vi. The Welsh Reaction

THE YEAR 1093 marked the opening of a flood tide of Norman conquest which, within the year, had submerged all but the most mountainous and barren regions of South Wales. Bernard of Neufmarché held Brecknock, Fitz-Hamon held Glamorgan, the Montgomerys were in possession of Deheubarth, and Fitz-Baldwin had constructed a royal castle dominating the vale of Towy. By the end of the same year of 1093, the earl of Chester had succeeded in establishing Norman outposts along the northern coast of Wales, and his garrisons controlled the fertile island of Anglesey. Organized Welsh resistance had completely disintegrated, and it appeared that the ancient traditions of Welsh independence had come to an end

Such was not to be the case. In 1093 and 1094 a number of events conspired to weaken the Norman cause considerably and to make possible a popular Welsh uprising which altered the situation drastically. In the first place, Roger of Montgomery, the earl of Shrewsbury, died, and was succeeded by Hugh, his second son.1 Roger had been the most powerful lord on the Welsh marches, and he had been, perhaps more than any other single man, responsible for the massive conquest which was still underway. His armies had recently occupied Deheubarth, but the honor of settling the conquest which he had begun was denied him. The removal of his strong and directing hand at this critical time represented a serious loss to the Norman cause.

1For the date of Earl Roger's death, see J. E. Lloyd, A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest, II, 403, n. 18.

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Leadership of the marcher lords would have fallen to the doughty earl of Chester, had this earl not chosen this time to return to the continent to attend to his affairs there.2 The Norman conquerors were also denied royal leadership and support, since the king chose the critical year of 1094 to wage war against his brother, Robert Curthose.3 The cause of Norman conquest in Wales had lost the leadership which might have been expected to give it proper direction. Norman power in Wales appeared everywhere to be at its height, but direction and reserve strength were lost. Behind their appearance of power, the Norman invaders were critically weak.

This need not have been disastrous, had it not been for the fact that in the same year in which the Normans lost their leadership, the Welsh regained theirs. A daring plot succeeded in freeing Gruffydd ap Cynan, hereditary ruler of Gwynedd, from the Chester prison in which he had languished for twelve years.4 Allied with his energetic brother, Cadwgan, Gruffydd gathered some forces, attacked the Norman fortresses on Anglesey and speedily freed the island of its invaders. The uprising spread rapidly, and great expanses of territory were returned to Welsh control. The great castle of Montgomery itself was taken by a sudden Welsh attack. Once again Welsh raiders were able to range freely, and they struck across the border to bring devastation deep into the heart of Shropshire.5

The situation along the border deteriorated so rapidly that it soon became apparent that royal intervention was necessary to stabilize affairs. It was not until the fall of 1095, however, that Rufus was either willing or able to attempt to restore Norman ascendancy in Wales.6 He realized that the core of Welsh resistance lay in the resurgent kingdom of Gwynedd and accordingly directed his efforts toward that region. The Welsh replied by employing tactics which had frustrated the effort of many previous expeditions of a similar character. Falling back before the royal force, they transferred their families and chattels to the mountain wilderness of Snowdonia. As

2The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, According to the Several Original Authorities, ed. and trans. B. Thorpe, Part I, p. 361, s.a. 1093.

3Brut y Tywysogion: or The Chronicle of the Princes of Wales, ed. J. Williams ab Ithel, s.a. 1092 [sic], p. 57. One might note that there exists a confusion in the Brut concerning the purpose of William's trip to the continent

4The complete story of this romantic figure may be found in The History of Gruffydd ap Cynan. The Welsh Text with Translation, Introduction and Notes, ed. and trans. A. Jones.

5Annales de Margan, ed. H. R. Luard, p. 6

6The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a. 1096, Part I, pp. 36-363.

114 The Normans in South Wales

the campaigning season drew to a close, Rufus was faced with the prospect of leading his force into a region in which supply would be difficult and the danger of ambush great. He had failed in his purpose of drawing the Welsh into an open combat in which he could crush their power. Frustrated, he withdrew to Chester and brought the campaign to an end.

He had done little harm to the cause of Welsh resistance. On the contrary, his failure appears to have encouraged the Welsh insurgents. The men of Deheubarth joined in what soon became a general revolt. By the end of the year virtually all of the Montgomerys' conquests had been erased. The tide of revolt then rolled inland to Brecknock and Gwent. Only Glamorgan appears to have been untouched, though our reason for saying so lies mainly in our lack of information concerning it. The open countryside lay at the mercy of the Welsh, and the Normans were restricted to those castles which they had constructed during the previous few years and which were relatively proof against the assaults of Welsh raiders.

It was not until the spring of 1097 that Rufus could again gather forces to lead against the Welsh.7 Once more he failed to force the Welsh into open battle and to defeat them. Despite these repeated failures, large parts of Wales were gradually brought back under Norman control in the next few years. This success was accomplished by Norman pursuit of a new strategy, one based upon a vastly expanded program of castle building. In the light of this fact it seems possible that the major purpose of the royal expedition of 1097 was not to defeat the Welsh in open combat, but to provide a screen for the construction of additional castles in rebellious regions.8 Rufus' failure in 1095 seems to have led the Normans to develop a castle-building strategy which was to make of Wales a land dominated by fortresses.9

To appreciate the effectiveness of this new strategy, it is necessary to understand the two types of military organization which opposed each other during the conquest of Wales. One was the Norman military machine, basically a product of the plains of northern France and of the agrarian society which flourished there. It was, like all

7Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 408, n. 3.

8The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a. 1087, Part I, p. 355; also see E. A. Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus and the Accession of Henry I, II, 69-71.

9See J. H. Peelers "Castles and strategy in Norman and Early Angevin England," Speculum, XXXI ( 1956 ), 581-401.

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military organizations, designed to seize and hold the bases of power. In this case, the bases of power consisted of arable land which produced the wealth of this society, which in turn supported the professional soldiers who composed its armies. The Norman military machine was, therefore, composed of specialized, full-time, mounted men admirably adapted to fighting in that type of terrain which it had been designed to control. The military organization of the Welsh was very different. It had been produced in a mountainous region by a nonagricultural society. The bases of power of this society consisted of tribal and clan rights over grazing lands, and the cattle upon which the society subsisted. The Welsh military machine was accordingly, a loosely organized, part-time, infantry force primarily designed to pursue feuds, and to engage in cattle raiding and looting expeditions.

By placing their primary emphasis upon castles, the Normans changed the way warfare was carried on in Wales. Hitherto they had aimed at complete conquest by devastation and the destruction of enemy field forces. This had proven to be ineffective, since Welsh society neither produced nor possessed much wealth which could be devastated or destroyed by the tactics available to the Normans, and because the Welsh army was not the sort of organized field force which could be crushed in regular campaigns. The tactics and organization of the Normans, on the other hand, were not such as to allow them to carry on the desultory and irregular warfare which was necessary to meet the Welsh on their own terms.

It is important, however, to note that when the Normans began to emphasize defensive works, they changed their military objectives from success in open combat to success in positional warfare. The Welsh were both militarily and socially incapable at this time of competing with the Normans in any such struggle. Their economy and customs were those of a pastoral people, and it was extremely difficult for them to maintain continuous occupation and control of any given area. The practice of transhumance, for instance, made it necessary for the normal Welsh community to relinquish control of its lowland meadows each summer and to migrate to the uplands. In their temporary absence, the Normans could quickly construct a castle which could then dominate the area and deny it to its previous owners.

Furthermore, the Norman castles which began to dot the Welsh countryside struck at yet another weakness in the Welsh social and military organization. Contemporary Welsh sources make it clear that

116 The Normans in South Wales

the primary objective of their military activity lay in the acquisition of booty. The Brut y Tywysogion, in describing the failure of the royal expedition of 1095, states: ". . . and William returned home empty, without having gained anything. The phrase "empty, without having gained anything,"10 appears again applied to an unsuccessful Norman expedition of 1096. This characterization of failure must be compared with the manner in which the Brut describes the successful expedition of the Welsh against Pembroke in the same year of 1096. The words of the Brut are that they "despoiled it of all its cattle, ravaged the whole country, and with an immense booty returned home."11 This emphasis upon the success of a military operation being reflected primarily in the plunder gained is reiterated in entries for 1095, 1100, 1102, and succeeding years. The Brut thus makes it clear that Welsh military efforts were primarily directed at the seizure of booty. Other instances illustrate that when any Welsh leader failed in this aim, his following quickly dispersed to less dangerous and more profitable pursuits.

The Norman strategy of castle building played upon this peculiarity of Welsh military tradition. In the first place, the castle not only provided a refuge for men, but also a place for the safekeeping of chattels. In any case other than a surprise attack, all movable wealth could be placed within the castle. In order to obtain any appreciable amount of plunder, the Welsh would have to carry at least the outer works of the castle. Since they lacked the organization and technology for effective siege operations, this was anything but an easy task. The expansion of castle building slowly brought to an end the possibility of quick and profitable raids on the part of the Welsh.

The castles which the Normans constructed also acted as a defense for the rich lands to their rear. The way in which they performed this task is not apparent at first glance. In terms of guarding the exits from the Welsh uplands, the castles were relatively weak and ineffective. Welsh raiders who cared to strike into the comparatively unfortified heartland of Norman holdings no doubt found it an easy task to bypass the Norman fortresses by stealth, celerity, or a simple diversion of route. On the return trip, however, such raiders found that the castles also guarded the entrances to the hills. Burdened with captives, cattle, and other booty, the raiders were now denied evasive

10Brut y Tywysogion, pp. 56-59.

11 Ibid., pp. 56-59.

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action. In order to gain the safety of the uplands, they had to move slowly along a practicable route. This was a course which inevitably brought them under the walls of a Norman fortress. This fact meant that the choice of battle, which had hitherto lain with Welsh raiders, now belonged to Norman garrisons. This was an advantage which quickly brought a much greater measure of security to the lowlands of Wales

In the long run, the Norman policy of castle building succeeded in consolidating most of the conquests which the invaders had made. At the same time, however, it set a limit on that conquest, for in adopting it the Normans admitted their incapability of meeting and defeating the Welsh in the upland plateaus where they made their home This first successful Welsh revolt presented the embryonic Cambro-Norman society with a real challenge. It challenged the Normans to produce a military machine capable of waging successful mountain warfare, and to develop social and economic institutions able to settle and exploit the wilderness which lay above the six hundred foot contour line. The Normans failed to meet this challenge. At this crucial point, they gave up the initiative which had been so brilliantly seized by William Fitz-Osbern and his immediate successors. This Norman failure set the pattern for the next century and a half of Welsh history.

By 1100, then, Norman occupation of the fertile valleys and rolling plains of southern Wales was essentially complete. The tide of Norman conquest had washed up to the six hundred foot contour line, and had come to a halt. The history of the area for the next 150 years was to be one of transient political hegemonies established across this line by one side or the other. It was also to be the story of the complete failure of Anglo-Norman society to establish itself in the highland moors. A society which was based on the mounted knight and the manor was incapable of adjusting to an environment where the horse brought no power, and the manor brought no profits.

As the eleventh century drew to a close, an era of opportunity and high hopes came to an end for the Normans along the Welsh frontier We have already remarked that the last decade of the century saw the end of the dynamic flexibility of the Normans in this region. Contact and interchange was to continue, but largely on Welsh terms. In the years to come, it was the backward Welsh society of the uplands which was to derive the greater benefit from the stimulation of the frontier environment. The Welsh were to develop a culture not only.

118 The Normans in South Wales

capable of maintaining itself, but even of expanding in the face of Anglo-Norman influences. The Cambro-Norman culture which developed in the lowlands tended to isolate itself from Welsh influences and, except for a few exceptions, remained relatively passive and derivative. Cultural initiative had clearly passed into the hands of the Welsh. Norman loss of cultural initiative was coupled with a loss of political initiative which, in the early years of the twelfth century, set a seal upon the failure of Norman hopes of conquest and expansion into all of Wales. This was in part the result of the revolt of Robert of Bellêum;me; an uprising that called forth a revised royal frontier policy which radically altered the situation along the border.

It happened in the following way. In the summer of 1098, during the Welsh rebellion we have been discussing, Earl Hugh of Chester and Hugh, second earl of Shrewsbury, had joined forces in driving the Welsh from the fertile isle of Anglesey. At the height of their success, however, their forces were attacked by the fleet of Magnus Barefoot of Norway, who happened to be cruising in the area. A battle ensued in which Hugh of Shrewsbury was killed, and the Normans were forced to retreat in disorder. Magnus made no attempt to hold the island, and departed, leaving Anglesey to be reclaimed by Gruffydd ap Cynan.12

With Hugh of Montgomery dead, the earldom of Shrewsbury now fell to his eldest brother, Robert of Bellêum;me, by all accounts the most vicious and ambitious man the Welsh marches had yet seen. By this inheritance, his earlier acquisitions, and an advantageous marriage, a great amount of wealth and power were concentrated in his hands. Shropshire, with its great castle of Shrewsbury, was his, as were extensive tracts in Sussex, together with the great castle of Arundel in that shire. His possessions in Normandy included the lordships of Montgomery and Alençl;on, the vicecomtes of Argentan and Falaise, and the wardship of a number of castles along the Norman border. Finally, through his marriage into the house of Talvas, he held the entire county of Ponthieu. Thanks to these holdings, Robert was something more than a vassal of the king; he was the equal of many of the princes of Europe.

His power did not end with his personal holdings since his brother Arnulf was lord of the newly acquired region of Pembrokeshire and of the strong fortress which had been constructed there. The latter

12Brut y Tywysogion, pp. 60-63.

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was also allied with King Murtagh of Ireland, whose daughter he had married.13 He also had a second brother, Roger of Poitou, holder of great estates in the region of Lancashire. In addition to these family ties. Robert sought to increase his power yet further by reaching a modus vivendi with his Welsh neighbors. He granted Powys and Ceredigion to a rebel, Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, in exchange for this grant the sons of Bleddyn-Cadwgan, Maredudd, and Iorwerth- became his vassals.14 He allowed Gruffydd ap Cynan peaceable possession of Gwynedd, probably as part of a general armistice. It seems clear then that in a very short time after 1098 Robert was able to restore order along the Welsh border, and, if not to reoccupy the Montgomery conquests, at least to maintain a nominal sovereignty over them.

His ambition was not such as to be satiated with the power and wealth which were already his, and he soon found a possible means of increasing them. On the second of August in 1100, William Rufus died of an arrow wound received while hunting in the New Forest. The king's younger brother, Henry, quickly seized upon the confusion, took control of the treasury at Winchester, and, only three days after Rufus' death, was crowned king at Westminster. Henry's succession did not go unchallenged, however, for a large number of the Norman nobility would have preferred to see Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy, take the throne. It may be that these dissidents saw in Robert a weakness and permissiveness which might have allowed them to gain the same unbridled liberty in England which they had come to exercise in their Norman possessions. At any rate, Robert of Bellêum;me was prominent among those who pledged their support of Robert's claim to the English crowned

So when in July of 1102 Robert invaded England with a sizable force of Norman adherents, he was soon joined by many of the nobles of England. He quickly proved, however, to be an ineffectual leader. A personal confrontation of the two brothers was arranged, which led to a compromise and eventually a treaty between the two.16 Duke Robert returned to Normandy, and Robert of Bellêum;me and his friends found themselves without a cause.

13Orderic Vitalis, "Historiae Ecclesiasticae libri XIII in partes tres divisi," in Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, Vol. CLXXXVIII, cols. 794-795

14Brut y Tywysogion, pp. 66-69.

15 Orderic Vitalis, col. 787

16 Ibid., col. 788.

120 The Normans in South Wales

The terms of the treaty which had been concluded seem to have guaranteed that no retaliation would be visited upon Duke Robert's adherents for their espousal of his cause. It soon became evident, however, that Henry intended to circumvent this agreement if at all possible and to destroy the power and fortunes of those who had opposed him. In the next few months the lesser members of the dissident party were haled into court on trivial or trumped-up charges, and saddled with ruinous fines and forfeitures. A group of royal spies meanwhile haunted the footsteps of Robert of Bellêum;me, compiling reports on his activities. By Easter of 1103, Henry had gathered enough evidence to summon Robert to the Easter assembly to answer to a series of no less than forty-five separate charges.17

Robert was probably fully aware that the outcome of his trial was predetermined. Rather than answering the royal summons, he attempted to stall for time, and meanwhile made preparations for war. His castles and those of his brother Arnulf were repaired and strengthened. Mercenaries were hired, and the two brothers' vassals were called on for service. A special reliance was placed upon those Welsh with whom Robert had allied himself.18 Most of the earl's movable wealth was delivered into the hands of the Welsh for safekeeping and was transported by them into the mountain fastnesses of central Wales. Cadwgan, Maredudd, and Iorwerth gathered large war bands and, led by the earl, raided deep into the heart of Staffordshire. Once again the dilemma of border defense had been raised. A border lord strong enough to ensure peace and stability to the frontier had also proven strong enough to use the enemy for his personal ends. The alliance of a fierce enemy and an equally fierce border captain was a formidable combination.

Henry's strategy was twofold; first, to reduce Robert's strongholds piecemeal, and, second, to dislodge the Welsh from their alliance with the earl. Both programs were eminently successful. Arundel was speedily invested and soon surrendered to royal authority. Tickhill, in Yorkshire, quickly followed, and Henry marched upon Robert's newly constructed castle of Bridgenorth, in Shropshire. The menace of the Welsh allies of Robert who were roving in this region seriously interfered with Henry's siege of Bridgenorth. He quickly sent William Pantulph, a holder of extensive lands in Shropshire, to arrange an audience between the king and Iorwerth, one of the rebellious

17Ibid., col. 791

18Brut y Tywysogion, pp. 66-69.

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Welsh chieftains.19 He offered Iorwerth dominion over all of South and Central Wales, with the exception of the marcher lordships of Brecknockshire, Gwent, Glamorgan, and part of Pembrokeshire, and the offer was quickly accepted. Iorwerth took command of the Welsh bands and began to harry Earl Robert's lands. This defection broke Robert's resistance. Bridgenorth soon surrendered, and Robert forestalled a royal siege of Shrewsbury only by his prompt submission to the king. The rebel was deported to Normandy, and the power of the house of Montgomery came to an end in England.

With the end of Robert of Bellêum;me's power the Norman political system along the border took on a vastly different aspect. The great semi-independent earldoms which had hitherto dominated the border, and had provided the primary direction and power for the conquest of Wales, had come to an end. Hugh of Chester, one of the great warriors of marcher tradition, was dead; Hereford and Shrewsbury were escheated to the crown; and Gloucester lay in the hands of Robert Fitz-Hamon, a man increasingly involved in the continental struggles between King Henry and Duke Robert.20 No power existed along the frontier sufficient to challenge the authority of the king. Henceforth, expansion and conquest were to be directed from the royal court, and freedom of opportunity was to be strictly limited in the royal interest. The great earls and the border barons who had achieved the successes of the previous century, had proved incapable of consolidating and holding what they had won, and, what is more, had proven extremely dangerous to the peace of the realm of England. Under Henry, these freebooters disappeared, and, with them, much of the dynamic character of Norman society. The strength of the Anglo-Normans was still so overwhelming that expansion continued, but it was vastly different in character.

King Henry's regard for organization and stability was too great, however, to allow the marches of Wales to remain in a leaderless state for long. In the years that followed, a new leadership developed along the border as Henry introduced a new personnel into the region and established and regularized their position there.

The death of the Welsh chieftain, Hywel ap Gronw, in 1106, offered Henry his first opportunity to make basic readjustments in the situation in South Wales. In the general settlement which had followed the fall of Robert of Bellêum;me, Hywel had been granted do

19Orderic Vitalis, col. 793; Brut y Tywysogion, pp. 70-71

20See Chapter V above.

122 The Normans in South Wales

minion over the vale of Towy, Kidwelly, and Gower, and his death released these areas for reassignment. Kidwelly was now granted to Roger, bishop of Salisbury and justiciar of England. A castle was soon constructed and a borough sprung up under the castle's walls. The old commote soon became a regular marcher lordship. Much the same fate awaited Gower, which was granted to the powerful Henry, earl of Warwick. Warwick began the pacification of the area from the great castle which he built at Swansea.21

Consolidation and expansion now continued in other regions. By 1108, Norman control was re-established in Pembrokeshire, and a colony of Flemish weavers and mercenaries was established in the region by royal order.22 A new and increased royal interest was shown to the lower vale of Towy. By 1109 a new castle had been constructed at Carmarthen which replaced the old fortress of Rhydygors. The area was governed by Walter, sheriff of Gloucester, in the royal interest.23 In 1110, the king awarded the plains of Ceredigion to Gilbert Fitz-Richard of Clare, a member of a noble family that had firmly supported Henry in his first steps to the throne. Gilbert brought a group of followers with him into the region, and divided the area into a series of dependent lordships, much upon the model of Glamorgan. Two great Clare castles arose at Cardigan and Aberystwyth, while smaller castles in each of the dependent lordships provided local protection.24 By 1119, the lordship of lower Gwent, which had escheated to the crown as a result of the rebellion of Roger of Breteuil in 1075, was revived and was granted to Walter Fitz-Richard of Clare, brother of the lord of Ceredigion.25 The lesser lordships of Abergavenny and Monmouth were strengthened by being placed in the hands of active supporters of the king.

Perhaps the most important element in Henry's work of reorganization, though, lay in the marriages which he arranged. The earldom of Gloucester, which lay in royal hands after the death of Fitz-Hamon in 1107, finally passed to Henry's illegitimate son, the able Robert of

21For the Anglo-Norman settlement of Gower, an interesting commentary is provided by D. T. Williams, "Gower: A Study in Linguistic Movements and Historical Geography," Archaeologia Cambrensis, LXXXIX (1934), 302-327.

22See H. Owen, "The Flemings in Pembrokeshire," Archaeology Cambrensis, Series It, Vol. XII (1895), pp. 96-106.

23 For an excellent history of the Norman settlement of Carmarthenshire, see J. E. Lloyd, A History of Carmarthenshire.

24See J. E. Lloyd, The Story of Ceredigion (400-1282).

25See J. H. Round, "The Family of Clare," The Archaeological Journal, LVI ( 1899) Series II, Vol. VI, 221-231.

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Caen, by his marriage to Fitz-Hamon's heiress, Mabel. The honor of Gloucester was reconstituted an earldom, and Robert emerged as the paramount leader of the marcher lords of South Wales. Bernard of Neufmarché, the first of the original conquerors of Wales, was perhaps the last to leave the scene, dying sometime around 1125. His place was taken by Miles, son of Walter, the sheriff of Gloucester. Miles had been married to Bernard's daughter, Sybil, in the spring of 1121, and the succession had been assured to him at that time.26

The remainder of Henry's reign saw the slow, but steady, consolidation of Norman power in South Wales. The overall pattern of settlement in the region was relatively uniform, and seems almost consciously based upon the organization of Glamorgan, the only lordship to endure the rebellions of the close of the eleventh century with any degree of stability. It seems strange that such advances could have been made under the direction of an authority which was as we have said, more interested in stability than in conquest The reason for this peculiarity lies partly in the character of the settlement, and partly in the political situation of the times. The Normans took, held, and settled only those areas which were capable of supporting the agrarian society necessary to maintain a feudal structure Everywhere the pattern was similar to that observable in Glamorgan; the Normans were content to exercise only a vague suzerainty over such lands as were not capable of sustaining intensive agriculture. Since it was exactly these relatively barren regions which the Welsh valued most highly, the friction between Welsh natives and Norman settlers was minimized. Secondly, throughout this period the Welsh were politically paralyzed by disastrous feuds between the ruling families.27 They could present no united front against the invaders, and time and again the Normans were able to use jealousies and rivalries to prevent the growth of unity and able leadership among their enemies.

The history of South Wales during the reign of Henry I then is one of apparent Norman success. Under the directing authority of the great king, the second generation of conquerors achieved much of what the first generation had sought. Two major elements were missing, however. In the first place, the original attacks had aimed at the political conquest and eventual absorption or complete subjugation

26Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, Illustrative of the History of Great Britain and Ireland, ed. J. H. Round, pp. 8-9

27Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 417 ff

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of the Welsh. The new program had more limited objectives. It was in the royal interest that certain Welsh communities and political groups be maintained intact to act as a counterbalance to the marcher lords. This was a program which had most serious consequences. In such areas as were protected by royal authority, Welsh society was allowed to develop unhindered, to the point where it was capable of supporting a sense of national identity which was to make the ultimate conquest of Wales extremely difficult. In the second place, the initial conquest had brought power and a large measure of independence to those nobles who had led the advance. This aspect of the process of conquest had changed greatly. The precedents established in the earlier period were not discarded, but, under Henry, the trend was not allowed to continue. The security and success which royal leadership brought to the marcher lords had been purchased by a distinct limitation in the opportunities which the Welsh frontier afforded.

Henry's ascendancy in Wales established an era of relative peace which was unparalleled in the history of the region. In the long run, however, the royal policy which secured this peace worked against the interests of the Norman invaders. Peace brought an increase of wealth and population to the Welsh people; and peaceable contact with the Normans brought them knowledge of new techniques in military and political affairs. Peace also afforded them an opportunity to absorb these new techniques at their leisure and to integrate them into the native culture.28 Throughout this period Welsh society grew more dynamic and developed a greater sense of nationality.

This process occurred in many spheres of Welsh life, but a single example may suffice for the many trends which can be observed. Nowhere was cultural borrowing more dramatically illustrated than in the Welsh adoption of the typically Norman process of castle building. A total of 123 castles were constructed in Wales prior to 1189, and of these no less than 14 were built by the native Welsh princes.29 Of these, 8 are mentioned in contemporary sources, and, for this reason, something is known concerning their foundation. The earliest known, Cymmer in Merioneth, was constructed in 1115 by Uchtred ab Edwin, a man whose name suggests strong English connections. In the 1140's, the castles of Cynfael and Llanrhystud were built at the

28Giraldus Cambrensis, Opera, eds. J. S. Brewer et al., Part VI (Itinerarium Kambriae), pp. 217-218.

29 See Beeler, "Castles and Strategy in Norman and Early Angevin England."

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command of Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd ap Cynan, who had, for some time, been an ally and protege of the Normans.30 The remainder of the list includes Aberdovey (1155), Caernion (1155), Walwen (before 1163), Abereinion (1169), and Rhaidrgwy (1177).31 This list is assuredly incomplete. Many castles were probably constructed by the Welsh the existence of which is unrecorded in the sources. At the same time, the list is restricted to those castles whose original foundations were Welsh, and thus omits many castles rebuilt and occupied by the Welsh princes. On the other hand, the list does indicate that the Welsh castles were constructed mostly by chieftains who were subject to unusually heavy Anglo-Norman influences. Secondly, the remains of these native Welsh works show that the original construction was of the typically Norman motte-and-bailey type. Taken together, these facts provide sufficient indication that such castles represent a technology which the Welsh were borrowing directly from the Normans, and turning to their own advantage.

At the same time a continuous influence of Anglo-Norman legal and political techniques is observable in the development of Welsh institutions.32 The Welsh quickly borrowed many of the institutions of the typical feudal state of the times. This development was not of such a magnitude as to allow the Welsh to compete with the other states of western Europe in terms of organization, but it did become possible for the Welsh to unify and coordinate their activities with a degree of efficiency hitherto impossible.

One can see the immediate results of this when the strong hand of Henry was removed from Wales. Shortly after Henry's death, when Stephen, his successor, had been crowned, the Welsh of Western Brycheiniog rose in revolt. They raided into Gower and inflicted a stunning defeat upon the Anglo-Norman forces defending the region.33 Old names soon rose to haunt the Normans as Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Tewdwr appealed to Owain ap Gruffydd ap Cynan to join in a general revolt. The uprising received another stimulus when Iorwerth ab Owain ap Caradog ap Gruffydd managed to ambush Richard Fitz-Gilbert of Clare, and to kill this powerful lord of Ce-

30Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 491, n. 18

31E. S. Armitage, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles, pp. 299-301.

32 For details of this process, see T. Jones-Pierce, "The Age of Princes," The Historical Basis of Welsh Nationalism, pp. 42-59; T. P. Ellis, Welsh Tribal Law and Custom in the Middle Ages, I, 11

33Gesta Stephani, ed. and trans. K. R. Potter, p. 10.

126 The Normans in South Wales

redigion. Soon again the countryside was at the mercy of the Welsh. Faced by this danger, King Stephen took vigorous measures to meet the challenge. Large sums were expended upon two expeditions sent into Wales but both attempts to subdue the rebellious Welsh failed. After these two fiascos, the Gesta Stephani states,

It seemed to the king that he was striving in vain, in vain pouring out his vast treasure to reduce them to peace; and so, advised by more judicious counsel, he preferred to endure their insolent rebellion for a time, in order that, with fighting at a standstill and disagreement setting them all at variance, they might either suffer a famine or turn on each other and be exterminated by mutual slaughter.34

What Stephen's apologist is trying to say, of course, is that the king had abdicated royal leadership in Wales, and left the marcher lords to their own devices.

This loss need not have been so disastrous to the Norman settlers in Wales had it not been for the political conflict that arose concerning King Stephen's right to the English throne. The only son of Henry I had preceded his father in death, leaving only a daughter, Matilda, as heir to that king. Henry's intention appears to have been that the crown should pass through Matilda to his infant grandson, Henry of Anjou. In accordance with this desire, Henry had had most of his nobles swear fealty to Matilda before his death. Stephen, however, had acted swiftly when Henry died, renounced his oath, and, with the aid of a number of other nobles, seized the throne. A rival party soon developed among the Normans, however, which saw advantages in supporting the rival claims of Matilda. A lengthy civil war was the result, which almost completely absorbed the energies of the nobility and devastated large areas of England. The paramount leader of the dissident party was Robert, earl of Gloucester, and virtually all of the marcher lords joined him. This had the result of protecting the marches and South Wales from the full effects of the anarchy which the civil war caused. At the same time, by diverting their energies eastward, this solidarity of allegiance among the border barons left South Wales almost defenseless against the encroachments of the Welsh.

Thus the disorders of Stephen's reign meant that the English, Flemish, and Norman settlers were left to provide their own defense against the resurgent Welsh. This was a time of trouble and fear for

34 Ibid., p. 13.

The Welsh Reaction 127

the settlers, and during this period many of them abandoned their homes and returned to more secure estates.35 The Welsh of Cantref Mawr, organized under Gruffydd ap Rhys and his sons, began extending their control in every direction and soon dominated all of southwest Wales. They gained control of the lower vale of Towy in 1137 by capturing the royal fortress of Carmarthen. Some years later Llanstephan fell, and the Welsh were able to move into Pembrokeshire. In 1153, Gower fell before their attack; and shortly after, they were able to press an attack on the western border of Glamorgan Other Welsh chieftains were similarly successful. Hywel ap Maredudd ap Rhydderch managed to expel the Clifford family from Cantref Bychan, while Morgan ab Owain, grandson of Caradog ap Gruffydd, was able to take the castle of Usk and to erect a lordship centered on Caerleon, in the heart of Norman Wales.36 The political events in Wales during the reign of Stephen are complex and confusing, but one fact stands out clearly-the Welsh were everywhere on the offensive. Under Henry, the limits of Norman settlement had been greatly extended, and Norman political power had embraced all of South Wales. The resurgence of Welsh power caused the frontier of Norman authority to shrink rapidly, until it coincided exactly

35Very few documents remain to attest to the problems these early settlers faced, an, for this reason, the one extensive document which does remain is worth quoting in full

Frater G. Gilbert Foliot Gloucestriae dictus abbas, dilecto filio suo Osberno, 'non trepidare ubi non est timor (Psal. LII) .

Moneo te, fili charissime, aedificare et plantare, et terram tuam eo vomere quo tu seis exercere et diligenter excolere. Satis hactenus spinas et tribulos germinavit (Gen. III), sed, sieut bene coepisti, si labori bono et exercitio instanter incubueris, scio, scio quod fructu bono non fraudabit te Dominus. Volo vera vasa omnia domus tuae salva et munda custodias, et ipsam domum tuam qua potens supellectile munda et honesta munias et exornes. Laudo etiam te seras portarum tuarum confortare, domum tuam vallo bono et muro inexpugnabile circumdare, ne scilicet gens illa quae, sicut tu dicis, hirsuta fronte et torvis oculis respicit, irrumpat in eam et omnes labores tuos et sudores impetu uno diripiat. Nolo vasa transmigrationis sint apud te, nec quod in aliquo praetendas transmigrationus habitum, sed stabilitatis in terra vestra quam dedit vobis Dominus Deus et mansionis diuturnae propositum. Dices vero amicis nostris Wallensibus vos de hoc quod audierunt nihil penitus illis inconsultis acturos. Videmus vero gentem vestram timorem Domini et reverentiam sanctuarii parvipendere, et illos audimus Deum et loca sancta at personas eonsecratas Domino diligenter honorare. Propter haec omnia durum est nobis illis qui fere non curant vos magnis inseri et ab his qui vos venerantus avelli. Vale et noveris nos malle stationarum vel progressionarum te esse quam retrogradum. (Gilbert Foliot, "Epistola XXIX, in Gilbertus Foliot, ex abbate Gloucestriae episcopus primum Herefordensis . . .," Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, vol. CXC, cols. 766-767.
36Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 476-479.

128 The Normans in South Wales

with the frontier of actual Norman settlement. Furthermore, under the pressure of continuous Welsh attack, both frontiers were moving backward.

As soon as strong government replaced anarchy in England, these Welsh successes came to an end. Henry II dedicated himself to the task of restoring the stable rule which had characterized his grandfather's reign. He quickly took active measures against the Welsh. By 1158 he succeeded in overawing Rhys ap Gruffydd, the paramount prince of Deheubarth, and in restoring royal authority in South Wales. The Norman barons returned to their possessions and attempted to repair the damages of the previous twenty years. Rhys proved to be irrepressible, however, and broke the king's peace time and time again. Operating from the wilderness of Cantref Mawr, his bands kept southwest Wales in a continual state of apprehension. But as long as royal power remained strong, Rhys could achieve little lasting success. Henry's growing controversy with the archbishop of Canterbury, however, soon caused his authority to wane. Rhys sensed this weakness and seized on the opportunity to conclude a firm alliance with Owain Gwynedd, the leader of North Wales. Lesser chieftains quickly joined this coalition, and a Welsh alliance of unprecedented proportions marked the end of the peace which the king had enforced in Wales.

Even in the midst of his difficulties Henry realized the danger which these Welsh developments presented. Great and expensive preparations were made for a large-scale invasion of the rebellious areas of Wales.37 This Anglo-Norman expedition entered Wales in the summer of 1165 and pursued approximately the same course as had that of William Rufus, striking directly toward the heart of Welsh resistance in Gwynedd. Again the entire campaign proved a fiasco. Welsh ambushes made movement difficult, and an unseasonably wet summer finally made further progress impossible. Henry was forced into an ignominious retreat without having struck a single blow against the insurgents. Welsh tactics and the topography of their homeland had once again proven more than a match for the feudal levies of England.

By defeating this royal expedition, the Welsh gained what proved to be more than a temporary respite. There is every indication that Henry regarded this expensive and ill-fated expedition as the final

37This is especially apparent in a perusal of Pipe Roll 11 Henry II, particularly membrane 31.

The Welsh Reaction 129

blow to his unprofitable attempts to maintain royal supremacy over all Wales.38 He seems to have determined not to try to conquer the Welsh princes again in such a manner. On the other hand, he was not willing to relinquish royal control over his Anglo-Norman border barons. What Henry did in effect was to return to the policy which William the Conqueror had established to maintain an equilibrium along the border. Time had shown that the Welsh could be conquered only through a long and profitless war. At the same time, Henry recognized that the border barons presented a far greater danger to the peace of the realm than the Welsh. He jealously maintained his ascendancy over the barons by limiting their power and opportunities, often with the aid of the Welsh princes, whose favor and support he actively sought.

The events of the reigns of Stephen and Henry II thus clearly indicate how the Norman frontier-in a Turnerian sense-came to an end in Wales. Opportunities for wealth, power, and independence had lured the early invaders to their conquests. In the face of determined resistance, however, the first generation of conquerors had lacked the cohesiveness and organization to hold what they had gained. The second generation of conquerors-those established under Henry I-had such cohesiveness and organization, but it had been purchased at a price. They had accepted immediate royal direction in frontier affairs and had given up the hope of independent power which Wales offered them. Under Henry, however, this loss was more than balanced by the success which the Norman magnates enjoyed in those limited areas in which the king allowed them to act. The events of the reigns of Stephen and Henry II showed the weakness of this arrangement. Royal direction of frontier affairs was only effective when the king was strong and willing to take an active personal role. The paralysis of royal authority which had attended Stephen's reign inaugurated a period of Norman weakness in Wales which proved almost disastrous. During this period the Welsh developed a capacity for resistance which made the task of the next king even greater. Even so, the energetic measures taken by Henry II in the early years of his reign showed some signs of effectiveness. As Henry's power and authority diminished, however, Norman supremacy was once again threatened. The final blow to the hopes of the Normans came with Henry's abandonment of aspirations toward

38Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 518.

130 The Normans in South Wales

royal supremacy in Wales. The border barons still found themselves subject, in large measure, to the restrictions of royal overlordship but without enjoying any of the benefits of royal leadership. The forward progress of the Normans in South Wales and the frontier conditions which attended this progress were completely arrested by the curious combination of a suspicious and troubled English monarch and a resurgent and dynamic Welsh people.


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