27 Feb 18
Owain Glyndwr has been called the “Welsh Braveheart,” because of the similarity of his life and mission to that of William Wallace of Scotland, a century earlier.
Revered today throughout the UK as a great national hero, Owain was not loved by many of their ancestors at the end of the 14th Century!
Like Wallace, Glyndwr led a successful (at least temporarily) rebellion in Wales against English incursion and influence into his native region. Several less successful rebellions had proceeded him!
As with the spectacular Spartacan Rebellion against Imperial Rome in 70 BC, the Boudican Rebellion against Roman rule in England of 60AD, and the Boer Rebellion (led by Paul Kruger and others) against the British in South Africa in the early Twentieth Century, the ultimate outcome was never in doubt, but in our age we are fascinated and inspired by the tenacity, cleverness, audacity, and bravery of these brilliant and dauntless rebel leaders, righteously rising against notorious excesses of the established, ruling authority.
In fact, during most of the American Revolutionary War, of 1775-1783 (actually, organized hostilities continued through 1818), smart money was not on the Rebels. Ours was one of the few revolutions in world history that was permanently successful!
Invading England from Gaul (France), Romans had considered the British Islands a “colony” since the First Century AD, in the process driving native Celtic tribes west, into Wales, and Scottish tribes north, into Scotland.
Romans called Wales “Cambria,” and the Welsh “Cymru.”
Curiously, there is little evidence that Romans ever set foot in Ireland, considering the island militarily insignificant. Even after Romans withdrew from England, remaining British would continue to express complete disinterest in Ireland for another six-hundred years!
Halfway through the 5th Century, a durable and dedicated St Patrick “Christianized” Ireland, welcoming native pagans to the Roman Church. His success was astonishing, but it set the stage for bloody sectarian conflict, which has persisted into the present age.
With the impending collapse of their continental Empire, Roman troops, and many Roman civilians (along with “Romanized” native civilians), withdrew from England, starting in the early 5th Century.
With the resulting power vacuum, England was promptly invaded by foreign armies, mostly Saxons (Germans).
Over the next few Centuries, there was a lively mixing of cultures, genetics, and language. As one might expect, armed conflict and territorial intrigue was more or less continuous!
The Normans successfully invaded, of course, in 1066AD
By the 14th Century, genetic Scots and Welsh were, once again, pushed to the margins, with political autonomy progressively slipping away. The seat of power was now firmly with English kings, all of whom called London home.
Seeing their culture, native Celtic genetics, and language slowly dissipating, the Welsh rebelled, led by Glyndwr, appealing to the French for military aid. Welsh considered themselves (and still do) to be the only “authentic” English. Kings residing in London traced their genetics mostly to Germany, Spain, France, et al.
By all accounts, Glyndwr, coming from a prominent and successful Welsh family, was highly educated, military astute, well respected, and otherwise had a promising career ahead of him.
Glyndwr’s rebellion lasted only fifteen years (1400-1415), but caught the English off-guard, and was
spectacularly successful, at least in the beginning. His uncanny ability to inspire, and persuade erstwhile feuding clans to work and fight together is matched by few others.
Unhappily, France’s participation was half-hearted and short-lived. And, in 1413 a recently installed King Henry (the 5th), rather than continuing the hard line of his father, offered pardons to many Welsh rebel leaders, as well as other concessions.
The Rebellion fizzled!
Glyndwr never accepted a pardon, nor was the hefty price on his head ever collected. Unlike William Wallace, he was never captured. He was last seen, at least officially, in 1412.
There are many theories, but Glyndwr was known to be a master is disguise, so he may have “re-invented himself” and vanished in plain sight.
As part of his legacy, English Kings ever since have unfailingly started with the title “Prince of Wales,” in an effort to claim a connection with the Island’s original, Celtic genetics.
Harlech Castle, built on the Welsh coast at end of the 13th Century by the King Edward (the 1st), representing a bold attempt at direct assertion of control over all of Wales by the British. It was an unwelcome symbol of repression for native Welsh for many decades.
The Scotch equivalent was Stirling Castle. In Ireland, Carrickfergus Castle performed the identical function.
In 1404, Glyndwr seized Harlech Castle after a brief siege. It became his headquarters until it was re-seized by the British in 1409.
However, in the interim Harlech was recast as a symbol and rallying call for Welch pride and icy stubbornness, and eventually by extension, the pride of all of England.
“Men of Harlech” has thus been used ever since to describe unyielding soldiers. Glyndwr surely set the example.
Welshmen never yield!
“Men of Harlech,” eventually became the title of song, once widely heard in Wales
The stirring music and verse first appeared as “March of the Men of Harlech” in musical and poetic relics of Welsh legends.
The song was first published in “Gems of Welsh Melody” in 1860. It was sung, with revised verse, as recently as 1964 in the feature film, “Zulu,” starring Stanley Baker and a young Michael Caine.
“March ye men of Harlech bold,
Unfurl your banners in the field,
Be brave as were your sires of old,
And like them, never yield!
What tho’ evry hill and dale,
Echoes now with war’s alarms,
Celtic hearts can never quail,
When Cambria calls to arms.
By each lofty mountain,
By each crystal fountain,
By your homes where those you love
Await your glad returning,
Let each thought and action prove,
True glory can the Cymru move,
And as each blade gleams in the light,
Pray ‘God defend the right!’
Clans from Mona wending,
Now with Arvon blending,
Haste with rapid strides along
The path that leads to glory,
From Snowdon’s hills with harp and song,
And Nantlle’s vale proceeds a throng,
Whose ranks with yours shall proudly vie,
‘Nobly win or die!’
March ye men of Harlech go,
Lov’d Fatherland your duty claims,
Onward comes the Saxon foe,
His footsteps mark’d in flames;
But his march breeds no dismay,
Boasting taunts we meet with scorn,
Craven like their hosts shall flee
Like mists before the morn.
On the foemen dashing,
Swords and bucklers clashing;
Smite with will their savage band
Nor think of e’er retreating:
But with a firm unflinching hand,
In blood quench ev’ry burning brand,
And for each roof tree cast away
A Saxon life shall pay.
Thus each bosom nerving,
From no danger swerving,
Soon shall the invader feel
The doom of fate rewarding;
They firmly grasp the flashing steel,
And as ye strike for Cymru’s weal,
Be this your cry, till life’s last breath –
‘Liberty or Death!’”
This is my heritage. These are my ancestors.
I love it!