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Gruffydd ap Llywelyn

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From the Cadw Guidebook for Dolbadarn Castle

Imprisonment or exile was not an infrequent fate of those members of the royal house of Gwynedd who were seen as a threat to the authority of its ruler. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (d.1244), the illegitimate son of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and Owain Goch's father, spent much of his life in prison and was eventually to die whilst attempting to escape from incarceration.

Gruffydd was born sometime before Llywelyn's marriage to Princess Joan. The first historical reference to him is as one of the hostages his father had to hand over to John, following Llywelyn's defeat by the English king in 1211. Gruffydd was to remain a prisoner until 1215. Despite subsequently being granted land by his father, Gruffydd was to prove troublesome, and he was seen as a threat to Dafydd's clear path as Llywelyn's successor. Llywelyn chose to imprison him in Degannwy Castle from 1228 until 1234.

In 1239, towards the end of their father's life, Dafydd confined both Gruffydd and his son Owain Goch in Criccieth Castle. In 1241, Dafydd suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of King Henry III, and as one of the terms of the resulting settlement he was forced to hand over Gruffydd. The unlucky prince was to spend his last three years as a prisoner at the Tower of London, where he fell to his death in an attempted escape in 1244 (depicted in a medieval manuscript at right). Despite his seemingly bad luck, Gruffydd's son Llywelyn, was later successful in reuniting much of Wales under his rule, earning unprecedented recognition as "Prince of Wales" from Henry III under the terms of the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267.

 


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