Wales expands her artillery capacity whilst also beginning the rebuilding and more importantly the re-equipping of the existing fleet.

Rhisiart's rule however is beginning to grate on the various sections of the governing classes. The Nobility are uneasy with Rhisiart's centralising instincts, clutching power further and further to the centre.

The Gentry are unhappy with the Noble's grip on the levers of power, and the relative weakness of the Senedd since the restoration.

The Merchants are unhappy with the levels of taxation imposed in order to provide the government with the revenue needed to prosecute the war with Britain. Such discontent boils over in 1776 with several members of the aristocracy forming an anti-king movement. Such moves at the time remained clandestine, but for a young monarch, such troubles could only increase in time.

Wales end of 1776

Wales 1776

The next three years would be the early climax of Rhisiarts reign. Starting in September 1776, the Welsh armies began again to advance against the English. By the end of the year the entire principality of Morgannwg would fall to Rhisiart, including the fortress of Caerdydd. Also during this year, the American War, which was focusing so much of London's attention developed a new dimension with the Declaration of Independence. Seizing this opportunity, Rhisiart and Wales became the first state (closely followed by France) to recognise the American State.

The following year a new Welsh commander entered the scene. Prince Iago, Earl of Pembroke. The only other surviving male child of Rhisiart and Maria Farense, he led the assault on Gwent, while the King led the long planned naval attack on Caerodor and the Gwlad yr Haf territory. Caerphilliy falls early to Iago, and by the summer he lays seige to both Abergaveny and Monmouth. The English realising that if these towns fall, then the road is open to Y Mers (the March), move an army south from Caerffawydd (Hereford) to meet Iago's force. The Battle of Monmouth followed, with Iago successfully defeating the British Army sent to relieve Monmouth. By the September, both towns have fallen to Iago. Although, acting against the Kings orders, Iago releases the British prisonners. While Iago was retaking Gwent, the King was laying seige to the Fortress Town of Caerodor. Long the symbol of Welsh Resistence during the reign of Rhys, the king advanced along the coast of Gwent, retaking Casnewydd (Newport), , Caerleon and Chepstow. With Chepstow under Welsh control again, the ferries can operate to take troops to Gwlad yr Haf, adding land siege to the ever present ships off the Caerodor coast.

By the end of 1779, Wales now extended again to the British side of the River Severn. In July of 1779, Caerodor fell to Rhisiart, and with it the Gwlad yr Haf territories. Iago in the meantime had extended Welsh control back into Dean and into the hinterland of Henffordd giving Wales a land link again to the southern territories
Wales end of 1778

Wales 1778/79

.

The Long Peace

During his time as Commander of the Gwent Forces, Iago began to make contact with British officials with an eye on drawing hostilities to a close. With 1779 fast ending, Iago managed to get agreement for a truce. Both sides would end hostilities for four years, with talks to continue to try and end the conflict once and for all. The Long Peace as it was called, was vital to Welsh survival. The country was exhausted by war, with more and more young men sucked up into the army or navy, the country was in danger of failing to be able to feed itself, and tax revenues were falling as less and less produce was being exported. The Long Peace was also the period in which the anti-king coalition, the Strata Florida Conspiracy, was most active in trying to unseat the king in favour of Iago. It was only the iron grip on power by Rhisiart, along with some sympathetic nobles and finally the close family bond, Iago and Rhisiart shared that defeated the conspiracy.

The Mid 1780's & British Attacks

With the American War over, the British State now had the attention to spare on the Welsh issue. With support for Wales mixed (American, Spain and France all recognised Wales but supplied little practical help) the British advanced back into Dean and then Gwent. Abergaveny and Monmouth both quickly fall to the British, and Rhisiart has to force march from Abertawe with a relief army to force the British to pitched battle at Grosmont. Whilst Rhisiart was successful in defeating the British attack and retakes the two towns, this leaves the army in no fit state to advance farther north and again the war bogs down into border skirmishes. Both sides score easy victories in these border skirmishes but neither side advance into each others territory. After four years of scattered fighting along the Gwent/Dean border area, Iago is in London trying to secure another truce when the worst news of all arrives. With the fall of the monarchy in France, Wales biggest supporter has now disappeared. Sent from London back to Wales, Iago and Rhisiart begin to plan for the continuation of the war without the French support, which while sporadic, has proved invaluable since the 1750's.

First among Rhisiart's plans is the re-establishment of an Officer Corp for the Army. Based in the Royal Fortress of Caerfilli, the Officer College is the first of a raft of changes. The regiments begin an overhaul which would result eventually in the official formation of the Army in 1821, with cavalry and artillery support being organised along the English manner.

Plans were also now drawn up for the reconquest of Brecon, Powys and the March. British control of these areas had already largely fallen to one side, especially in Brecon which had become a nest of brigands and raiders.

The Long Advance

With the campaign season opening in 1792, the new look Welsh army launched in columns from Caerphilly. Marching north they brushed aside the English garrison force at Caerffawydd. The British response is just as hard. The relief armies marching into place means that for the next two years the two armies would skirmish and snipe at each other without either side gaining much land, whilst in the north another English assault over the Conwy is again repulsed, though at great cost to the defending forces.

Rhisiart however has greater success in Brecon. Moving his forces inland and advancing from Aberteifi, by the of 1794, Aberhonddu (Brecon) falls to government forces, whilst Caerffawydd also falls the same month. With both these towns back under Welsh control, 1795 sees the Welsh army advance at a rate not seen since the early advances of Rhisiart I through Pembrokeshire and Gower. In the March of 1795 Trefaldwyn (Montgomery) falls, whilst in August Caerwrangon (Welsh Worcester) falls to Rhisiart. With August drawing to a close, Rhisiart finally has the Royal Fortress town of Amwythig under seige, whilst Iago is in London, fighting for a new peace treaty. It is during the siege of Amwythig that Rhisiart falls, during a cavalry sortie.

The Edling, Arthur, takes over command of the Army and much of the government, whilst Iago is in London, and maintains the siege while awaiting what news his uncle will bring him
Wales end of 1795

1795

Legacy

Rhisiart's legacy is again, like his fathers, a mixed one. On the one hand, Rhisiart II manages to retake, by force almost the whole of Wales during his reign. However the cost of this endeavour is high. The country is close to bankruptcy on the kings death, with a falling population base, diminished economic base and rebellious subjects, both in the nobility and lower orders.

Parliamentary government is a thing of the past. Rule by Kings Council is the norm, with the Senedd only called to vote for and pass taxation laws or to rubber stamp Kings Council decisions. One important aside to this though was the restoration in 1790 of the Great Offices of State, with the Earl of Pembroke (the kings brother) becoming Chancellor in 1790, a position he would hold until 1815, he had already been the unofficial Distain since 1779, but would step aside following the successful restoration of Welsh independence.

On the plus side, the Welsh Army was in rude health by 1795. A strong officer corp with disciplined, trained soldiers. The Welsh economy was a war based one. Ships, guns, cannon, the Welsh state was well equipped with all. However, again the Strata Florida conspiracy is still alive even at the literal death of his reign. Documents found with the Prince of Gwynedd point to the continuing attempt to unseat Rhisiart. Yet through it all, he retained Crown, dignity, country and dynasty. With his death, Arthur slide smoothly into place as king.

Preceded by:
Rhisiart I
King of Wales
1759-1773
Succeeded by:
Arthur I

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